In one of the early posts I wrote when I started the Random Acts of Leadership blog over 10 years ago, I offered this as one of my preferred definitions of leadership: "Leadership is translating vision into reality" by Warren Bennis. After logging in you can close it and return to this page. Today I ran across a wonderful quote that spoke to me and made me think of you and this topic. The general definition of leadership is: "Leadership is the ability to influence a group towards the achievement of goals" The Definition of Leadership Styles Leadership is not a "one size fits all" approach but a matter of adapting your approach to best fit a specific situation, follower or group. Different situations require different types of skill sets from those who will facilitate work towards solving a problem, conflict, etc. A good friend who is a highly successful entrepreneur and CEO wrote to me after reading that article having spent a good deal of time reading what I wrote, thinking and searching the internet trying to help me do a better job of defining leadership. He reminded us that inspiration and aspiration come from the root word “spire” or spirit or breath. So my definition of leadership includes: Leaders are constantly innovating and challenging the “status quo” to achieve bigger and better things. As always you make me really think. Since reading your thought filled post above, I have had “definition” on my mind. A very good friend even wrote to me having spent a good deal of time reading what I wrote, thinking and searching the internet trying to help me do a better job of defining leadership. Get Your FREE 3 Acts Of Leadership Report Instantly. Seeking the best definition of leadership is a bit like trying to find the best definition of beauty: it has many interpretations, although we know it when we see it. “Leadership is much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart, than a set of things to do. Such a person queries why humans destroy what nature creates. Thanks for stopping by! I had the opportunity about four years ago to attend a leadership workshop with Peter Senge at MIT. I believe "the best" definition of leadership does not exist. If we could bottle that, we might be able to get closer to a definition. Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Leaders listen. In a business setting, this can mean directing workers and colleagues with a strategy to meet the company's needs. The leader can inspire employees with a powerful vision of the future, uniting them so they can work together towards achieving that vision. I planted it in a field far distant from the paths of time. People seems to expect you to be able to define the thing you are writing about or teaching so naturally I had been offering one. The terms leadership and management tend to be used interchangeably, but they're not the same. @strategicsense You point to something I think is so important – every leader is different. Because she strongly believes that "Vision is not a catalyst for leadership.” Essentially, the definition I had offered in her worldview was just wrong. The definition I offered in one of my posts was “Translating vision into reality” by Warren Bennis. I love this brain-stirring post! Instead of making excuses, they make progress. Yet trying to define leadership is a bit like trying to define beauty: it has many interpretations, although we know it when we see it. And I planted the tree of my soul once again in another place. If you want to elevate your leadership from wherever you are right now, whether you are a seasoned leader, just getting started, or somewhere in between, you need to be able to see opportunities in the everyday moments when you can make a difference so you can take action. A person may be referred to interchangeably as both a "leader" and a "manager," though the two terms are not necessarily synonymous. Ultimately, regardless of the context, I think a leader inspires and empowers… generating more leadership. It means a lot, especially coming from you Patti! This points to the power of context in shaping our interpretations of "truth" about anything, including leadership. What do we seek when we ask for a definition? You don’t necessarily need a unique take or idea, but you do need to stand out by being the best at helping the market. He frees the spiritual self from distractions of the physical world. I learned recently that humility means knowing your right size. Kahlil Gibran said, Leaders, on the other hand, often operate fairly independently. Leadership in business alludes to the ability of a company's management to make sound decisions and inspire others to perform well. I think we are seeking “the truth” about it. This is why the work you do is so integral to leadership, helping the leader draw out the best in their capabilities and sharing commonsense tips and examples for us to look at and apply to our own unique strenths and experiences. Think of the opposite–someone who takes the life out of you or you feel as if you can’t breathe in their presence. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.” — Grace Hopper, Admiral, U. S. Navy (retired), Speech, Washington, D. C., February 1987 “As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. For those who follow up the mountain paths…follow her to the top…the view is grand! The concept of leadership has been quite visible in areas such as military operations, politics, and management. @Jay I think what you are pointing to here is why some people do not want to be seen as leaders – their experience with people in positions of authority has cast a negative shadow on their interpretation of leadership. I think we see fake leadership all the time- you recognize it in a person who is in your face with his/her opinions. Great post, Susan…thoughtful and thought provoking. Leadership as a managerial function is no longer limited to the top officers. I believe every leader is different. They possessed traits and qualities that helped them to step into roles of leadership. Here's what you need to know about leadership, and some examples of how it can benefit businesses. I started asking that question because I encountered so many people who loved learning about the theory of leadership, but were often left with one very simple question after the excitement of the discussion faded away – how do I DO leadership? Taking care of their people is a big part of being a leader. Effective leadership is based upon ideas (whether original or borrowed), but won't happen unless those ideas can be communicated to others in a way tha… One of the most important leadership qualities is the acceptance of personal responsibility. Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual, group or organization to "lead", influence or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. I think it is fair to say that defining leadership will be studied and debated for a long time to come and it is likely we will never all agree on THE BEST definition of leadership. If I think of nature, I’d say leadership looks like a mountain. I tore its roots from the clayin which it had sprouted and flourished. Leadership naturally comes with power, but to lead people with character and engender trust isn’t compatible with being primarily concerned with acquiring and using power. A leader is someone who can see how things can be improved and who rallies people to move toward that better vision. That’s a big relief when you already have a ton on your plate in your new leadership role. Leadership captures the essentials of being able and prepared to inspire others. Rather than defining leadership as a concept, my focus has been on identifying the specific actions anyone who wants to lead can take to amplify their impact. Better yet, you’ve met another leader when you find yourself following… for all of the right reasons. Not because I offered a “wrong” definition. Definition of a Leader. “A great leader is one who learns from his followers; a great leader is simply the light through a dark tunnel.” ~Henie~, wow love