What’s in a title?

Does the title make the man or the man make the title? Like many Baby Boomers I grew up with a built in (and blind) respect for people with big titles.  VP, Partner, General, Monsignor, Principal, etc. - each of the people in these roles were listened to, followed and rarely challenged – and I think we did this mostly because their title implied some kind of importance, a higher position in a hierarchy and ultimately a person with more power.    Further to the point, a person’s  title set the context for how we thought about them, interacted with them and allowed them to even trump a good idea with little repercussion. 

 Overall, though, there were enough people who were doing the job well that the title called for and thus we survived this interesting time when Title reigned.
But then something started to happen – first, our beloved  Millennial generation started to challenge convention, what’s in a title?  Even simple titles like Mr. were dropped and on many an instance their lack of a hierarchical view allowed them to ask  seemingly innocent questions that were hard to defend.  They saw greater value in people like them who knew what they liked and they found that people with big titles, “the anointed” so to speak, did not provide any relevant and interesting information to them. And so we saw the start of the flattening of hierarchy with engagement happening person to person regardless of title, age, rank or privilege.   Maybe it is not as wide spread as I make it to sound but it is changing. 

And now that transparency to decision making is more common it is hard to hide behind a title – what we find is that the title and the role associated with it are only real when active engagement is perceived and understood.  Said slightly differently, if you are to lead, manage or direct, you have to be engaged, involved and participative.  You can no longer rely on reading a briefing and using your title to make a decision.  You need to engage with all relevant parties, you need to seek their input and then coalesce together such that the team’s decision is ratified by the leader not made by the title.  So much more can be said on this topic.  But a story might bring it home better than anything else.

In 1776 when George Washington took over the newly minted Republic there was great debate on the title that he was to take on.  Should it be King, Chief Magistrate, or His Highness?  With little consensus on the topic the Senate decided it best to grant less rather than more power, and thus they decided to call him President.  The title at that time was a very humble and meager title.  Basically it meant someone who presided over a group, like the foreman of a jury.  Not all that impressive.  And with that George Washington became the President of the United States of America (sounds good today – not really then).  Fast forward 237 years later and we know what happened.  The president is the most powerful person in the world and clearly it came to be not because of the title, it has been the men in the role and the way that they went about governing.  And so it must be then that it is indeed the person in the role that makes the title and not the other way around.  Even more ironically, there are now 147 nations in the world that have taken the title of president because they want to feel as powerful as the person / persons who made the title into one of leadership and importance and not the other way around.
I am Loving Life and Pushups!

shorthand tonight - Sally till the end +20 seconds, 185 pushups on 4:17 - good enough for the day with a 14 and a 5 mile run - 19 for the day!

joey g