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Ryan McKinney

Associate Director of Campus Activities, The Catholic University of America

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Titles are essential for leadership

We have all been taught that you don't need a title to be a leader but no one I've interacted with actually believes that. We look to those with titles as the leaders.
Leadership is about relationships and titles help define the relationship you have to someone or something.
Every relationship has a title and every relationship needs leadership skills and knowledge to help it grow - thus every relationship title is a leadership title. Employee, sister, father, stranger, student, musician, cousin, roommate, pilot, supervisor, American, homeowner, etc. These are all titles and if people viewed them as leadership titles maybe we'd take more responsibility for the influence we have in those roles.

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    Sep 19 2012: Surely we can name some proven successful leaders who have/had no title? If you define occupation as a title then everyone with a job has a title and is therefor a leader? Your suggestion seems to make every living person a leader. Infants don't lead. Comatose people don't lead. I do not think titles are essential to leadership. I also do not think titles are proof of leadership. I think there is nothing more than arbitrary protocol behind titles.
    • Sep 19 2012: I do suggest that everyone is a leader. Doesn't mean they are effective as a leader. Doesn't mean they are having a positive influence on others. Doesn't even mean they are aware of the role they have. How you lead is up to you and the influence you have over others is up to those you are leading. You can't change the fact you are a leader - you can change the adjective that goes in front of the word leader.
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        Sep 19 2012: The adjective for me is "disoriented". Do not follow me. So you contend that infants; people in comas; insane people and hermits are leaders? Your conclusion that all leaders (which all people are) need titles is supported by what propositions? Please state them for the debate. A syllogism would be helpful.
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          Sep 19 2012: infants, people in comas, insane people, and hermits can be leaders in the form of icons or emotional figures like that.

          But that's getting really abstract lol
  • Sep 19 2012: Being a leader means having influence. When you are in a relationship you influence the other person, organization, object, or concept. Think about any relationship you have - there is a title that comes with that. If you apply leadership concepts to that relationship you will be able to influence that relationship more proactively. Everyone has relationships thus everyone is a leader. This doesn't mean you are good at it - you could have a negative influence on your relationships. Why and how you influence others will lead to a description of your style of leadership (good, effective, negative, servant, destructive, etc.)

    We don't need to wait to be given grand titles to start leading (o Great One, Empress of All Universes, etc.) - the titles of friend, son, homeowner, citizen are waiting for you to lead. For example in Drew Dudley's Ted talk he shared a story about leadership being influence http://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership.html. In this story he uses his title as a "Member of Shinaramma", "Student", and "Stranger" to have a significant and lasting impact on the young lady's life.

    Let's take James Zhang's example of the title "Cool Kid Next Door" - this title describes the relationship you have with someone else (they live next door). They also define you as "cool" and with this description in your title it qualifies how someone might interact with you and views you. You clearly have a relationship with that person which has led them to not only identify you as the kid next door but add the adjective "cool".

    The title "friend" can be hugely influential and means different functions in different friendships yet still gives a context for that relationship. Add "best" in front of that title and it is a different kind of relationship with different influence.

    Think of relationship you have and you will find a title. What you do with that title and how others react to how we that title is leadership. It is that simple.
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      Sep 19 2012: Just to clarify, your definition of "title" is less formal than the connotations that the commonly assumed word carries.

      Just a fair warning, If you're gonna see some confusion in some of the responses you get, it'd most likely be because of that reason. Most people think of "title" as a formal title like "Dr." or "PHD" or "Colonel", etc.
  • Sep 19 2012: Leadership is about leading; it is about having followers; a leader could also be the known best, or the first.
    Everybody has his or her own extent of influence; but not everybody is a leader(which would be the case if your idea that leadership is about titles were true).

