Although my doctorate is in communication, one of my primary interests has also always been the study of leadership—specifically, the intersection of communication and leadership. It is intriguing to me that, after 13 years of teaching, I am still asked the same question most commonly by my students: How can be a leader if I’m not in a leadership position?
Donald H. McGannon (former president of the National Urban League board of trustees) said “Leadership is action, not position.” I love this quote because it illustrates the message I try to get across to my students at University College. We can lead from any position; our leadership is created in and through our communication with other people. From that perspective, you can be a leader by communicating like one.
Communicate with the same level of respect for all people, regardless of their position. Approach every communicative interaction as if it is as important as the last. Communicate calmly in a crisis. Communicate considerately during a conflict. Resist the temptation to say “that’s just how I am,” but rather adopt the perspective, “this is how I choose to be.”
Make communicative choices that a leader would make. When you do that, it matters not what position you hold; people will view you as a leader. True leaders understand it is not about the positions we hold, but about the communicative choices we make.
Dr. Allison Friederichs teaches COMM 4070: Understanding Human Communication, COMM 4203: Adult Learning Theory & Instructional Strategies, and COMM 4020: Communication in Professions & Organizations at University College. She also co-hosts Mondays at 3, a weekly radio talk show about leadership.