The Position-Less Leader

follow-leader“Leadership is something you earn, something you’re chosen for. You can’t come in yelling. ‘I’m your leader!’ If it happens, it’s because the other guys respect you.” —Ben Roethlisberger

We know that the idea that leadership is bestowed upon a few, select individuals is an antiquated notion. It is not a formal position of authority that determines leadership, but the ability to influence others. Every one of us has the potential to be a leader. So, what gives the position-less leader the power to influence others?


People follow those they trust. A position does not award you the trust required to be a leader. When we gain the trust of others we are able to influence them because they know that we will look out for their best interest. When we become a trusted advisor, we become a position-less leader.


People follow those who they see as competent. A title does not prove competence. When we work closely with others they start to have confidence in our skills and knowledge; they see the value of our experience. When we become the go-to person to answer questions and solve problems, we become a position-less leader.


People follow those with whom they develop good, two-way communication. Authority does not necessarily make you a good communicator. When we develop relationships where we share information; listen because we care; and empathize with others, we gain the ability to influence. With this influence, we become a position-less leader.

It’s About Respect

The bottom-line is: it’s all about respect. Leadership is the ability to influence others; it takes trust, proven competence, and two-way communication. These characteristics are not earned by acquiring a position of authority. They are developed through focusing our energy on becoming a positive force in the lives of others. When we earn their respect, we expand our influence, and become position-less leaders.


© 2016 Elizabeth Stincelli


Liz Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the Founder of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations change attitudes, change communication dynamics, improve collaboration and problem-solving, engage employees, and strengthen organizational culture. Liz holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership.

Learn more about Liz by visiting her website, and connect with her on Twitter @infinitestin, Google+, and LinkedIn. You can contact her by email at


4 thoughts on “The Position-Less Leader”

  1. You nailed it, Liz. Neither title nor position on the corporate ladder makes the leader qualified or capable. It’s unfortunate that people are placed in leadership positions where they make decisions with short term insights that have long term effects. Communication deficits cause chaos and being a poor communicator already works against trust and competence. I heard once that if you are influencing, you are leading., which makes me wonder if that also means the influence could be good or could be bad.

    1. You are so right, Jane. And, I definitely think influence can be used for good or evil. That is why it is so important for formal leaders to recognize who is informally leading their employees. It could be for the good of the organization or it could be to its detriment. As always, I love your insights! Thank you for adding your contribution.

  2. Great article Liz and you are so right about the qualities of leaders. It does not have to do with position but what qualities they have. All of them are very important but the one that stood out for me is ‘communicator’. I think because I worked for very large companies for many years, that one is super important to me. When there is effective communication, there is a high level of trust built and that’s important to me. Thanks for being consistently awesome in your leadership Liz!

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