By Jimmy Casas

In the book Culturize, I make the point that everyone in an organization is a leader. Every one of us has the capacity to lead, however, whether or not we choose to lead is a different issue. I would argue on any given day in any given organization, you are leading in some capacity. You lead when you make a decision, when you respond in a certain manner (whether it be positive or negative), when you initiate a discussion or add to an existing conversation, and when you go out of your way to help a student or assist a colleague. Leading doesn’t have to mean you gather a group of individuals, give them a good pep talk, and inspire them to be and do more than they ever thought possible. But can it mean this, and are some able to do this? Absolutely!

So then why do so many of us still not see ourselves as leaders? And just as important, why aren’t more people seeking leadership positions? What are we afraid of? Are we afraid if we say or do the wrong thing we will be criticized? Do we worry others will judge us harshly if we err in our decisions? Have our experiences taught us leading makes us vulnerable and open to failure? Do we hesitate because we have been witness to our own personal behavior and how we treat others and gossip about those who are not able to live up to the standard of what it means to be an effective leader? I would suggest if we were to ponder these questions honestly we may end up with a response that sounds something like this—yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes!

Leading and seeking a leadership role within an organization may be seen as two different things, but many of the reasons why people hesitate to do either may cross over. Ask anyone what characteristics an effective or successful leader has and you are bound to get a multitude of responses that may include the following:

  • Servant Leader
  • Courageous
  • Sense of Humor
  • Passionate
  • Caring
  • Assertive
  • Visionary
  • Communicator
  • Empathetic
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Charismatic
  • Inspiring
  • Confident
  • Delegator

Are these attributes and others not listed needed in order to successfully lead? I would say yes. In fact, I think here is where lies the problem of why so many refuse to see themselves as leaders and quite frankly, hesitate to take on a leadership role. Over time they have learned one attribute is not enough. These attributes or characteristics many would say, are a part of our make-up, our DNA, like being passionate or charismatic. Some would then go on to say things like, “I am just not that way or that’s not who I am.” Others would say trustworthiness, honesty and empathy are learned traits, that they had tremendous role models who taught them these values. And then there are other characteristics that are in my opinion, really skills that have to be learned over time, like assertiveness, delegator and visionary. These are skills that must be developed at a high level in order to lead in a manner others will see as effective.

Why do so many of us, then, hesitate to lead or are unwilling to see ourselves as leaders or take on leadership roles? I think it is because in order to be an effective leader we have to be willing to examine our attributes, traits and/or characteristics and ask ourselves, “Am I willing to change these in order to become more effective as a leader?” Moreover, we must be willing to invest a tremendous amount of personal time to grow and develop the abundance of skills we currently lack, knowing that strong leadership is not absolute to one or the other.
In my opinion, the most effective leaders have determined the number one skill needed more than any other skill that will determine our success or failure as a leader is the ability to determine what is required of us at any given moment and then utilize that trait, characteristic, attribute or skill needed to help us navigate a particular situation, problem or event in a way that lets others value and appreciate (and in some cases critical) the manner in which we conducted ourselves at that very moment.

We are all leaders. Some just lead differently, recognizing that leadership is not how you behave when you know what to do, but rather how you behave when you don’t know what to do, which ultimately requires of us, a tremendous leadership tool box of which to choose from.

Are you ready to lead with me?

Jimmy Casas, who served as a school leader for 22 years, is Senior Fellow for the International Center for Leadership in Education. He is also an author, speaker and #FutureReady Advisor. Follow him @casas_jimmy and learn more from him at TEPSA’s Grow Conference!

Reprinted with permission © Jimmy Casas. The article originally appeared on Jimmy Casas’ blog March 11, 2018. Visit

TEPSA News, May/June 2018, Vol 75, No 3

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