You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader

Jon Bubbett • Bubbett's BookshelfOctober 2022 • October 13, 2022

Anyone who stands in front of a group of musicians or at the front of a classroom has assumed the mantle of leadership and the responsibility of influencing others. In his book You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, Mark Sanborn talks about leadership with a “little L.” Having a title doesn’t make you a leader; what you do every day is what sets you apart. This book is a very concise and easy read about how and why each of us is a leader and makes a difference right where we are with what we already have.

Part One – A Leader Is…

Who are the real leaders? Spoiler alert: It’s not the people with titles! Instead, it is the people with the initiative and determination to make a difference. Little power exists in a title alone. True leadership is in service to others.

“True leaders don’t simply make a difference. They are the difference.”

Part Two – Six Principles of Leadership:

The Power of Self Mastery

True leaders must first lead themselves. They view their leadership role as an opportunity rather than an obligation. They are being the change we want to see in the world.

“…all leadership begins with self-mastery. You can’t lead others until you can lead yourself.”

“… leaders almost always act from a sense of incredible opportunity. They don’t interact with the world around them because they have to. They do so because they want to.”

The Power of Focus

The ability to stay focused is key to most things in life, not just leadership! Understanding the dangers of drifting, the benefits of prioritizing, and living with intentionality are all essential aspects of leadership with a little “L.”

“Focus and determination beat brains and intellect every time. You don’t necessarily have to be smarter or better educated to succeed…”

The Power with People

True leadership is not power over people, but rather it is power with people. Understanding the difference between managing and leading people, our impact on others, our character, and how to motivate others are vitally important in this principle.

“Everything we accomplish happens not just because of our efforts but through the effort of others.”

The Power of Persuasive Communication

Communication is the key to being persuasive. Instead of providing feedback, the author presents a great idea on feeding forward.

“Everything you do has an impact. Your actions either help improve others or diminish them. Others observe your behavior and are influenced by it, for better or worse.”

The Power of Execution

Having good ideas is not enough; we must act on them. Barriers to our productivity may include being paralyzed by too much analysis, fear of failing, and confusing talking with action. Effective planning from small tasks to larger ones, teaming up with others, always striving to improve, and facing your fears are all key to success.

“Intent without action is daydreaming.”

“No matter how much information you collect, success is never a sure thing. The fact is people who act as leaders fail more often than others do.”

The Power of Giving

Being a leader/teacher is about giving beyond ourselves, being of greater service, and making the world a better place. In this section, we learn that to lead is to serve, and giving is a gift that gives back.

“When you make the world better for others, you make the world better for yourself.”

“True giving is about what one contributes rather than what one receives.”

At the end of each principle are leadership action points, which give us actionable things to do to put each of these principles into a part of our lives and not just words in a book.

Part Three – Making A Positive Difference

Difference makers know the difference between accomplishment or just staying busy. They believe in a better world and respond to difficulties with a positive attitude. Leadership is what we do every day to make the world a better place for others and ourselves.

“Everyone matters. Everyone makes a difference.”

“The choice we all have is whether we want to make a positive difference or a negative one.”

What Is Your Legacy?

“Leadership isn’t a mysterious art practiced by only a select few. It is the daily response of every man and woman who wishes to make a positive difference in the world and make it a little bit better because of their efforts.”

“Each of our lives is a leadership lab. We don’t need a title or an organization to lead. What we need is nothing more than a burning desire to make a positive difference.”

By Mark Sanborn, 2006, Currency Publications, 103pp

Learn more about Jon Bubbett and contact him at

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