As I’ve observed people and situations, I’ve noticed two different types of leaders. I’m sure some leadership expert has written extensively on this somewhere, but if they have, I haven’t read them. So, for the sake of this post I’m using my own terms for these two people: Organic Leaders and Positional Leaders.
- Organic leaders are the people who walk in a room and become the leader by instinct. It doesn’t matter if they knew the people before or not, give them half an hour and they’ll be in charge.
- Positional leaders are those who can lead once they have an opportunity, but aren’t as gifted at creating the opportunity themselves. In an unfamiliar environment, they may not vocalize their opinion (even though they probably have one and likely feel strongly about it).
I think misunderstanding these two types allows for potential stars in leadership to fall through the cracks.
I’ve heard this statement multiple times in reference to leadership: “Real leaders don’t need a position to lead.” The thought is that “real” leaders will just start leading.
The problem with this statement, though, is that it confuses organic leaders as real leaders, as if organic leaders are the “true leaders”. Consequently, potential stars are never recruited, trained, or encouraged because they seem passive, quiet, or apathetic in the initial environment. This causes the organization and the individual to miss out.
I understand the thinking that a person should be willing to contribute to the team even without a position, and I agree. My point, though, is this: Some of the best leaders are not going to thrive until you give them a position. That doesn’t mean you have to hire them, it means you have to recognize them and give them a platform.
Don’t allow potential stars to fall through the cracks by confusing organic leaders as real leaders. We need organic leaders and positional leaders, but unless we’re intentional, we’ll only get the organics.
Have you seen this dynamic play out? How do you attempt to recognize positional leaders?