Leadership at its best is influence. Great leaders influence and inspire others to be great, whether they are present or not. Think of the lates like Henry Ford, Walt Disney, or Steve Jobs. Their influence - their leadership - has outlived their presence, and has been carried forward by others. Or think of current day leaders who are influencing others to change the status quo, like Jeff Bezos, Reshma Saujani, or Bono.
Regardless of what you do you are in some stage of leadership yourself. Whether you're a teacher, an HR professional, an account executive, a doctor or engineer, an entrepreneur or even a coach, you are at some stage of leadership in your career.
I've categorized it into five stages to help you identify where you stand and where you are going.
Stage 1 - Responsibility
This is the starting point. You are given a position that requires some level of leadership based on your title, tasks, and/or personal initiative. Responsibility does not equal influence if you are working solo, not building a cause or team and stay that way. Leaders are those that work with and influence others to reach a common goal.
Stage 2 - Relationship
This is when connection starts happening. You get to know people. You learn to like people. You value what they bring to the table. You collaborate together. They start to trust you and join you on their own. Influence comes as a natural flow, it is not coerced.
Stage 3 - Results
This is where things get done. People are on board and working to achieve a common goal. People are with you because they trust your ability to handle problems, sort out issues, and keep momentum going. They feel confident being on your team. You feel confident leading them.
Stage 4 - Reproduction
This is the turning point. You inspire others to take the lead. You give them leadership responsibility and trust they will show up. You guide them and give them the strategies that will help them be great leaders. In essence, you raise them.
Stage 5 - Reputation
This is transcendence. You are at the peak. You have invested your time and heart into the life of your cause and your people. You are an individual and a mission, all at the same time. When others hear your name, they think of your mission before they think of you.
Leadership is an on-going process. There's no one size fits all, nor is there one way to lead. Wherever you are in your leadership stage, keep in mind that you have the power to make an impact and influence others. Use that power to lead forward.