To Have vs. To Be

book In response to my last blog – The Illusion of Control, someone wrote “Leadership is not having control. Leadership is being in control.” I thought this statement was excellent and needed further dissection and dissemination.  The alteration of the verb within the statement makes all the difference in the world – having and being.  Let’s take a look at each word as defined by Webster Merriam Dictionary.

have (verb \ˈhav, (h)əv, v; in “have to” meaning “must” usually ˈhaf\)

1a : to hold or maintain as a possession, privilege, or entitlement

  b : to hold in one’s use, service, regard, or at one’s disposal

  c : to hold, include, or contain as a part or whole

 be (verb \ˈbē\ ; present participle “being”)

1a : to equal in meaning : have the same connotation as: symbolize

  b : to have identity with

  c : to constitute the same class as

  d : to have a specified qualification or characterization

  e : to belong to the class of

                 Looking at the definitions gives clear distinction between the two perspectives.  As stated, to have means to hold or maintain possession.  The implication is superiority or dominance when applied to leadership.  While leadership does include responsibility and authority, I contend superiority is not on the list of attributes.  The verb ‘be’ includes various uses, tenses and terms but the predominant theme in the definition is equality.  In my opinion this is the key division between true leaders versus managers.

Leaders are not only the head of a team but they remain team members as well.  Those that choose to set themselves apart from the team instead of digging in deep and working shoulder to shoulder do not succeed as a true leader can. For leaders, ‘having’ control does not directly correlate that they are actually ‘in’ control since as Webster stated – it is an entitlement.  I find that entitlement leads to apathy and no person can lead when they are apathetic towards their team.  ‘Being’ in control is a state of doing something, of action, which is the need of the team from their leaders.  People that display strength, courage, wisdom and humility which inspires others are ‘in’ control, and the team is ready to willingly follow their leader.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team

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