Titles used to mean a great deal to me. When I worked as the marketing manager of a private school, I desperately wanted to add the word director after marketing. I asked supervisors for the change and even appealed to the school’s headmaster, but no title change was ever given during my five years there. It was a little devastating to me at the time. The title meant so much.
I think it’s safe to say I still had a lot of growing to do.
Fast forward to a recent promotion I earned in Arbonne from District to Area Manager. The title change is a signal that my business is growing, my team is working, and that I am—with daily amounts of grace—leading.
But the title that used to mean so much . . . doesn’t.
Do you know what happened the day after I promoted to Area Manager, where most consultants replace a full-time income and are just one promotion away from Regional Vice President (ahem, Mercedes)?
I forgot to wash my makeup off the night before, so I woke up groggy with smudged mascara on my pillow.
My kids demanded pancakes and took turns fighting over who would be the flipper.
We rushed out the door 10 minutes late to church.
I finished three loads of laundry that afternoon.
Hear me out. Titles are nice, they really are. They are often a reward for effort and, if done ethically by an organization, they’re accompanied by a salary raise or bonus. But they aren’t everything.
Or anything for that matter.
I will still serve my customers with the same care and attention. I will continue to pour life into my team no matter where they are in their business. I will offer support to the men and women who come behind me and cheer on the ones who go before me.
Often in the American workplace, we emphasize our titles. And especially for women, it can be worth advocating for. When you look at your company’s org chart and you are leading a team the same size as other directors in your company, you deserve the title. If you are a women’s minister in your church, making a difference in the lives of countless congregants, you ought to be given the title. If you have mastered the skill set and are doing the work of a vice president or a manager or a soldier or an executive assistant, the title is one way to recognize merit.
But it may not be yours to claim. Just because you’ve earned the right to it doesn’t mean you have the right to it.
As women, how will we sit with that?
Some of us won’t. Some of us will beat the doors down to claim our equality. Some of us will curl up inside wishing we’d never hoped for change in the first place.
But I hope most of us will decide that though our title and our organizational role may not match, we can find ways to lead and serve so that one day, the title will be as meaningless as anything else we don’t put our hope in.
In his book Leadershift, John Maxwell writes, “If you climb the peaks of success alone, you’re not a leader. You’re a hiker. You’re a leader only if your people are with you. Your pace will be slower but you’ll journey together.”
Wherever you are in your quest for the next title, the next promotion, the next shiny advancement, I ask you, what will change when you get there? My guess is not a lot. My hope is that you’ll have others by your side who will remind you of your true worth.
Title or not.