    The reason why leadership qualities/skills are desirable in everybody is that, it helps in being a good influence on someone who may become a leader(or is already a leader).
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      Sep 19 2012: Another reason those qualities might be desirable is that everyone has the opportunity to be a leader, but perhaps in different environments. I know lots of people who can be classified as a leader, but are not perceived as such by most other people. They all have one thing in common; they provide a good example and stimulate others to do the same (without expecting it).
    • Sep 19 2012: yes! we need to be developing leadership qualities/skills in everybody because we are all in positions of influence. The more others become aware of the potential influence they have, the more likely they will influence in goal oriented ways.
  • Sep 23 2012: I think titles are not uesed to divide the people in different groups. Titles just signs of different responsibilities.
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    Sep 19 2012: Functions are necessary to any organization what you call those functions is not as important. These functions are not being performed currently by the POTUS which is the core problem.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html
    • Sep 19 2012: And why don't we all perform the functions of POTUS? Why are we waiting for him to perform them? ....he has the title which indicates that he should be the one to accomplish those functions. But if more of us viewed our title as Citizen differently - maybe we'd exert more influence to ensure the functions are carried out in our best interests. We have the leadership titles but we don't proactively exert the influence those title provide us.
    • Sep 19 2012: "These functions are not being performed currently by the POTUS which is the core problem."

      You mean you don't happen to agree with how the POTUS chooses to perform his functions. It is very arrogant to equate that to "he's not performing his functions", I may disagree with the way George Bush ruled America but I would never say he did not perform his functions.
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        Sep 19 2012: Nether performed the functions, bush was bad as well, just not as ridiculous as with the current POTUS as he WILL sink the country.
        • Sep 19 2012: For ruling like a European conservative? Hardly, he's not that different from Clinton or your average British prime minister.
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        Sep 19 2012: Clinton was the most conservative president we have had in the last 20 years
  • Sep 19 2012: Okay. I hereby crown myself EMPRESS of ALL UNIVERSES.
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      Sep 19 2012: Dub thyself, oh Great One! You will be reporting directly to me since I am The Higher,
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        Sep 19 2012: James Zhang: "Cool Kid Next Door"

        Second title: "Self-Proclaimed Chosen One"
      • Sep 19 2012: Incorrect AGAIN, edward long. If you want any subordinate position to me, you will have to stick with TRUTH and accuracy at all times. Happy Today.
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          Sep 19 2012: Ooops. I did not apply for, nor am I seeking, a SUBORDINATE position. In any of the universes you rule over Is there a difference between truth and accuracy? Is there inaccurate truth or accurate falsehood?-- The Higher.
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          Sep 19 2012: Clash of egos, go!

          *grabs popcorn and chair*
    • Sep 19 2012: You can give yourself the title but the person, organization, object, etc. on the other side of that title gets to decide how much influence you have in that relationship. You can give yourself the title Empress of All Universes but the universes decide how they respond to your influence.
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      Sep 20 2012: OK then I want to be SUPREME COMMANDER OF ALL UNIVERSES. That would make the Empress a figure head:)
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    Sep 19 2012: I think more specifically, leadership is about having followers. Without followers, how can one be a leader? And there are certain qualities/properties that leaders have that followers respect enough for them to listen/follow. This could be personality and character, ideology, money and material possessions, technical prowess, intelligence, etc.

    Titles are one mean to gain respect for others to follow/listen to someone, but they aren't the only way to sell the image.
    • Sep 19 2012: Exactly - without relationships you can't lead. Every relationships has a title - thus you need a title to lead. We just need to expand what we mean by leadership title.
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        Sep 19 2012: Then I guess the your definition/usage of the word "title" is loosely defined that's synonymous to "brand", "image", "identity", and less formal names. If so, then this can cause confusion to most people because someone's title is usually referred to in a more formal manner.
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      Sep 20 2012: It's late in the game but let's define "leader". Webster's says: "a person or thing that leads; directing, commanding or guiding head, as of a group or activity." Do you think that will fly as the meaning of the word "leader" in this debate?
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        Sep 20 2012: Yeah, it still can probably. Even a kid can be an emotional leader, unaware of his/her status. Anything can become an icon, and iconic figures are representations of ideas that people believe in and follow. Is it really Martin Luther King Jr. himself that people followed or was it the idea of what he represents that people followed? Or in a religious sense, is it God that people follow or is it the idea of what God represents that people follow?