It is said that leadership is an attitude, not a title. Not every boss is a leader and vice versa. At times, however, we do come across people who hold no managerial title and yet, exhibit skills that befit a leader. Many argue that title or not, a leader will always show skills and functions that take the team forward. Leading is not only about being a boss or getting work done. Leading is also about influencing, setting precedents or bringing about a change in people. Do leaders deserve to get the title too?
“Organisations should look for such talent and get them into the limelight. However, many a time, organisational politics and dynamics prevent such people from getting their due appreciation”
Sriharsha Achar, Jt ED & CHRO, Star Health & Allied Insurance
Not just a title, but a trait
Ganesh Chandan, CHRO, Tata Projects, asserts that leadership is an attribute. It is more of a trait, a competency, and has very little to do with the title. Those with leadership attributes demonstrate high levels of ownership and accountability, deliver consistent results and need very little supervision. “In the absence of a title, they tend to rely more on their influencing and collaboration skills to achieve their goals. To such talent, a leadership title is only an enabler and recognition of their talent,” he explains.
Chandan further adds that those who believe that title is essential for demonstrating leadership are unlikely to succeed because they tend to excessively use authority and hierarchy to drive results, and quite often, they don’t work in the long term,. “Organisations should explore developing leaders based on their potential and traits without assigning specific titles. Give them leadership roles, not titles,” Chandran elaborates.
“’Leaders without title’ should be promoted by assigning them new roles and responsibilities. Their performance should be linked with incentives, both monetary and in kind”
Irfan Shaikh, head – HR, GITS Food
Sriharsha Achar, Jt ED & CHRO, Star Health & Allied Insurance, echoes the same sentiment. He believes leadership is all about inspiring and having a positive influence. Therefore, title or no title, one should strive to do the right things.
“Organisations should look for such talent and get them into the limelight. However, many a time, organisational politics and dynamics prevent such people from getting their due appreciation. The ‘Unsung Heroes’ award is one way of recognition. Identify such talent and offer them opportunities. Training will definitely help hone their skills,”Achar suggests.
“In the absence of a title, they tend to rely more on their influencing and collaboration skills to achieve their goals. To such talent, a leadership title is only an enabler and recognition of their talent”
Ganesh Chandan, CHRO, Tata Projects
Titles do matter
It cannot be denied that designations or titles do come with their advantages. Perks aside, it is seen as an official seal of authority, which is unquestionable. At times, people in the team who are good at leading their members often find their decisions being doubted because they don’t have the title. It also brings accountability, as pointed out by Irfan Shaikh, head – HR, GITS Food.
Shaikh adds that title enables clarity of direction, authority, right pay scale, decision-making power, and so on. “A title personally helps an individual to grow to the next level, and that is why, in a company, levels and grades are defined by the HR. It motivates a person to take the leap to the next level or title,” adds Shaikh.
Every organisation has ‘unsung heroes’ but throughout their career journey they remain where they are. Not many such leaders are identified and pulled up to the next level. They should be rewarded by providing them the right amount of leadership training so that they become future / global leaders/managers. “They should be promoted by assigning them new roles and responsibilities. Their performance should be linked with incentives, both monetary and in kind,” Shaikh suggests.
Appreciate and reward
If employees feel sidestepped for not possessing a title, despite a proven record of being a leader, should they demand it or just exit? Shaikh is of the opinion that they should talk about it before it is too late. “After a point, they are considered as redundant. If the current organisation doesn’t recognise their capabilities and efforts then they should not allow themselves to be exploited. They should look out for opportunities to add value elsewhere,” Shaikh advises.
Achar also thinks such employees will leave if the decision making is slow. Therefore, someone will need to push such cases for closure.
Titles are important, because, strangely, people tend to bow down to titles rather than the people who hold them. There will always be leaders doing a great job of leadership, without the titles, and HR professionals believe they need to be rewarded justly for the same.