This to me is a good idea and I believe someone being elected as the leader is good. But in reality a group of soldiers/mercenaries do not just travel and go on a grand adventure without an established leader. If that was the case there could possibly be an uproar with characters trying to become that leader by any means necessary. Even the groups of lowly bandits always have a leader so I don't think a band of supposed heroes wouldn't have one. The situation should not be trying to become the leader but to be led by someone strong in order to overcome whatever hardship they are facing.
That's definitely a good point as well; a leader is pretty much a necessity to keep a group together from the get-go, so to go without one defined from the start is undeniably dangerous.
I think, then, that the best compromise is just to be able to separate that out-of-character perception of a Lord from the role a Lord would play in-game; because a character is dubbed a leader does not necessarily mean they will be a leader forever or, at the very least, be a leader that is never questioned by others.
Perhaps the title of "Lord" shouldn't be treated like an ordinary class to emphasize the fact that how people interpret others is always changing...? i don't know, i've had this tab open for like two hours, i'm tired
ACTUALLY the GM said something while I was distracted, aha! I really like that idea of the NPC Lord; it gives that perfect balance! (Sorry for the ineluctable double-notif, OuterTsu.)
I was thinking I would essentially play them as a character, save that they wouldn't spend the whole time with the party. For instance, the character would not be actively participating in battle, instead hanging back and calling out "orders" (this is also how I can somewhat influence the tide of battle, since they'd be able to call out incoming threats. "4 calvaliers coming to flank left," for example).