Leadership is about layers not levels.
I think in my early days as a leader I thought leadership was about being important. It was about rising to the next level. A new fancy title. An important title. A title on a badge is always better or a lanyard, that’s extremely official. Come on, if we are honest, we’ve probably all thought like that.
Joking apart though, this was a serious discovery for me on my leadership journey. The title tricked me into thinking that’s who I really was. That getting to the ’next level’ was what it’s all about. It massaged my ego to be the leader of the youth group, especially when it was called JCs. It meant I had power, I could make decisions about what we would do, don’t mess with what’s going on here, I’m in charge.
Don’t get me wrong, I was never a bossy leader. I’m not really a flashy person but looking back on some pictures of me as a leader then, I definitely thought I was IT. Trying to be cool when I so wasn’t. There was a danger that the title was maybe inflating my own sense of importance, making me think more highly of myself than I probably should have done. I had reached the next level, don’t stand in my way, I’m coming through.
We love a good title.
We love to know we have a position.
We love that our talent is getting us noticed.
Yet none of these things really made me a leader. They are important but in reality none of these things actually make you important. They might cause you to rise into a leadership position but ultimately may not be enough to keep you in leadership when you get kicked, pushed, prodded, challenged, confronted, hurt, picked on, accused and feel unloved as the leader.
The level you have attained to can only protect you for a while. It’s the layers on your leadership that will truly keep you safe, that will help you continue on your journey of leadership.
Layers are not flashy.
Layers are not cool.
Layers are often seen as unnecessary.
Layers are boring.
I remember climbing Helvellyn and being told that the best thing to wear was lots of layers and I’m glad I did. I carried my waterproof trousers all the way round but I had set off prepared for all eventualities. The sun beat down on us when we began the walk but at the top, the wind was blowing and it was much cooler. When the rain came I was thankful for that extra layer that was hidden in my bag.
Leadership layers are just the same. Not always needed but there. Not often seen unless called upon. Layers increase your influence as a leader, more than your title ever will, which increases your importance. You will find yourself being invited to the conversation no longer just because of what you do but who you have become.
The layer of discretion
The layer of integrity
The layer of attitude
The layer of trustworthiness
The layer of credibility
The layer of reliability
The layer of ownership
These are the areas that often are neglected in the pursuit of the next level or title but are actually the areas that any leader should be paying most attention to.
Hope you agree. What extra layers would you add to your leadership?