Sources of Leadership

September 30, 2014

The way I see it there are only two sources of leadership.  Will you lead because you are in a position of leadership or because you are a person of leadership?

“Leadership is influence, plain and simple” John Maxwell


Some people think of a leader as the person “in charge.”  If the person in charge was better leader or if we had better people in charge, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in.  Our world wouldn’t have the economic, moral, spiritual, physical or (fill in the blank) problems it has today. “If I were the person in charge, I’d do such and such.” The concept of a leader being the person in charge creates a subtle challenge: the labor for the solution and the power are separated.  A chasm forms between the solution (people) and the power.  I’m sure you know people who blame people in charge for many things but never do anything.  They feel or act powerless to do anything.  Like Eddie, Clark’s brother-in-law on Christmas Vacation, they’re holding out for a management position.


A person of leadership finds, even creates opportunities to lead.  Their influence rises out of their character, or who they are as a person.  The source of their leadership is who they are rather than where they are.

You see, our character is who we are.  According to Wikipedia, “The word “character” is derived from the Greek word charaktêr, which was originally used of a mark impressed upon a coin.”  It’s your mark; the imprint you leave.

“Our character is what we do when no one is looking.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Character-based Leadership

Character-based leadership begins with who you are, not what role you play.  We have too many role players.  We need more people bringing “who they are” to the leadership game.  When I talk about character-based leadership, I begin there.  You can be a character-based leader when you pick up trash in the parking lot or donate to Haiti.

Our world needs leadership, regardless of the age or the issue.  That doesn’t mean we need more people in charge. It means we need more dependable people. It doesn’t mean we need more people taking credit. We need more people taking responsibility. It doesn’t mean we need more people giving orders.  We need more people doing the very things that need to be done.

Think about the difference between position-based leadership and character-based leadership.   Which is more hopeful, inspiring, motivating?  Which are you?

I originally wrote this post in 2010 before Leaderpalooza – the first face-to-face meeting of the Lead Change Group. This post originally appeared here.