Can You Be a Leader, But Not Lead?

“Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.” —Gen. George S. Patton

Think of a great leader or someone you believe is a great leader. What are their leadership qualities? What have they done to prove to be a great leader? These questions should be easy to answer, however, they aren’t as easy as you think. Why? Because the word “leader” is thrown around like “jedi,” “ninja”, and “expert.”

You can be called a leader, but not lead. You’ve seen the statement, “John Smith is considered a leader on social networks” or “When it comes to public relations strategy, John Smith is a leader.” In some cases, these statements are true. But more often than not, the word “leader” is not fact. For example, most people believe that CEOs or presidents of companies are leaders. But, just because they have that title, one shouldn’t assume they can lead. Sure, they may up provide stability and maybe even help the bottom line, but that doesn’t make someone a good leader or good in leading employees.

I began to think this week about leadership and what it takes. There’s an old quote from Vince Lombardi; he said, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made.” That is absolutely true. To be a great leader you have to show three qualities:

Mark Messier is considered a great leader

Mark Messier is considered a great leader

1) Trust- You need to trust your colleagues and they need to trust you. If you don’t have either, you are sunk. Trust is the ultimate quality in a leader.

2) Patience- You must be calm in the good and the bad times; especially the bad. Your fellow pros and co-workers will be more apt to listen to you if you show calmness in the face of rocky times. Regardless of your political beliefs, people like President George W. Bush and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed great leadership in the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. If not for their patience, the recovery may not have been what it was in the U.S.

3) Humble- You can be confident in your skills and still maintain your humble nature. People don’t like cocky and overconfident, especially in a leader. They want confidence, but with the ability to show that you are willing to give credit where credit is due.

So, how can you be a better leader? Start by setting an example for those that will come after you, whether it be as a PRSSA leader or in a local Social Media Club. Want to be your own boss one day? Start showing people you can handle criticism with grace, you are willing to sacrifice for the greater good of your chapter, organization, or club, and, most importantly, be trustworthy.

Who are good example of leaders? Let me know in the comments!


About JasMollica

"It's never too late to have a life and it's never too late to change one." That's something I tell students, friends, and family all the time. After living and working in New York City, I took my own advice in 2004, switched my career from the television/radio industry and got into public relations. Now, I spend my days as a PR/social media marketing consultant and get inspired daily. It's been a good ride, so far. But the car has plenty of gas left. I hope you'll join along in this guy's journey!

Posted on November 15, 2013, in Hot Topic, Inspiration, Personal Branding, Public Relations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Hey! I am in Professor Breakenridge’s class, and have been following your blog since you spoke to us a few weeks ago. I think all of these things are totally true! But, I would add a fourth characteristic of a good leader: creativity. My best bosses have been willing to make changes, take and use ideas from employees and acknowledge when certain processes need to be revamped.

    I recognized the need for creativity few years ago while interning in college. I had two jobs where the leadership refused to use social media, and, especially in journalism, this resulted in several missed opportunities and the organization falling behind the competition.

    But, now that social media is mostly commonplace, I think the new challenge is finding out how to stand out in the fray. Especially as a smaller organization who doesn’t have a built in following, I think it’s challenging to get people to pay attention in such a saturated marketplace like Facebook or Twitter. It’s going to be creative leadership that sets certain organizations apart.

    • Hi MK!

      That’s a great quality to have. Creativity is a must, especially as social media continues to become more mainstream. And as we have seen, the businesses/brands that are the most creative get lots of “buzz.”

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. I can say from experience that these traits are critical to leadership. I first became a manager when I was 23 and honestly failed to use all three at first. But I never gave up, and learned to promote these values not only with myself but with my employees as well.

    Being inclusive is also a great leadership tool. Every leader should consider empowering employees to contribute new ideas or designs. Not only can they come up with solutions you may have missed, they will also feel creatively vested in the project, which is a tremendous boost to morale.

    I really appreciate some of the things we learned at NYU about Southwest Airlines and its “Culture Committees” that encourage personnel to have an active role in defining the company’s identity. Leadership at its finest!

  3. Reading this blog reminds me of what I just learned about the leadership in companies this semester. It is really true that companies are more like a working community currently. Leaders are no longer arbitrary to their employees. On the contrary, employees now more become the core part of companies/stakeholders. And it is good to see that now more and more companies are working towards the goal of building up harmonious workforces for everyone.
    Like Deming pointed out in his “14 points,” a company should be a place where employees can contribute their intelligence and efforts to upgrading services and products. And leaders should only be the leaders of their team. Same theory also is pointed out by Roger D’Aprix in his work “The Credible Company.”
    The authenticity is another crucial practice in a workplace. The authenticity means that the company should provide the services/images to the public as it claims/labels itself as. That is why Southwest Airlines stand out amongst its competitors. Not only does it provide good service to its costumers, but it also contributes to its public image as it promises to the public.
    In general, I completely agree what you mentioned in this post, and it’s really need to be implemented in all companies.

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