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Leadership Series X – Emphasis of Title

The tenth and final of Napoleon Hill’s 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership is EMPHASIS OF TITLE.

“Competent leaders require no “title” to gain the respect of their followers. Leaders who make too much of their title generally have little else to emphasize. The doors to the office for real leaders are open to all who wish to enter, and their working quarters are free from formality or ostentation.”

Here we are at the end of our journey back in time, where we’ve explored the core elements of leadership’s failed and successful response to the business world of 1930’s America. Except for some of the language used, I’ve been struck by the fact that these lessons apply as much in 2021 as they did 90 years ago. Leadership as an art and science has progressed in many areas and in many ways, yet there remains an urgency to getting this right more than ever. The world has shifted on its axis in the last 18 months and rapid transformation is required in response.

As I hold on to my world view of there being seasons of order, disorder, and re-order, I see we are very much in the disorder phase. New leadership is required in all areas of life: business, politics, religion, the financial industry, our communities, as well the professions of law, education, accounting, and health care. We need new leaders, with new ideas and bold transformative ideas aimed at changing what we have always done. This is not about disruptive technologies; it is about changing the entire foundation of what we need for healthy, functional daily life. We can no longer count on the old ways. The challenges facing the world require bold new responses, ideally pre-active, and a heightened sense of intention.

Back to the notion of ‘title’. It should be no surprise to anyone that I support Hill on this point. Leadership is not about position or title. It is not about where someone may happen to land on the Organizational Chart. It is not about flexing our leadership muscles, holding onto, using, or abusing power. The title on our business cards simply points to what we do, the role that we play when we are at work. Our titles should be used only to promote the common good.

A title doesn’t make anyone more important than anyone else in the organization. In fact, I have found the exact opposite to the be the case. The higher up we go on the hierarchy and the fancier the title we carry around, the greater the responsibility that we are meant to have in the service of all stakeholders. Small business owners understand this. Sadly, in older-style institutions and larger corporations, and certainly with political leaders, this ineffective reliance on title is being held onto with clenched fists and white knuckles. For those of you of this ilk, I have a secret for you – it just doesn’t work anymore, so get busy transforming yourselves and your organizations or get out of the way!

What is important about the definition of roles, responsibilities, and organizational charts is accountability. Everyone needs to know who they report to, who makes the decisions that impact us, and what each person in the organization is responsible for achieving. In that sense, org charts and titles have a role in running an effective, smart, and healthy organization.

The over-reliance on position, title, maintaining power, and use of fear as a leadership tool has been addressed in previous posts, but let’s sum it up by saying that continued reliance on these responses to the unique challenges of today will lead only to a world of hurt. The foundation of our businesses, our families, our communities, and society have been eroding at a ferocious pace by selfish leadership. Our world is upside down and not sustainable as a result. Time to flip it back around and to build stronger foundations with top levels of priority, energy, and resources being focused on these areas of need.

As it stands, I can say with more confidence than ever that it is the people who provide the base of our businesses and societies, those who toil to provide us with what we have wrongly taken for granted for so long who are of the greatest value – not me, not you, not the owner, not the shareholder, nor the C-Suite executive. We seemingly have it wrong, but it is not too late to take corrective action, if the will is there. Cracks in the foundation have formed and gotten larger and more broad-based.

In June of 2020, in the midst of a Covid-related lull, I committed myself to writing a blog. I had never done such a thing, so it was a brave new world that I was entering. The commitment was to write two blog posts each month for a year. As of now, I have officially made good on that commitment. It has been a wonderful experience for me and has strengthened and crystallized my own thinking around the state of the hospitality industry and further developed my beliefs on leadership.

It has been a wonderful experience and really a self-development exercise more than anything. While I have posted on LinkedIn and gotten a few thumbs up from friends and kind-hearted strangers, this has not been about massaging my ego, trying to drum up business for myself, or professing to the world that I have it all figured out (because I don’t). I remain as uncertain as to the path forward as the next person but am eager to see well overdue and meaningful change in my industry, and I remain inspired and hopeful.

Thank you for playing along and for taking time from your busy schedules to read my posts. It means more than you can imagine. It has been a real privilege.

Until next time!

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