I had my first leadership position at age 11. After being an avid Sunday school goer since I was quite young, my Pastor appointed me Secretary of our small Sunday School class. What does the secretary do? Every week, I was responsible for taking notes/minutes accurately and reporting them articulately to members. I had so much pride! People were congratulatory and very proud of me as well. And people listened to me when I spoke and provided me with information when I asked. I think it was because I was the appointed Secretary.
When I was 14, I took another leadership position. I was voted in as President of the L.A Kids (Lake Alfred Kids). This group was founded by a member of our neighborhood who felt compelled to create a safe and productive club for the children in our community. When I became President, I felt proud and people listened to me. They did what I told them. They cleaned up after our meetings and stopped horse playing when I chastised them. I think it was because I was voted in as President.
Both positions brought a certain level of adherence.
Starting quite young, I was exposed to leadership positions. It was not until recently that I knew definitively that leadership had very little to do with a position. Two years ago, I read the book “The Five Levels of Leadership” written by John Maxwell. It really impacted my perspective. I have been in numerous leadership roles, but had I actually become the type of leader that I truly want to be? Perhaps not yet. And I know that these types of substantive professional developments take time and strategy.
John Maxwell discusses leadership by levels.
Level 1: Position-Rights; people follow because they have to. [ME!]
Level 2: Permission-Relationships; people follow you because they want to.
Level 3: Production-Results; people follow because of what you have done for organization.
Level 4: People Development-Reproduction; people follow because of what you have done for them.
Level 5: Pinnacle-Respect; people follow b/c of who you are what you represent.
Colloquially…THERE ARE LEVELS TO THIS!
A year ago, I was appointed Executive Director of The Florida Institute for Child Welfare and naturally, I committed to not looking at my leadership in a monolithic manner. I started by writing the vision for my leadership. I asked myself, What kind of leader do you want to be?” Since I’m technically a millennial I do use the internet for almost everything, so I googled some guidance on how to start formatting my Vision Statement. I found a few helpful sites. As an undergraduate, I took a leadership course and learned about various kinds of leadership. Transformational leadership was the most impactful to me.
It is defined as:
“…a style where a leader works with subordinates to identify needed change, creating a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executing the change in tandem with committed members of a group.”
I decided to start my vision by having three descriptors that would describe my pursuit of transformational leadership.
Essentially, I desire to be a leader who serves the broader community, influences child welfare policy and practice, and affirms her team as they continue to develop. Once I had my descriptors, I started to write my vision for my leadership.
My vision included immediate objectives, short-term objectives, long-term objectives, sustainability goals and an overall vision for the direction of my work.
I have one year down. And I am extremely grateful that I no longer see leadership from the frame of a position. Having a leadership position does not make you a leader. Just stop and think about a former boss you had who was a terrible leader/manager. See? It’s pretty common. Positions are just that…labels, titles, positions.
It is my professional goal to become a transformational leader who ignites organizational and systems-level change in the pursuit of child safety and social justice. I want the people who work with me to be empowered, respected, autonomous, yet accountable.
I’m up for the leadership challenge. Are you?
If you are in a leadership role or even desire to be, I highly recommend that you start TODAY deciding what type of leader that you want to be. Do not wait for the position. Do not wait for the interview.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither were great leaders.