A basic definition of Leadership, expanded.
“Leadership is the ability to influence a group towards a common goal or purpose“
1. If leadership is an “ability“, are leaders “born” or “developed”.
This is a common question that proponents are willing to argue for and against. Some may be born with the predisposition, personality that later develops into important traits for leadership. Call it charisma or the X-factor, but something draws others to follow these individuals. Clearly, these leaders can be further developed to be better leaders. Communication skills can be developed, awareness can improve, consideration and empathy for others can be enhanced, and service to others or the cause can be clarified.
It would be foolish to think that “anyone” can be made a leader by simply sending them on a course, programme or bootcamp. The simple truth is that some have something special required for that group or context, and some just don’t. A great leadership development programme would be like ‘pouring water over a duck’s back’.
That does not mean that all people do not possess leadership or the ability to lead in all environments. Yes, in our personal life, family life, social – we all lead. But, not everyone is going to be great leaders; better leaders yes.
2. Leadership is “influence”
If I could choose three words to define leadership it would be: Leadership is Influence. You cannot lead if you cannot influence.
Stephen Covey teaches the concept of the “pyramid of influence” in his book Principle-Centred Leadership. I add favourably my thoughts to his ideas on how we can influence others:
a) Teaching. What can be more easier, yet ironically more sacred, than teaching? The more we teach the more we empower others.
b) Develop Relationships. Go one on one with people. People don’t care how much you know, but rather how much you care.
c) Modelling. Nothing is more important than being an example. A good example is worth twice the best advice. We must teach, and if necessary use words.
3. Leadership is “power”
Although not included in the definition; “influence” suggests you possess something – something that someone needs or wants. That would be power. Let’s summarise a key learning point: You cannot lead if you cannot influence and you cannot influence if you have no power.
What is power? It’s a function of dependence; something that someone needs or wants. “When person A has something that person B needs or wants, person A can get person B to do things, he or she would not ordinarily do”
There are various types of power or “power bases”. Many of these are “utility” type/ meaning temporary and functional. The best leaders possess something beyond the external, but rather within. This is the urgency and transformation that countries and organisations require; and – not forgetting homes.
4. Leadership implies that you have followers.
How can you lead if you don’t have followers? “He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him, is merely taking a walk” (I believe credited to John C. Maxwell).
The ball game is changing. Look at the power of social media. A 13 year old on twitter could have more followers, and influence, than a CEO of a corporation of 5000 staff. Look at what a “following” can do to spark a revolution.
5. Leadership is about a common goal or purpose.
Leaders “begin with the end in mind” (Stephen Covey). A common vision and purpose are the ingredients necessary to drive reason, cause and increasing momentum. That coupled with values clarification. This is visioning and strategic planning.
Every great leader takes a group of followers and gets them to achieve. A goal or purpose that is grand, important, worthwhile, beneficial and that followers can resonate with – and perhaps more importantly be involved in creating to gain commitment – is the key factor.
Whilst leadership deals with the future; we judge how leaders behave in the present. Almost all significant problems and solutions in governments, organisations and families are rooted in leadership issues.
This is why Leadership is such an important and hot topic, and always remains relevant.
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