What is leadership? This question has been asked thousands of times and has generated thousands of responses. The definition of leadership has a number of interpretations that are sometimes dizzying to contemplate. The responses of a few respected individuals deserve mention.
- Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
- John C. Maxwell: “Leadership is influence—nothing more nothing less.”
- Warren Bennis: “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”
- John W. Gardiner: “Leadership is the process of persuasion and example by which an individual (or leadership team) induces a group to take action that is in accord with the leaders’ purpose, or shared purposes of all.”
The Boy Scouts keep it simple by saying that leadership is the process of getting things done through people. Successful leaders accomplish amazing things through people by doing the following.
- Successful leaders gently nudge their followers to push through resistance, enabling them to do more than they ever believed possible without creating negative push back, rebellion or obstinacy. If change is managed well, a new synergy develops that enables the group to out perform itself. The key for the leader is to reassure followers as change is occurring so they can stay engaged with the process.
- Leaders affirm their followers talents and help them exercise these talents in the interests of the overall vision. This may mean reworking job descriptions and aligning them more appropriately to people’s interests and strengths. Leaders also enable followers to get coaching or extra training that is needed to realize the full extent of their latent talents.
- Leaders provide followers with the training that is necessary to get the job done. Successful leaders recognize the value of training and secures the resources needed to maintain a well-trained staff.
- They communicating with the employees, letting them know what progress is being made and how the employee’s role is vital to meeting the objectives of the company. Communicating with the rank and file members within the organization is crucial but a great leader also represents the organization to people outside of the institution. Effective leaders speak in public, write and have meaningful one-on-one conversations with all concerned in attaining the organization’s vision.
When all is said and done, what is leadership, then? Being a leader is more of an art than a science. There are no sure-fire success formulas for developing and exercising leadership. Each person needs to decide what methods fit his or her personality and begin to hone his or her leadership skills accordingly.