Employees everywhere are bombarded with the message of acting like leaders. Organizations understand the importance of developing talent pipelines. They want to teach their best people how to develop and grow so that when the time is right, they can climb the corporate ladder and continue to add value.
However, there is a problem with the "Leadership for all" messaging, at least from my perspective. In my mind, there are two distinct concepts, leadership and leadership behaviors. All leaders (hopefully) have leadership behaviors, but not all those who have leadership behaviors are leaders.
Leadership is critical to organizations for the fact that leaders provide direction. They make hard decisions, hire/fire, and resolve disputes. There are generally few real leadership positions and many more people under those leaders' responsibilities.
For an organization to succeed, they need both a strong leader and employees who demonstrate leadership behaviors. Organizations are powered by highly engaged employees who work with highly professional demeanors, ethically are highly skilled and motivated, intelligent, and possess a growth mindset. This is only a limited list, but you get the idea. Eventually, those with leadership behavior can become leaders, but they aren't yet. And for these people to call themselves leaders now would only add confusion to the organization.
We can and should encourage everyone in an organization to continue growing and developing in their leadership behaviors. But, let's ensure we help improve clarity and communication in our organizations by using the appropriate terms consistently.
For more on leadership, check out this article from Medium: