During my career I was led to believe that to be a leader in the organization you needed to get into management. Not necessarily people management, but have a title given to you authorizing you to be a leader. I have since become keenly aware that one does not need a title to influence and/or lead.
What has changed? Let me explain by sharing an experience. In my past I worked for a great organization that I felt very connected to and felt inspired. Due to an unexpected event the culture unexpectedly shifted and I realized that I was in a situation that was less than ideal for me. I became distant and frustrated because I felt that because I did not have the title of “Manager”, I was not able to change the situation I was in so I looked for another job. I left that organization.
Was I justified in my actions? Yes, I was not pleased with my experience so I left to go to one that I was. This is a justifiable reason and there is no shame in taking this action. Later, I attended a leadership seminar which had us read and discuss a book, The Influencer. No where during our discussion and reading the book did it say that to be an influencer (a leader) you had to have a title. This caused me to think about my previous experience, was the situation totally out of my control, my influence. In my situation I would have to answer, I don’t know. I didn’t try so how could I know.
I have thought a lot about the usage of career ladders and feel they are a crutch to be used in organizations where influence is derived by title. “I am an architect therefore what I say matters more than what you say.” These titles have more to do with organizationaly mandated influence than they have to do with responsiblity and roles. If this is true in your organization I am sorry. I truly believe that titles do not equate to leadership. They may grant someone authority to manage, but the title does not a leader make. A leader is someone that can draw people toward their way of thinking, their way of doing, their way of being. A leader is someone that does not need organizational buy in because they are able to communicate clearly their intent and draw people to their side rather than coercing them.
I did not need a title to change the situation I was in. I think I would have had a very different experience had I known then what I know now. So, go be a leader. Advocate for a culture where titles only dictate roles, but influence is titless.