“Leader” vs. Leader (not about bicycles)

Titles mean very little at some point. Like, I don’t know, the grave. Obviously King or Queen had it’s heyday. Politicians titles still have some pull here or there but didn’t save some from the guillotine when the time came. Ranks like Captain or Lieutenant can garnish some respect in certain circles but civies don’t give a shit about your bars or eagle. If I start another company, I’m calling myself The Druid in Cubicle 9. Titles don’t matter to me. CEO or Janitor, I’m asking how  the hell it’s going. How about Manager? What about Team Lead or Supervisor? Do these titles matter? Some people couldn’t manage themselves out of fucking paper sack so why would you think they could manage other people. Other individuals find it difficult to lead a team when pulled into a hundred directions, hourly fluctuating priorities or meetings full of brow beating, vacuous expressions and action items out of your you know what.


Leader means different things for different people. In certain places, these different definitions can misalign and have a terrible effect. Some people own that role, wear it well enough that people will acknowledge it and respect it. I’ve met some terrible First Class Petty Officers before but I met some awesome Chiefs. Is it the title or the person and background that make the difference? It’s an easy answer. You can be assigned a role but, not really wanting it, you take it and do as little as you can. There could be a situation where you want the role. And the title. And the prestige. And the this and the that. And “once you’re there, you’re going to do big things and other, less big but just as impactful, things. You’re going to fix it all, it’ll be fine”…… and then you don’t. Because it turns out the role of “leader” that was defined for you isn’t what you agree with on how a leader should act. And that’s okay. Maybe that means you aren’t a leader. At least not in this context. Maybe you made a bad choice and you should own that. But make sure to acknowledge when you participate in activities that add zero value to your team or actually detract from your team because of your absence and lack of engagement.


That being said, I started a new job two weeks ago. I am immediately happier with the new position. The difference is not even close. I think it’s because I view it as more of a leadership role, through my definition of leadership which is teaching/mentoring, than the previous one. There’s something about studying a process, a piece of equipment or part and understanding how it works or why it works then being able to explain it to someone who is having difficulty or teaching someone who has no idea how they can do better. Helping guide them when they’re struggling feels like a much better way to approach a situation than timing their bathroom breaks and lunches because they could be stealing time. All the while, you have half a million dollars worth of salaried individuals sitting in a meeting and being asked about non-value adding, bureaucratic nonsense to the point where they’ve been worn down enough that they could care less about what’s actually happening other than if lunch is provided for this meeting or the next one.


People matter. Leading with empathy and creating a culture around you that prioritizes the human element will bring you to leadership levels of renown. I didn’t get there this time. Not yet.


“Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other large organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.” – Dave Barry


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