your quote (: thats gonna be in my speech for rotc. I love your blog, Susan – what a gift to have found you – and on twitter, no less! And, since we’ve been doing this for the past 42 years, we’ve seen A LOT of leadership books filter through our offices. When such issues arise, a manager is more likely to see it as their duty to smooth over problems between employees. I think it’s different depending upon the situation. Leaders never complain, never explain. Leadership is sometimes what we don’t see – all the decisions that have to be made within first – and those can sometimes be difficult choices. Warren Bennis is well known as an expert in the field of leadership so I could argue his definition was as valid as any. Leaders can sometimes be so singularly focused on achieving lofty goals that they let interpersonal issues and employee welfare fall to the wayside. My goal is to empower more and more people to see and to seize opportunities to lead more readily and more often in their everyday work and life. What I have observed is that when real and effective leadership is present, the people involved (leaders and followers) are always energized, focused and optimistic, even when the challenges facing them appear insurmountable. @Gwyn That’s a great lens to consider distinguishing what leadership looks like – the success of a leader cannot be measured by their actions alone but rather by the impact their actions have on others. It is also said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. You are not telling us the definition because telling us that is not being a leader- that is a dictator. Susan, A simple definition is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal. And when we are lucky enough to be part of a great leadership experience we feel it, we tell people about the leader who made a difference in our lives but still, we struggle for a complete definition. to "What does leadership look like in action?". “Leadership is communicating to … @Claudia Thanks for joining the conversation! Leadership requires traits that extend beyond management duties. What does leadership look like? Managers may be more likely to preserve existing structures because they themselves operate within that structure. A leader inspires others to act while simultaneously directing the way that they act. They may have bosses above them, so they have less freedom to break rules in the pursuit of lofty goals. History is full of people who, while having no previous leadership experience, have stepped to the fore in crises and persuaded others to follow their suggested course of action. Both leaders and managers have to manage the resources at their disposal, but true leadership requires more. Hi Susan, Please log in again. He rediscovers the meaning of existence. In fact, beauty does not look the same in all cultures and perhaps neither does leadership. Coaching leadership works on employee strengths to … What Is Construction Engineering Management or CEM? Organizations refer to upper-level personnel in their management structures as leadership. Why? They must be personable enough for others to follow their orders, and they must have the critical thinking skills to know the best way to use the resources at an organization's disposal. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses. Definitions of leadership are many and varied. Leadership is not about power. The visible signs of artful leadership are expressed, ultimately, in its practice.” Another difference between leaders and managers is that leaders emphasize innovation above all else. For example, managers may or may not be described as inspiring by the people working under them, but a leader must inspire those who follow them. It does so with an exceptional Leader who influences employees to give their best effort and who inspires employees to feel proud, trustworthy, committed and focused. Many managers are leaders and vice versa—but not all are. This definition is only a base for effective leadership, as a good leader needs to back up the influence and charisma with a solid skillset that those being led can rely on for the particular task being undertaken. Susan Mazza. He said that leaders are people who breathe life into people, projects, places. In fact, beauty does not look the same in all cultures and perhaps neither does leadership. too! The Best Leaders Take Responsibility. In short, the definition of leadership has nothing to do with the hierarchy or anyone’s position within the company; it has nothing to do with imposing views but its about listening to those who know. In a business setting, this can mean directing workers and colleagues with a strategy to meet the company's needs. Visionary leadership is best suited for when a new idea or direction is required. They recognize they are not the center of the universe and see their role as one of helping others to discover and learn for themselves. Is a Shared Leadership Model Right for Your Nonprofit? Leaders have the ability to turn the people in their teams into stars, people who have improved and developed their skills through the influence of their leader. One perspective is silence. This post is a perfect metaphor for being a leader. Leaders empower others. How does a leader act? The next, the people fear; the next, the people hate.” How to Transform Your Small Business into a Big Business, Small Business Owner’s Guide to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, How to Be a Business Leader for Your Small Business. It really is that simple! The person who speaks loudest or the most is not the answer. In business, a vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Definitely an aspect of leadership in action in my book! Although that is the question I have been asked and challenged about the most. A leader is "a person who influences a group of people towards the achievement of a goal". I realized that given the richness of the theory of leadership and how the theory and context has evolved throughout history, summing up the definition of leadership into one simple statement that could be "the best definition of leadership" might be a tall order with little return. Thank you for sharing that passage. Leadership can be assigned as a part of the requirement of exclusive jobs of individuals, teams or it can be part of the expectations that members of a role set have from individual teams. The notion of a “random act of leadership” is my attempt to take leadership out of the realm of theory and develop a rich context for leading that can give EVERYONE access to leading in their day to day work and lives regardless of their position or title. The next best, the people honor and praise. He does not seek to impose his ideas but empowers others to make self-discoveries. This leadership definition captures the essentials of being able to inspire others and being prepared to do so. @Liara This is what I take away from what you said – at this moment anyway! Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you've achieved what you wanted to achieve. We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe. Yet she strongly believes that “Vision is not a catalyst for leadership.” Essentially the definition I had offered in her worldview was just wrong. When a worker has a radical new idea for how to tackle an issue, a leader is likely to encourage that person to pursue the idea. Love yoru mountain metaphor for leadership. Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. Thank you! Effective leadership is based upon ideas—both original and borrowed—that are effectively communicated to others in a way that engages them enough to act as the leader wants them to act. Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance Small Business for 18 years. His definition is one that has stuck in my mind. We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe. by Max DePree. What act of leadership will you commit next to make a difference in what matters to you and makes a difference for others? 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