Often we read or hear how others receive new positions, titles or authority, and we refer to them -as a “leaders.”

This conventional view of leadership assumes that leaders are the few people at the top of an organisation. We think that we become leaders when we reach a particular position, pay grade or level of seniority. Nothing could be more debilitating and further from the truth!

Leadership is not an actual position or title. Whether you’re the Founder of a Church, a CEO of a company, a president of a country, your title does not make you a leader.

‘All the effective leaders I have encountered – both those I worked with and those I merely watched – knew four simple things: a leader is someone who has followers; Popularity is not leadership, results are; leaders are highly visible; they set examples; leadership is not rank, privilege, titles or money, it is responsibility.’ – Peter Drucker


While position and authority provide you with the leverage to lead, it does not make you a leader. In fact, you don’t need a title to lead. Every day you can find examples of people with fancy titles that fail to demonstrate leadership. Leadership cannot be awarded, appointed or assigned.


Leadership works much the same as respect. It’s something that’s earned not demanded! A leader from one of the largest church in North America, Bill Hybels says, “I believe that the church (including NGO’s) are the most leadership-intensive enterprise in society.” A lot of businesspeople are usually very startled, by this statement, but Bill is right.

Let me explain,  In most organisations, the person who has position has incredible leverage.

  • In the military, leaders can pull rank.
  • In business, bosses have tremendous leverage in the form of salary.

Most followers are pretty cooperative when their livelihood is at stake.

But in voluntary organisations, such as churches, you don’t have the leverage of a salary or a title, (positional leadership does not work in NGO’s.)

  • The only thing that works is leadership in its purest form –Influence!
  • Followers in voluntary organisations cannot be forced to get on board.
  • If the leader has no influence with his volunteers, then they won’t follow.
  • This a great truth to learn and implement if you are a leader of an organisation, especially a large one.

I recall sharing this principle with leaders of large organisation’s from several sectors in Lusaka, Zambia; I saw light bulbs going on all over the room!

Why?  This is Leadership!

Here is a great piece of advice I can give you:

  • If you are a businessperson and want to find out whether managers are capable of leading, send them out to volunteer their time in the community.
  • If they can get people to follow them while they’re serving at the Red Cross or their local church, then you know that they do have influence—and leadership ability.
  • If not, they are “positional leader,” and positional leadership doesn’t work in volunteer organisations and neither does it work in business.


In his book, “5 Levels of Leadership” John Maxwell, outlines how to be more than the “boss.”  He teaches, how to influence beyond a title, by understanding the five levels of influence.


The 5 Levels of Leadership:   
1. Position -People follow because they have to.

2. Permission -People follow because they want to.

3. Production -People follow because of what you have done for the organisation.

4. People Development -People follow because of what you have done for them personally.

5. Pinnacle – People follow because of who you are and what you represent.   



If you’d like a better understanding on, “5 Levels of Influence” for both you and your team and to increase your leadership culture, I’ll be honoured to help move you and your team up to the next level. As your leadership architect, my training will greatly benefit your organisation.
Click here MEDC4, I show you exactly how to do it, step-by-step!

Notice, the positional leadership is the lowest form of leadership but the most common form. A position is a poor form of influence. People follow a positional leader, because they have to, not because they want to. A danger of seeing leadership as a title, position or authority, is that it leads to dictatorships and fear. ­

Positional Leadership Results in the following Negative Outcomes:

  • Leading from position weakens essential relationships
  • Leading from position reinforces unfavourable political behaviour
  • Leading from position crushes the human spirit
  • Leading from position frustrates creativity and innovation
  • Leading from position erodes trust
  • Leading from position produces mediocre results
  • Leading from position feeds the ego
  • Leading from position destroys empathy for others
  • Leading from position increases employee turnover
  • Leading from position results in complacency


Positional leaders don’t see value in investing the time needed to create a shared vision that inspires others. The “us and them,” attitude, common among positional leaders, has crippled many organisations potential.

“The problem is that while authority can compel action it does little to inspire belief. Only leadership can do that. It’s not enough to get people to do what you want; they have also to want what you want, or any change is bound to be short-lived.” – Greg Satell

Another big impediment of seeing leadership as a position is that it undermines the development of others.

  • When we see, position as leadership, we falsely assume that leadership responsibility resides with the few people at the top of the organisation.
  • When this happens, leadership potential residing in others cannot be nurtured.
  • All flourishing organisations have one culture in common -leadership at every level.
  • One of the ways to increase your influence is to invest in others.
  • People will allow you to lead them because of what you have done for them, but a positional leader does not add value to others.

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”

– Jack Welch

Leadership is not the exercise of control over others.  Leadership is the empowerment of oneself and others towards a shared vision.

Be a Leader of Influence!


Question: Have you identified tendencies of a positional leader in you or in your boss? How will you use this information to inspire change? Leave your comment below, and share this post.