Positional vs. interest-based leadership

  • Published
  • By Russell Hebert
  • Deputy Director, 97 AMW Maintenance Division
Leadership has been defined as "the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task." This is a very simple definition that gets right to the point of the responsibility of leaders in an organization. The definition does not, however, clarify the differences between the positional and interest-based leadership that takes place throughout organizations.
Many leaders seem to do a great job influencing others to complete tasks, but often take their eyes off the overall mission of an organization. They concentrate only on the task they are personally responsible for completing, taking a micro view of their contribution to the overall mission. If their part conflicts with the organization's mission, they may even take a solid stance, defending their decisions at all cost. This type of position-based leadership is counterproductive to the organization and causes confusion for all involved. These kinds of leaders are found at all levels in an organization and are often argumentative, being set in their ways. They often make decisions based on their positional awareness of mission requirements without incorporating foresight to make adjustments and improvements to enhance mission requirements. These leaders often fall into the habit of "status quo" performance and stunt the growth and performance of the folks they lead.

Interest-based leaders, however, make mature decisions and lead others through a macro view of what it takes to meet mission requirements. These leaders don't subscribe to the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." They continuously strive to improve themselves, along with mentoring others to perform at higher levels of confidence. Interest-based leaders also convey a strong mission vision and display a positive attitude to accomplish what is right for the organization, not just their slice of it. These are some of the reasons that others are willing to follow these leaders to complete the mission. Interest-based leaders are the bedrock of an organization, and their leadership skills are paramount to the success of the mission. Leaders whose goal is leading others to improve the interest of an organization do not "command" excellence, they "build" excellence!

Great leaders are those individuals who always look to enhance the mission of an organization through applying effective motivational guidance for all to emulate. They do not take a positional stance on issues that will affect the mission without first looking at the "big picture" and then determining what is in the best interest of the organization. Successful leaders are individuals who are willing take initiative, have a strong work ethic, can elicit cooperation from a team and can distinguish between positional needs and put the interests of the organization first and foremost.