Committing to Lead, No Matter What Your Title

Committing to Lead, No Matter What Your Title

Effective leaders make a difference. They have the power to influence, and they use that power to build trust. If you're at the top of the organizational chart, that power is built into your position. It's your job to move people to action and create a trusting environment. But as any effective leader knows, a "license to lead" isn't enough. It may give you the authority to direct people in your organization, but it doesn't magically confer the power to inspire them. Only you can develop that power, by being conscious of how you fulfill the different leadership roles outlined above.

Perhaps you're at a place a little lower on the company ladder. Just because you haven't been given a license to lead doesn't mean you don't have that power. You may not be able to dictate strategy, but you can lead in smaller, yet nonetheless important, ways. In fact, members of Accountable Organizations consistently seek opportunities to lead within their spheres of influence. It doesn't take a title to make you a leader. Consider this insight from Joseph Badaracco:

The vast majority of difficult, important human problems—both inside and outside organizations—are not solved by a swift, decisive stroke from someone at the top. What usually matters are careful, thoughtful, small, practical efforts by people working far from the limelight. In short, quiet leadership is what moves the world.[12]

As you go about your business, day in and day out, how do you embrace the different qualities of effective leadership? How do you wield your influence? How do you seek to make a difference? No matter where you are in your organization, you can build trust through your actions. You can show others what it means to be accountable. You can be a guardian of your organization's integrity—and of your own. Whether people follow your lead is not up to them. It's up to you.


  1. What was your earliest lesson in what it means to be a leader? What have you always remembered from this lesson, and how does it shape your leadership today?

  2. As a leader in your organization, consider the various roles outlined in this chapter. Rating yourself, which of these are your strongest roles, and which are your weakest? What strategies can you employ to improve your performance in these latter roles?

  3. Think of the people you admire who exemplify each of the leadership roles. Why do you admire them? What can you learn from them?

[12]Joseph L. Badaracco Jr., Leading Quietly (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002), 9.

Chapter Seven: Communication—Connecting Effectively and with Empathy


In fall 2000, QUALCOMM, Inc., released version 5.0 of its popular Eudora® e-mail program. In addition to other bells and whistles, Eudora 5.0 introduced an optional feature called MoodWatch. As its name suggests, MoodWatch scans both outgoing and incoming e-mail for "potentially offensive language" and issues warnings based on a "three-chili-pepper" scale:

One chili pepper:

"Better hope you know the person."

Two chili peppers:

"Watch out, you're playin' with fire chilies here."

Three chili peppers:

"Whoa, this is the kind of thing that might get your keyboard washed out with soap."

Potential Eudora users are advised: "MoodWatch won't stop you from acting irresponsibly in email, it will just let you know when you might be about to send a message you'll regret."[1]

[1]From Eudora's Web site,