In business school, I learned there were three sources of professional power – competence, network and job title. A job title is what elevates us to leadership positions. A leader is someone with authority and is in charge of a group of people.
The truth is, a real leader is someone, first and foremost, responsible for his own world. In that sense, everyone is a leader all the time. This is a modern adaptation of ancient Buddhist thinking. What it means is leadership is not about power over others, but power over self. How we show up in the world as self-responsible leaders, instead of victims, builds our personal strength. Such strength translates into power that inspires, not controls, others.
In hierarchical societies or organizations, people are separated into two categories – powerful and powerless. They appear in pairs: adult and child; boss and subordinate; rescuer and victim. The less power we have over ourselves, the more likely we want to control others or what is outside of us, as compensation to our inner powerlessness. This creates a society that defines success by climbing corporate ladders and reaching the top of pyramids.
We had it backward. True success in life is about personal mastery or personal leadership. It is about knowing our life purposes, unique gifts, and passion. It is about expressing our highest and truest self through the work we do, relationships we have and the impact we create in this world.