One definition of a leader is “one who is followed by others.” Another is “one who has influence or control over others.” This is accomplished by force (including authority based on position) and charisma (people want you to lead them).
This implies that a leader is a person who expects others to follow. Or a person who is confident enough to seek to influence others. We're not talking good or bad leaders, or people who abuse their office of authority. Just making some generalizations.
So a leader has to have a fairly high sense of independence and autonomy. Not complete isolation, because how can people follow you if you are alone? But the sense that they can rise from the lowest rank, where everything they do is an order from someone else. The sense that they can take orders but also influence others, regardless of their “official” title or position. To a leader, an organizational chart is simply an organizational chart and not a measurement of anyone’s worth or value.
As you advance and gain more responsibility, you will have confrontations with upper management, or with managers at your same level, or with people you are responsible to lead. These may be confrontational and oppositional, or they could just be to smooth out the details of a project. These days, people would hesitate to use the word “confrontations” and pick some softer, wishy-washy word. But whenever you clash with someone on an issue you feel strongly about, it is a confrontation.
In these confrontations, you have a choice. You can stand up for your ideas, or you can submit to ideas or positions that you do not believe in or that you think are actually dangerous. The temptation is to submit, to give in, so as to not "ruffle any feathers" especially of the people who can promote you. The temptation is to choose sycophancy over leadership.
This approach may and probably will get you promoted into a position of authority. But look at the definitions of a leader. You will not have real authority, the kind of authority that causes people to want you to lead them. You will be able to make people do things. But they won't be loyal and they won't trust you. You cannot submit your way to being a leader.
As you advance you are creating your reputation and your legacy. If you create a reputation of someone who submits at all times to upper management, you are leaving a legacy of disloyalty. You think you are being loyal to the people who can promote, but you are being disloyal to your co-workers and really to the company.
The company (not speaking legally but philosophically) is an entity different from, and separate from, the humans who manage it. Those people may be the creative force that drives it. Or the financial wizards who generate massive profits. The company has a goal and a purpose. It is meeting a market need. It will outlive all of the humans who work there. It will support the humans who work there, and their families. It will provide quality goods or services to its market. A leader recognizes these twin responsibilities - to the company/customers and to the employees - and see that they will require him or her to havre confrontations with upper management from time to time.
No one has risen to a position of leadership by submitting his or her way there. Blind submission is contrary to the definition and character of a leader. Leaders are not rogue contrarians, taking an oppositional position to every suggestion. But neither are they sycophants, approving every utterance of the person above them on the organizational chart. A leader is developing his or her personal excellence, which includes having an opinion and the wherewithal to defend it.

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