Leading vs. Taking Charge

A few years ago I consulted with the media department of a major, national organization. The woman in charge of the department went to great lengths to let everyone know that she was just that – in charge.  She was demanding, highly opinionated, and never missed an opportunity to remind her team of her title and position. The problem was, she wanted to be in charge, but not take any responsibility.

When her decisions were wrong (which they frequently were) she would blame anyone but herself. When a problem happened with something our team was doing, she immediately went to “Defcon 5” – sending out a highly critical email that she cc’d to everyone upstream in the executive suite. In the vast majority of cases, the “problem” turned out to be a mistake on her part, but by that time, the damage was done.

She was feared by some members of her department, but never respected by anyone.

Never mistake “being in charge” for real leadership. Great leaders are humble, know how to inspire and lead their team, and are prepared to take responsibility – whether it’s their fault or not. Make sure your goal is to prepare to be a leader – not blinding pursuit of being in charge.

Real leaders create change. People in charge undermine it.

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Phil Cooke, Ph.D, is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking." Find out more at philcooke.com.