How To Grow Your Leadership By Overcoming The Trouble With Titles

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If you rely on your title to establish your influence, you can be in for big trouble. Because your title can actually work against your efforts to be an authentic leader.

The reality is, relying on your impressive title to establish your credibility can diminish your ability to lead effectively.

Here are 3 occasions when you can run smack into the middle of the trouble with titles…

1. When you want to know what’s really going on

“So team…how’s everything going in this department?”

People will be more open if they know they are talking to Sue, or Bob, than if they are reminded that they are talking to a vice president or a division manager. Your impressive sounding title can be your greatest hindrance when you really want to know what’s happening in your organization. You might want to have everyone see you as just Sue or Bob, but if you emphasize your title, openness can be shut down.

2. When you genuinely want honest feedback

“Hey team, what do you think of my new idea?”

Once again, if you emphasize that you are a member of the team, you encourage honest feedback. If you emphasize your title, the feedback you receive will likely be less than candid. People want to please the boss. But they will be more open with someone who is authentically seen as a team mate.

3. When you want to speed up the information flow

“Hey, do you have those quarterly figures for me?”

Nothing will grind the flow of information down to a halt quite like a team member worried about making a mistake in front of someone with an impressive title. The need to please someone with an impressive title can cause your team to slow down as they aim for error-free perfection. 

How to overcome the trouble with titles…

You can minimize the trouble with titles with these reminders:

Never introduce yourself using your title

Opening with, “Hi, I’m Mr. Johnson, the new Senior Vice President in charge of Sales, Acquisitions and Mergers” will never get you to authenticity.

Get to know the team outside the workplace

Show up at the team picnic. Show up at the team softball game. Show up at the Christmas party. Just show up.

Establish the ground rules of authenticity

Make it clear at the outset that the environment is safe for candor. And mean it.

None of this is to suggest that you should fake humility, to deny your position in the organization, or to pretend that your level of authority carries no weight. Just remember, that the more you emphasize your title, the more problems you will often encounter.

So learn to manage the tension between the authority you carry, and the need to just get stuff done.

And get down to the important work of authentic leadership.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.

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