Are You a Leader or a PILP

I’ve always loved company teambuilding exercises. We get away from the office. We do something together…maybe we stuff grocery bags at a community center or work as a pit crew turning a race car around in seconds. Everyone has a part.

One of the greatest things about these times away from the office: At some point in the process, if we are not dysfunctional, someone takes over even though they are technically not a person in a leadership position (a PILP). If we work at a healthy, non-command-and-control organization, we will all lead at different times, but it’s never clearer than during these away-from-the-office occasions.

People ask me, “Can leadership skills be learned?” Here, they can.

And it’s great to watch someone—follow someone—leading even if they don’t have the title to show for it. We see leadership come out of all kinds of people, seeing the differences in how people influence, bargain and deliver results. It’s usually a great experience to be led by them. This is where leaders are made.

It’s very different from working for a PILP.

We’ve all known PILPs, we’ve worked with and for PILPs, and many of us—if we’re being honest—we have been them.

PILPs hide behind their positions to get what they want the way they want it. PILPs get their authority from their reserved parking spots, their titles, their offices, their reserved seats at the front of in-person town halls. (Yes, there are still companies with reserved seats for leaders.) Their positions are not durable; their people are eager to flee them. If they’re lucky, they have an intervention. If they aren’t, they don’t stay around.

Then there are PILPs who are also leaders. This rarer breed of people earn a living by earning a following. They may be in official leadership positions, but they get their authority from things like integrity, clarity of purpose, great listening skills, humility. Instead of sitting with other PILPs, they sit with their source of authority—with the people who follow them, the people who they are willing to follow back. They get results not because they are PILPs, but because they are leaders.

We want to work for these people.

I’ve been all three, but it’s been tricky for me. Once, when leading a change, I was so busy trying to be a leader and not a PILP that I drove no results whatsoever. This isn’t a durable position to be in either…my boss (usually a leader, but right then an impatient PILP) wasn’t having it. I had to do PILP stuff while I sharpened my leadership skills and learned how to better manage my boss. More on that in a future newsletter.

What about you?

I look forward to being in touch. Let me know what you think.

Al Comeaux

Primed for Change Community

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