Leadership originates in response to the needs of others. Leadership is not the response of people to the vision of an influential person, but rather their response to the leader as he or she articulates their wants and needs. It can not occur without truly knowing and understanding the needs of those one presumes to lead.
When a leader speaks the language of the hopes of others, the followers’ response is what initiates the leadership relationship. When a leader knows the underlying needs of others, a shared vision and mutual relationship that produces transformation can be created.
Leadership is not the articulation of what we assume others need. Which means that I can not really enter into a leadership relationship until I know someone well enough to know their needs and am willing to serve them in response to their needs, not to mine. This is a fair gauge for assessing whether a true leadership relationship exists.
Positional leadership can create a platform of influence for an individual, and it can be organizationally effective. However, it is not typically transformational to the lives of followers. To the degree it is separate from relationship with followers, it is a perversion of leadership, no matter what you call it.
I find most material on church leadership to be a confusing mixture of organizational management cloaked in servant language preserving hierarchical relationship. Because of that, I believe we are still mostly confused about what leadership is within the church. My thoughts about leadership within the church are further explained in the post A Relational Ethos of Leadership.
As an organization, churches require managerial leadership, and I am not saying there is anything wrong with that. There are many things a person may do that are important and good, however not everything should be lumped under the label of leading.
Real, transforming leadership can occur in the church. However, true leadership is rooted in the needs of the follower, not the needs of the leader or the organization. Possibly that is the reason that transformational leadership in many realms, religious, political, societal, most often occurs outside the margins of established structures of power.
Leadership is not dependent on position but on the actions of one who is responsive to need. Therefore, real leadership can exist at any level both within and outside of a particular system, organization, or structure.
Permission granted. Anyone can lead. But few will.