What is the definition of leadership? Technically, it’s “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” If you want to know whether or not you’re a leader, turn around. If nobody is following you than you’re not leading.
While that does suffice for an official definition, I can truly say I’ve encountered many people confused by that definition. There are many misconceptions about what it means to be a leader. In an attempt to clear some of those misconceptions up, here’s what leadership is not:
- Leadership Is Not a Title – Titles don’t lead! So many people believe that if you have a title, you’re a leader. Having a title does not make you a leader. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes I see businesses make is to take their greatest salesperson and make them the sales team leader. Who ever said they could lead? I see this fail all the time.
- Leadership Is Not a Dictatorship – Telling people what to do doesn’t make you a leader, it makes you a dictator. People don’t follow dictators, they do what they say with only the required amount of energy to make it happen. No loyalty, no respect, and no buy-in.
- Leadership Is Not Selfish – Contrary to popular belief, leadership is not about the leader. It’s not about one person’s ideas, desires, focus, drive, etc. It’s not about someone’s ego and pride.
- Leadership Is Not the Blame Game – Leadership isn’t playing the blame game in an attempt to shrug off the responsibility of being an effective leader.
- Leadership Is Not Angry – Ripping someones head off is in no manner leadership. I can’t count the number of times I’ve watched, heard of, or been the recipient of a supposed leader losing their mind and yelling. All the while, the screamer usually never takes the time to find out all the correct information, thus losing all credibility, and any respect or loyalty.
Those are just a few examples of what leadership is not. Let’s take a look at what leadership is:
- Leadership Is Selfless – A true leader first understands that leadership is not about them. It’s about the people they are trying to lead in a specific direction.
- Leadership Is Successful – It is your job as a leader to make your team successful, not the other way around. You have to make sure that you are there for whatever your team needs to be successful. What does the team need? Do they understand their KRA‘s? Do they have questions about their processes? Do they have the tools necessary to be successful?
- Leadership Is Visionary – “Without a vision, the people perish.” People have to have a vision to follow. Without it they are dying. Great leaders keep their team focused on where they are going, not just where they are.
- Leadership Is Accountable – In my eBook, Why Your Meetings Suck, I talk about the most powerful meeting I have where I don’t play the blame game when things go wrong. Instead, I teach people to take responsibility and solve the problem. And when the reason the team member(s) failed is leadership, I take responsibility instead of trying to blame shift.
- Leadership Is Rewarding – People repeat what they are rewarded for. Entrepreneurs and leaders are great at finding people doing things wrong, but not so much on finding people doing things right. If you want high quality team members, let them know when they’re being high quality team members.
- Leadership Is Inspirational – It’s not enough to come to work everyday just for a paycheck. A person can do that anywhere. As a leader it is vital to inspire your team to something greater than themselves.
- Leadership Is Mentoring – A great leader understand that their team needs instruction on their job, and life as well. Sometimes as a leader you have to be willing to spend time mentoring each team member. Believe it or not, most of your team members would love that interaction.
- Leadership Is Protecting – People need to know that their leader “has their back”. There’s plenty of junk going on in everyone’s life, they don’t need it at work as well. Great leadership protects their team from gossip, back stabbing, lying, manipulation, etc.
- Leadership Is Uncomfortable – You’re dealing with people and things can get messy. Sometimes it’s your responsibility to push others out of their comfort zone and stretch them past their own belief in themselves.
- Leadership Is Personal – Great leaders understand that their business wouldn’t run without the people who have decided to invest their time and efforts in that business. You must care! Spending time getting to know each team member, their families, their hobbies, their strengths, their weaknesses, etc. will result in loyalty and respect. Hurt when they hurt, and celebrate when they celebrate!
- Leadership Is Socratic – Understanding that you as a leader are not the only one with great ideas is vital to winning at leadership. You should be taxing the collective intelligence of your team when you need input, and believe it or not, even when you don’t need input. Be intentional about helping your team to use their creativity. Fostering this will cause them to think for themselves, which is a fantastic duplication process.
The goal of a team is to allow a business to do more than they can with just one person. Bad leaders get half the effort of their team. Great leaders need half the team of bad leaders!
15 thoughts on “Definition of Leadership”
In part, I agree with some of your past statements that leadership is the ability to influence others. However, I think that it is also the ability to lead yourself. I have met leaders who had certain influence over people, however, they were horrible at leading themselves.
Btw, came across this as I was reading through Proverbs and it made me think of you and your Life Plan coaching as you help others understand themselves better. Proverbs 20:5 – “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but but a man of understanding will draw it out.”
Great scripture Nick! That absolutely applies! And you’re so right about needing to lead yourself. If you can’t, how can you do well longterm with others?
Leadership seems to be less hierarchical (as we often see it) and more concentric circles of relationship. I like to think the leader’s job is to protect and empower his constituents, making sure they have a safe place to grow and be the best they can at their job/destiny and the resources/training to get there. Seems to be the people who invest in others the most are the best leaders.
Amen Justin! You’re absolutely right. With that kind of environment, team members should prosper.
I like the almost-cliche “Leadership is influence.” Built into that, though, includes being able to build and keep trust through openness, honesty, humility, etc. If a leader loses these, he loses influence. Then he’s walking alone.
Spot on brother!
One of the most, excellent, sum-ups of leadership, Chris. Thank you for sharing so eloquently!
Dear Chris. When you define “leadership” as “leading” it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that your IQ is above room temperature.
I’ve come to like the definition described by Simon Sinek – “it’s looking after the people to your right, and the people to your left.” This idea moves past the vertical understanding into something more meaningful as a proactive looking out for others is the focus.
Sharing this post with my mens group at church. Great post Chris!
Some memorable quotes . . . Warren Bennis (Professor in Leadership)
noted that our modern organisations are over managed and under led.
Chris, the only definition is: “A leader is someone with followers.”
Adding adjectives to the word “leader” only muddies the water.
Leaders are created by their followers. Only the person with an attractive goal or purpose attracts followers. Until that happens there is no leader, no followers.
Calling an executive, manager, supervisor or coordinator a leader does not create a leader. The word leader is so over-used that some people are confused about who is and who is not a leader.
I am an advocate and practitioner of followership. I found it to be a better pathway to success and satisfaction than the pursuit of leadership roles.
I learned this while I was in the Career War.