Leadership is a Behavior Not a Title

Soul Trained
3 min readApr 19, 2021

There are literally thousands of books, a multitude of TED Talks, and an ocean of training programs offering a blue print for the right away to lead. The only possible conclusion you can draw from the diversity of advice is that no one really knows and that there is no magic potion. In the words of a client of mine, “DDS, we’re all just basically winging it.” Quite.

After a years of training in human potential a couple of decades of working in organizational psychology, I have developed a perspective that imbues my executive coaching and leadership growth work. That is, leadership is a behavior not a title.

Leadership is defined by nothing more and nothing less than followership. Leadership has nothing to do with your pay grade and everything to do with the extent to which, when you look around, whether or not you have followers. But not just any followers, the type of followers who believe in you and the direction of travel you want to take them.

So the real question you should be asking yourself isn’t, “How do I become a great leader?” but is, “How do I become someone worth following?”

The short answer is, be a decent human being — you know the kind of human that younger you would want to be around. My longer answer, which adds an additional blue print into the thousands already published, looks like this.

Leaders who are worth following …

…start why ‘Why?’…

Simon Sinek reminds us that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. To that end, the most compelling leaders are able to bring their people with them on a journey by articulating a clear and compelling mission for the work of their team. Doing so provides meaning and purpose. I wrote about that here.

…know that accountability is a verb not a noun…

Leaders who are worth following hold themselves and others to account. They focus on performance. They don’t walk by and, if something needs doing, fixing, or changing they take care of it. Or they bring the right people together to do it, fix it, or change it.


They are open to feedback and they listen carefully when they receive it. Doing so means they are better placed to offer feedback when they want to. Learners like to learn from learners.

…give a shit about their people…

Everybody wants to know that they are cared for. Leaders will engender followership by demonstrating how much they care about their people, their work, and their careers. Remember, people don’t leave bad companies they leave bad managers.

…Don’t know everything…

The leaders most worth following are the ones that recognize when they need help and aren’t afraid to ask for it. They’re also attuned to the times when they get it wrong and when they do they always say sorry and when the shoe is on the other foot, they always assume positive intent.

…are worth copying…

Behavior is contagious. This means the culture of any team or organization will be shaped by the worst behavior you are willing to tolerate in a leader. The leaders who are worth following are the ones who can walk the talk of these simple behaviors I have outlined here.

I’m curious to hear your take on what makes a leader worth following.



Soul Trained

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