The Importance of Being Leaderly

Awhile ago, I started using the term ‘leaderly’, e.g. “That was a tough situation and you handled it in a very leaderly fashion.” I make up words all the time so didn’t give much thought to this new addition to my personal lexicon. It’s a funny sounding word and therefore catchy. I noticed other people started using it. Again, I didn’t think much of it. People embraced ‘funective‘, so why not leaderly?

This week, I start teaching Strategic Marketing in Seattle University’s Master in Nonprofit Leadership program. So I’ve been thinking a lot about how marketing and language can help someone be more, um, leaderly.

Somehow, being leaderly doesn’t feel weighty enough. It lacks the gravitas we tend to append to all things having to do with leading and being in a leadership position. I mean, leaders are the the ones who “go before and with to show the way,” who “guide in direction, course, action, opinion, etc.” These people are serious. They have corner offices. Their smart phones are on over-drive. They are in a league of their own.

And therein lies the problem. We’ve elevated leadership to a level that makes us believe we can only achieve it if we can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Since only a scant number of people can do that, it’s easy to opt out.

This isn’t just a problem for one (word-obsessed) professor preparing for one class at one university.  This is language getting in our way in a seriously egregious manner. This is a fundamental issue that, I contend, is undermining our efforts, and ultimately our ability, to make the world a better place.

We may not all be Leaders, with a capital ‘L’. We may not have the right title or pay grade or a reserved parking spot. But we can all lead. We can all, in ways big and small, go before others, and with others, and guide them in direction, course, action and opinion.

There’s a difference between being a Capital ‘L’ Leader and being someone who leads. If we’re going to  make the world a better place, we need both. In spades. We need as many verbs, nouns and adjectives as possible to describe this idea of forward momentum, conviction, vision and execution.

It begs the question: how will you be leaderly today?

 

 

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