Can you lead without a title?

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As an individual, I faithfully subscribe to the adage that \’information is knowledge and knowledge is power.\’   Time and time again, I have seen the truthfulness of that saying in different aspects of life. 

For example, when you are informed, you are empowered when it comes to making investment decisions.  Or you know when to keep away from idle gossip because it doesn\’t contain an ounce of truth.  More importantly, you are able to piece together bits of information that you have read or heard, to identify a viable opportunity.

Therefore, I can confidently say that being informed is one of my proven formulas for being and staying successful.

For this reason and because it has become habitual, I am an avid reader.  I read to keep myself always informed of what is happening here in Kenya and around the world.  I read business articles, politics and current affairs.  I read purposely.  But I also read just for pleasure. 

I find that the thought process that I engage when reading and putting my thoughts to action is what keeps me \’alive\’ and motivates me to set higher expectations and achieve them.

Today I will share something I know, but which has been validated by my reading. 

In his book, "You don\’t need a TITLE to be Leader: How anyone, anywhere can make a positive difference," Mark Sanborn talks about leadership as being the ability to yield positive influence in the lives of those around us.

He points out that many people can yield that influence when they occupy a position that comes with power and authority.  On the other hand, there are those people in our lives who have the ability to inspire us to take action of our own free will.  Not because of the threat of punishment, or the offer of a reward. 

If you are that type of person, then you are a leader.  If you aspire to be a leader, then you must embrace this attitude; you must desire to change the lives of others for their common good.  This is true leadership and should be the acid test that we subject our local leaders to, prior to election.

So this article is dedicated to the numerous leaders within our workplaces, our churches and communities.  To those who embody this spirit, I share with you the lessons that will get you from being without a title, to being an accomplished leader with a title (if that is what you desire).
 
In business, we always analyze the return on investment (ROI) for any project as a measure of performance.  Mark Sanborn wants us to look at the ROI factor in leadership from a different perspective.  He says that leaders must always increase the ROI of what they do.  In this case, ROI stands for Relationships, Outcomes and Improvements.

This particular thought resonated in me because it is the routine and mundane stuff that I do every day.

I particularly believe that whatever we do in life, be it business or pleasure; it cannot thrive unless we strengthen our relationships with our clients. 

This is especially crucial in the service industry.  Think about it; as a customer you often patronize a shop or restaurant because you have established a rapport with them.  The people there know and recognize you as a valuable customer; more like a part of their family.  You are only tempted to move if the cost becomes too much to bear, or if you feel treated unfairly.

The business of life, and more so leadership, cannot be conducted in isolation.  We are like an eco-system where life-forms feed off each other to ensure their survival.  In the same manner, we must learn to establish and strengthen value-adding relationships that we can leverage our survival on. 

Can it not be said that a leader without followers is simply crazy or that followers without a leader have no direction?  This is it; they both thrive on each other\’s presence. 

The latter two points regarding improvements and outcomes work hand in hand and are crucial to ensuring the sustainability of our causes or business.

We must always continuously improve our product offering.  Customers will more often than not be drawn to a leader or company that demonstrates that it is in touch with their changing needs, and that desires to provide customized solutions. 

This is the material that successful leaders thrive on.  It is the reason the present day leaders are turning to social media networks. 

They desire not only to leverage these networks, but to also demonstrate that they are in touch with the changing needs of their followers.  They want to demonstrate that their views are progressive and that they are in touch with the current times.  Such improvements often always advance final outcomes and elevates them to the top of the pyramid. 

In conclusion, I want to echo Mark Sanborn\’s views that real leaders must increase or improve the quality of their relationships, pay more attention to the details that increase output or outcomes, and continuously seek to improve their product offering.  And to add a little spice, live your life with a spirit of adventure knowing very well, that you win some and lose others.

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