Too often, we look at a person’s title, CEO, EVP, SVP, C-Level something or other, Vice President, Director, Manager; confusing the title with leadership.

In the best of all worlds people in executive or managerial roles would be great leaders. In reality, that’s not always true, sometimes in my most pessimistic moments, rarely true.

We tend to mix the concepts of “manager” and “leader,” where they represent distinctly different behaviors, attitudes, and competencies.

Jim Collins defines leadership characteristics of Level 5 leaders as including: Humility, will, ferocious resolve, the tendency to give others credit while assigning blame to themselves.

Other words that describe various leadership characteristics include empathy, caring about their people, high integrity, trustworthy, visionary, patience, transparent, focus, confident, passionate, authentic, curious, decisive, honest, consistency, great communicators, visionary, driven, ethical, inspiring, persistent, constant learners, goal driven, risk takers/managers, purposeful, are great role models. The list goes on–in reality, leadership means something different to everyone, which may possibly be part of the challenge we have in making sure our organizations have great leaders.

Likewise, the responsibilities of managers may include things other than being great leaders (in fact many managerial job descriptions I read don’t include leadership in the description.)

However, when we see individuals in positions of responsibility, those having teams of people reporting to them, we have an expectation they are leaders-when they may not be.

But here’s the real opportunity. Leadership isn’t restricted to those with leadership and management titles.

Leadership can be exercised by anyone–even if they are not responsible for managing anyone but themselves.

Leadership is particularly important for sales people. Those qualities we identify for great leaders are the very same qualities of great sales people. To be effective in working with our customers, to gain the support we need from people within our own companies, to help our colleagues and peers so they, in turn, help us; we have to exercise leadership.

Perhaps, I’m a little naive, but I believe great leadership is infectious. We recognize and are inspired by great leadership. We start to model our behaviors through the examples they set and the behaviors they display. In turn, we influence others.

Leaders also gravitate to each other, they recognize success can’t be achieved alone, so they actively culture relationships with other leaders to amplify their impact and drive for shared success. Finding great leaders in our customers, whatever their title, is critical for what we as sales leaders are trying to achieve for/with our customers. Finding great leaders in our own organizations, whatever their title, enables us to drive higher levels of performance and accomplishment for everyone in the organization.

Great leaders aren’t passive, waiting to be led, instead they lead, they inspire, they motivate–everyone around them including those with greater titles.

Are you taking your opportunities to lead?