Florin Lungu - Leadership for the Now

What makes a leader a leader?

I am sure that if you are reading this, you’ve asked this question many times… People passionate about growth and development ask themselves, and others, such questions.

Maybe you believe leadership is defined by the individual. And certainly, there are leadership styles. We all have unique strengths, talents, and personal priorities, and that will make its way into how we lead.

But there is one true test of leadership…

Imagine this: you’re in the meeting room. Your boss has just finished delivering an important update to the team. He asks, “Does anyone have thoughts on this?”

Everything is silent; no one speaks, but everyone turns their head slightly to watch one person on the team. They are paying close attention to the look on her face. She gives her opinion, and everyone begins nodding, if only to themselves.

It is clear that the manager is not leading this team.

I have seen this situation with my own two eyes! I was once leading a workshop and it took me less than 15 minutes to see who was really leading the team.

Each time I asked a difficult question, the whole group would look to their leader – and it was not their manager. Title does not translate to leadership. The one they all looked to had passed the truest test of leadership: they had influence among their team members.

In my last few emails I have been covering the foundational principles of leadership: vision priorities, self-discipline, etc. But leaders develop these qualities so that they can earn influence among those they are leading.

If you have been reading these emails long, these stories may remind you of one of my favorite quotes by Dr. John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” 

John Maxwell also teaches that there are five tiers, or levels, of leadership that a leader can belong to. The higher up on the “leadership ladder” that you are, the more impactful your leadership becomes – personally and professionally.

  1. Position. At this level, you have what that team’s manager had – a title. This leader is a leader only because people are obligated to follow them. They are borrowing influence from someone “above them” on the organizational chart. People will only follow this leader as much as their job description requires.
  2. Permission. Here, people begin to personally buy into their leader. Their leader has cultivated a relationship with them. Level 1 represents your boss’s permission to lead; gaining influence at level 2 represents your people’s permission to lead.
  3. Production. Leaders at level 3 have proven themselves powerful producers, and have earned influence because of their track record. Most leaders spend their careers between levels 2 and 3 depending on whether they are more people-driven or results-driven.
  4. People development. Leaders at this level are living out the Stephanie Simpson quote, “Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” This level of leadership is “contagious.” This leader has invested so much in their people that their team cannot help but follow.
  5. Pinnacle. Just like the peak of any mountain, few leaders rise to the top – but if they have, their people follow them because of who they are. 

Where are you on the “leadership ladder” with your people? And what will you start doing this coming week to increase your influence among your team members? What problems will you solve for them? What priorities will you model for them? What vision are you casting for them?

Ask yourselves these questions, find your answers – then, go pass the “test” :)

That’s all for now,


P.S. Wondering what other ways you can improve your influence? Join me on 12 September at 12 PM CET for Leading on Mondays: Influence – The Only Measure of Leadership.

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