Leading without a Title

Leading without a Title

May 18, 2016
Human Resources

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Pause for a minute and consider whether you believe the following five statements are true or false:

  • Great leaders are born, not made.  
  • You can be a leader without a specific title such as manager or director.  
  • You’re not leading if you don’t have followers.  
  • The best leaders are extroverts.  
  • Men make better leaders.  

Now, review the answers:

  • Great leaders are born, not made. This is false as anyone can excel at anything if they truly put their mind to it.  Leadership is a skill, not a genetic disposition.
  • You can be a leader without a specific title such as manager or director. This is true. A title doesn’t dictate an individual’s ability to lead. There are many opportunities to lead within every retail RD role.
  • You’re not leading if you don’t have followers. False. In a knowledge-based economy many people work in teams and a large number of people work remotely blurring the traditional hierarchical distinction between leader and follower. Leadership begins by leading yourself and can include having followers. Einstein was a great and remarkable leader. He never ran an organization and did not have followers in the traditional sense, but his thought leadership fundamentally changed our understanding of physics.  
  • The best leaders are extroverts. False. Being an introvert or an extrovert determines how one recharges. Introverts recharge alone while extroverts recharge by being with others. There are no studies that suggest recharging one way or the other makes you a better leader. The main point is to find a way to recharge regularly to avoid burnout.
  • Men make better leaders. Of course gender does not determine leadership capabilities.

Leaders aren’t built from one mold and there are many varying skills that different leaders possess. These include decision-making, delegation, responsibility, leading by example, and solution-mindedness. The reality is that the skills, traits and characteristics that make great leadership have nothing to do with a title or position. Leaders exist at every level of an organization, within communities and even within families. 

There are many ways retail RDs can show leadership within their existing roles. At Hy-Vee, for example, their Dinner is Served at Hy-Vee (DISH) program was started by a RD at one store. Today, the program has been expanded to 35 stores and new stores are designed to include a specific kitchen facility from which to operate this and other programs. Within the community, retail RDs can chair non-profit events or build a successful joint programs that drive new traffic to your stores. You can run for office in a local or national dietetic association.   

Leadership is about an approach, a mindset and a skill set, not a title.