The Great Leadership Hoax

photo by Sean MacEntee

When I was young, I used to want to be a leader. In elementary school, during recess, I would jockey for position with the boys to be the captain of our pick-up game of baseball, football, or whatever sport we were playing that day. Honestly, I rarely became the captain.

Then I would jockey for position to be chosen first among the boys because we all knew that if you were chosen last, you were considered the worst player on the field. That was never a fun feeling.

In our culture, we learn early on that leadership is about position. Captain of the team. President of the class. It just happens. We look at the president of a country, or the CEO of a fortune 500 company, or the pastor of a church. We think that is true leadership. A position.

Is it?

Maybe.

We’ve seen it before. The pastor of a church who has the position but does not have the ability to lead the organization. The youth ministry coordinator who works with youth but gets little respect from the volunteers or youth.

Position = Leadership

That is the great leadership hoax that we have bought into through our culture. I recommend a new formula that authors and speakers have spent much time working and thinking on:

Position ≠ Leadership

Influence = Leadership

The greatest way to lead is to gain influence from those I am working with. You probably know this to be true.

Let me share an example: in the ministry office I work in, I have positional authority over two people. They are my team. However, there are many other ministry departments and staff members in our office that I do not supervise. When our ministries connect, we work together and collaborate. Am I a leader in their eyes? For many of them, yes. Do I have positional authority over them? No. Yet they see me as a leader. Why?

Because they have chosen me as someone that they want to work with and follow.

Because of my position, my team of two does not have the choice to follow. In many ways, they have to follow me (although I know my influence with them is greater than just positional). Everyone else? For fellow staff members, volunteers, youth, etc.? Well, they choose to follow me or not.

That’s the power of influence as leadership. If they choose to follow me because I have earned the role of leader in their lives, then the ability I have to affect positive change in their lives and in the church is much higher.

Leadership is influence.

How do you build influence with those you minister with?

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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