Way more than a title: The many different types of leadership
With the world a volatile place, it is worth reminding ourselves that leadership is far more than a job title. We can be leaders in a number of aspects of our lives, from our homes to our communities.
I am a leadership coach – it says so on my LinkedIn profile. (winky face emoji) I train current and future leaders, ranging from those who already work in large corporates to young people just starting out on their journey.
But, like many of us, I have suffered from self-doubt and “imposter syndrome” in the past. At times of insecurity, I find myself wondering how qualified I am to talk about leadership. Are the leadership roles I have held “enough”, in fact, “am I enough”? Thankfully, my own personal and professional development and the valuable feedback from our coaching courses keeps these self-limiting thoughts in check, allowing me to move forward to a place of self-confidence and self-belief. These days, if negative self-talk creeps in, I remind myself that:
leadership is far more than a job title.
I worked out that during my life, I’ve actually been a leader again and again: the first girl in my family history to attend university, living and working in a foreign country, raising a family, keeping family and employers happy, helping my parents, starting a business… None of this is earth-shattering, but the lessons in leadership are invaluable to my role now.
All the while animals have kept me grounded and taught me important life lessons about resilience, empathy, kindness, acceptance and hard work along the way – so much so that I turned what they taught me into a successful business!
With the pandemic causing hundreds of thousands of redundancies in Australia alone, many out there are likely feeling that their leadership goals have been stalled or disrupted by factors largely beyond their control.
So, I’ve decided to write a two-part series looking at how leadership is far more than a job title, focusing on two areas:
- Leadership roles outside the office.
- How we learn leadership skills in different ways.
Different types of leaders – some examples
I’ve written before about herd instincts, pointing out the similarities between the roles that both horses and people fulfil in order to survive. We have a saying, “herds are to horses, as teams are to people.” There are multiple leadership roles here: the stallion is like the CEO, protecting the group, while the lead mare is the 2IC, in charge of finding resources and managing the day-to-day.
Here are some ways I believe people perform different types of leadership roles that aren’t linked to job titles.
- Leader of the family or friendship group
You can be a leader in your family whether you’re the breadwinner or main childcare provider or both! Even if you share the load equally with a partner, there are probably some aspects that fall to you more.
Do you shoulder what’s often known as ‘the mental load’? In other words, do you take responsibility for making sure all the tasks are done? Is the garbage out for collection? Is the washing off the line before it rains? What’s for dinner? Are the bills paid on time? Is the car due for service?
And for some, friendship groups can be their herd, particularly if families are absent or far away. Perhaps you’re the friend in your group who organises social events? Or the group Zoom catch-ups? Offers to help others?
The list goes on…
Here’s the big one in terms of ‘mental load’ – is everyone feeling ok? This is a HUGE job. In my family, this fell to my beautiful Mum (may she rest in peace – although she’s more likely stirring things up!). She would check in with myself, my three brothers, our families and our extended family and friends. She would smooth over tiffs and disagreements and make sure we were all communicating. The best lesson she ever taught me was to be the bigger person. She said that as a mother – I’m going to substitute the word leader here – you need to be able to set aside your personal feelings, to listen, acknowledge, accept, empathise, guide and apologise first. Even if it is just to say; “I’m sorry that you are feeling this way.”
With my horses, this job falls to our lead mare, Opal. She keeps the peace among the herd making sure the other herd members feel included and safe. She is a natural leader, knowing when to be assertive and when to remain neutral. She is the calm one during a storm – I’m talking a literal thunder storm – reassuring the herd that it’s OK. She has taught me so much about quiet assertiveness and setting and respecting boundaries.
- Community leadership
In times like these, a sense of community is vital. Community leaders are not only those that are visibly organising events, but those working behind the scenes to help others; checking in on neighbours, doing grocery runs for those who are at risk and standing up for others.
This week, I’ve been thinking about those early adopters of mask-wearing in public (here in Sydney it’s taken a while for them to catch on). They took steps to protect the community and they didn’t care what anyone else thought. Now that’s leadership.
- Business owner or entrepreneur
It takes a certain type of person to set up your own business; thinking of and developing an idea, learning new things, covering a range of tasks and accepting risks. All of which are great leadership traits.
Even if it’s a side-hustle, or some temporary freelancing while you’re between permanent positions, there’s a lot of leadership experience gained by working for yourself.
- Less visible leaders
Remember when Shane Fitzsimmons, then Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, stepped into a leadership role during the recent Australian bushfire crisis?
While Commissioner is a pretty impressive job title, it is still telling that the public turned to him, rather than those they’d elected as leaders. Not just because of his competence, but because he came across as empathetic and genuine.
There is a certain amount of leadership involved in becoming a firefighter in the first place. Think of all those professions which help people day in day out but don’t necessarily get the same visibility, or indeed pay, as others.
Awareness of some of these leaders has been highlighted by the pandemic, for example the doctors and nurses working hard to help patients and the schoolteachers who’ve had to quickly adapt to distanced learning.
- Sport and hobbies
One of my daughters and I are involved in competitive show jumping riding. My husband and sons play soccer and basketball. It’s safe to say we are an active family! Yet as well as the health benefits, kids and adults learn a lot from these types of activities through great coaching, self-discipline and team interactions. It’s not the pushy parent shouting from the sidelines who is the real leader, but the quieter mentor that inspires others to practise, plan, improve and believe in themselves.
What are some other examples of leadership beyond a job title? Do you consider yourself a leader in several aspects of your life? Let us know in the comments.
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