Leadership is Not a Job Title

Leadership is not a set of qualities or traits reserved for the elite, select few. It is not something one is born with or born into. Leadership is learnable and practicable; it’s not obtained via osmosis. Leadership is within everyone’s reach.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines leadership as the office or position of a leader. James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, define leadership as “the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for shared aspirations”. At its core, I believe leadership is the ability to set aside one’s own ego, in service of the greater good. Countless books and papers have been written on the topic of leadership. Experts have outlined the key qualities that create the ideal leader, such as empathy and emotional intelligence. If we’ve been able to dissect it, analyze it, document what leadership is, and can now say with confidence, “anyone can learn to be a leader”, then why do so many businesses continue to struggle with effective leadership?

Great job! You’ve achieved all gold stars—you should be promoted to manager!

Experience is great, but it doesn’t translate into effective leadership. Our corporate society is quite fond of rewarding and promoting individual contributors who are driven to achieve. Yet, once the individual contributor is promoted to management, the rules of the game are no longer the same (didn’t you get the memo?). Management is responsible for the success of its teams, not oneself. No room for ego here! Individual contributors who do not receive leadership training are destined to fail. Why? Because leaders aren’t born—they are developed. Think about it--until very recently, effective listening and communication skills, emotional intelligence, and growth mindsets were not taught in schools…and if you grew up in a dysfunctional family, as most of us did, you sure as hell didn’t learn about it at home. A promotion to management does not equal leadership.

How Did We Get Here?

The way we often approach management remains stuck in the days of the industrial revolution, a time in which people were instructed to ‘leave their brains at the door’ and were ‘paid to do, not to think’. But today, we are working in a global economy of ideas, information and collaboration. So why do we still operate under the outdated paradigm? Why do we continue to treat managers as high-paid babysitters or think that employees need constant oversight? Don’t get me wrong, a business needs governance, a system of checks and balances. But if employees can’t be trusted to work on their own, why were they hired in the first place? The old paradigm led us to believe that we weren’t smart enough or capable enough to solve our own problems—only the manager could fix them—but the new information economy suggests otherwise. It’s up to each one of us to be a leader; it’s not relegated to a job title.

Time for Change!

The cannabis industry has a wonderful, forward-thinking opportunity to cultivate leaders by incorporating leadership development into its corporate tapestry. The industry is growing by leaps and bounds, with people of all generations and experiences jumping in. For some, the concept of regulation and compliance is brand-new; for others, it’s managing teams. Since there’s already a focus on training newcomers to the rules and regulations, the road has been built to pave the way for implementing leadership training. Cannabis is changing the rules of the corporate game in almost every way.

Could you use some leadership development? Say no and I’m calling bullshit!

Whether you manage others or are an individual contributor, we can all use some support to strengthen our leadership muscles. Here are three simple ways to practice daily leadership:

  • When someone comes to you for help, is your knee-jerk reaction to jump into problem solving mode or do you ask them what they’ve done or think the solution is? Most of us have the answers to our problems already—sometimes we just need someone to help us see other perspectives. Coaching—versus telling—is a great opportunity for leaders to help others realize their strengths and increase their capacity to problem-solve. Next time someone asks for your help, try listening and asking questions first, instead of going straight to solutioning.

  • When disagreements or conflicts arise, is your instinct to make peace or ask difficult questions and work towards a mutually agreeable solution? Leadership takes courage…flex your muscles by establishing common ground, separating the issues from the emotions, and/or calling for a short recess.

  • When people talk to you, are you present in mind and body? Or are you ‘out to lunch’ and already planning what you’re going to say next? Get grounded—literally feel your physical connection to the environment you’re in. Keep your focus on the person speaking with you by deeply listening to what they say, don’t say, and what their body language says. Show up regularly, be available, and be physically present during crucial conversations.