Discussions about corporate and small business leadership abound. If you hang out in LinkedIn groups or sit in on a work-related Twitter chat, you are bound to participate in some dialogue about corporate leadership. By all accounts, it seems to be the holy grail of professional existence.

I mean, it is what we are all working for, to be a good leader, right?

Well, what if you’re not a corporate leader? And you don’t really want to be?

I know…shock and awe, right? But some people don’t really consider themselves leaders, and they actually don’t want to spend their careers working toward that.

I know because I would be one of those people, and many of the techies that I work with are in the same boat. So does that make us…bad? Destined to low-level grunt work? Mean-spirited because we don’t have aspirations of parting the corporate Red Sea and leading whining people out of Egypt?

Honestly, it took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t a leader. I tried really hard to play the leadership game. I really did. I took the seminars. I read the books. I coveted the titles. But at the end of the day, I’m kind of, well, a loner. I like having a job that I can run with, create, experiment, fail, succeed. That doesn’t mean I am not willing to collaborate; in fact, I usually welcome that. But I don’t want to have to motivate you…dude…and I don’t want you to have to motivate me either. Let’s just, well, do our respective jobs!

What I have discovered along the way, however, is that although I may not be a leader, I can be a multiplier. Yes, a multiplier.

A multiplier is someone who:

  • Improves the atmosphere.We are the glue that makes the project work, so to speak. Without us, the project is probably struggling. We come in and make it better, and ultimately, we make the people around us want to do better too. Not because we trained them or led them, but because we influenced them by how we work. People pay attention to those who make things successful. You don’t have to give training seminars for them to notice.
  • Is referrable.We’re the person you want to tell others about. We’ve become dedicated to our craft and are excelling in it. And we’ve built our reputation on it. So pretty soon our network reach multiplies, not because of the throngs of followers we are leading around but because we stand out for the problems we solve that others cannot or won’t.
  • Brings the entrepreneurial spirit.
    I hear many companies talk about wanting this quality in their top talent, but very few are structured in such a way to appreciate it. They think that by looking for a bunch of leaders, they are going to find it, but actually they usually just end up with a lot of people jockeying for position. The reason is that the entrepreneurial spirit has less to do with titles and management and more to do with a willingness to take risks, risks that put you out there all by yourself on a limb. Some might call that a form of leadership, but really the entrepreneur is going to progress at all costs, not looking back to see who’s following and how many.

See, when I thought all my career would come down to is 1) climbing a corporate ladder, 2) managing people, and/or 3) counting success by the amount of people who report to me, I was…depressed…because I was in love with my craft of writing and editing. My techie candidates are often the same way. They are in love with what they do and want to stay close to their technical roots. Yet, in many company cultures, it’s move up the chain to management or stay down where you are.

To recruit top tech talent, more companies need to understand that for most hard-core techies, the lure of management is not that appealing and that this breed needs a different track. That doesn’t make them less valuable; in fact, it just might make them more so. After all, just how many chiefs do you need?