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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: 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.

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