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  • Writer's pictureJack Mullaney

Leadership Lexicon: Interchangeability

Last Thursday, the GAIN Network hosted a panel discussion on leadership as part of their master class series. Prior to the roundtable conversation, each member of the panel gave a presentation on the topic based on their career experiences.

When Atlanta Braves Minor League Pitching Coordinator Paul Davis spoke, he gave a definition of leadership that struck a chord with me:

Leadership: "A process of relational influence between two or more parties who seek mutual change; roles of leader/follower may be reversed at any time" - Paul Davis

From my perspective, we have paired a structural chain of command too closely with leadership, creating the fallacy that being a leader is only available to those whose title or position allows it. Under that logic, everyone else must simply follow.

I don't think that leads to success. For one, a team leaves a lot on the table if one or two "leaders" are the only people permitted to make decisions and steer the direction of the group. Further, any member of a team who feels like they aren't being seen or heard will be less likely to buy in.

Consider how Jack Clark, Head Rugby Coach at Cal and winner of 27 National Championships, defines leadership:

Leadership: "The ability to make those around you better and more productive" - Jack Clark

See the parallel with Paul Davis' definition?

The roles of leader and follower are interchangeable. When two (or more) people respect each other and share a common goal, everyone wins when one helps the other(s) get better.

That doesn't mean chain of command has no purpose. Certainly, when there isn't a mutual consensus, decisions have to be made by someone.

But if the leader charged with that decision has empowered others to lead, they are more likely to be met with respect when they make it.

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