Florin Lungu - Leadership Beyond Titles: How to Earn Your Team's Respect

Come on, Florin, don’t play boss with us!

They had said these words without even giving it a thought – like I was their kindergarten classmate reminding them to do their homework. I had just asked them to complete a task, and their responses told me loud and clear that they did not see me as their leader. There was just one problem…

I was their leader!

Or, at least, that’s what my new title was. I had just been promoted to a new position.

Before, these people were my colleagues; I had worked alongside them in the workshop, testing and working on car systems, and now they were my direct reports as I spent most of my days in the office away from the workfloor. I went from being by their side day after day to sitting one branch “above” them on the organizational tree…

But they didn’t seem to notice!

When I would ask for a project update, they would just wave me away. I was still their colleague to them… I had no influence at all.

It wasn’t until later in my leadership career that I learned the language to describe the problem I was having.

Influence – real and true and impactful influence – cannot come from a title. No matter your salary, office location, or job description, the words under your name on the organizational tree do not actually translate to real-world results with your team!

So then… how was I supposed to gain influence?

Leadership expert Dr. John Maxwell teaches on a “leadership ladder” of sorts – levels of personal impact that leaders can be at with the members of their team. These “ranks” of leadership are not in terms of position, but of actual influence ability. And they are…

  1. Position. Positional leaders are leaders in title alone, and their teams follow them because the organization requires them to. But positional leaders may notice that their teams do not thrive, if they do not fall behind, because their people are only as invested as their job descriptions allow them to be.
  2. Permission. At this level, the team begins to buy into their leader personally. Instead of relying on authority given to the leader by the organization, teams follow leaders at this level because of the investment that the leader has made in them. Leadership level 2, permission, is the beginning of true influence.
  3. Production. Level 3 leaders have a compelling track record of results that encourages others to follow them. Depending on whether they are people-driven or results-driven, most leaders spend the majority of their time between level 2 and level 3.
  4. People development. Leaders focused on people development are turning leadership into a movement – their team follows them because they, the leader, develops them and helps them grow into their own leadership potential.
  5. Pinnacle. The last and most influential level of leadership – this leader’s people follow them because of who they are.

What I didn’t know back when I got promoted was that I was leading only from level 1 – position.

I expected my new title to come with influence built in, and that my team would see me as their leader right away. But all my title did was separate me from the people who used to be my coworkers!

I had a relationship with them, but not as their leader. I had to show them that I was their leader, and that was a good thing – I had to start relating to them from where I was so that I could lead with their permission instead of a boss’s position.

So I started using my new authority to advocate for them. To solve their problems. To make their jobs easier and their voices heard among those I reported to – and that is when I began to ascend the “leadership ladder.”

Three questions for you to consider this week…

  1. What is your leadership level among your team?
  2. Are you at the same leadership level with your whole time, or are you higher with some than with others?
  3. What can you do each day to maintain or expand your impact?

That’s all for now,


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