What is Leadership?

There are hundreds of answers to the leadership question

Some practical leadership observations drawn from experience working with effective leaders include:

  • Leaders have followers. If you are charging up a hill, saber drawn, and no one’s behind you, you are not a leader. You are an individual contributor with a big problem on your hands.
  • Leadership is in the person not the title. A title can confer authority but not leadership.
  • Leadership ability is best judged by followers, constituents and results over time
  • Some leaders stand the test of time, others do not, even though we may pay them enormous speaking fees in the interim.
  • Not every one wants to be a leader but some accept the title in order to get a raise. Consider a technical promotion track rather than moving people into a role they don't want and most likely will not be at their best performance in.
  • Not every one can be a leader, pop psychology to the contrary. Self mastery can make you a strong individual contributor and is necessary but not sufficient for leadership.
  • There is plenty of data about characteristics, behaviors, practices, case studies. There are hundreds of books detailing a single person's journey. If all you do is follow this advice, you are a follower not a leader. Read, learn and find your own best path.

Definitions and Views

More formally, the definition is: “the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”

M. M. Chemers

Kaiser, Hogan and Craig add "leadership involves influencing individuals to willingly contribute to the good of the group" and "coordinating and guiding the group to achieve its goals."

Effective leadership adds a visionary touch to the relationship between leader and follower. These are inspiring answers to "What is leadership?"

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.

John Quincy Adams

A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don't necessarily want to go but ought to be.

Roslyn Carter

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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