Leadership Defined

Leadership Defined

There are hundreds of weighty books on leadership. Many clog the shelves of airport bookshops. Most are helpful and many are sold. Small wonder, we seem to need reminding what leadership really is about. Why? Because so many in leadership positions disappoint, betray and provide a definition of leadership at odds with what we expect.

The definition of leadership I like best is:

"You are a leader if someone else is following."

Simple. True.  

Yes - this definition invites further expansion, but care needs to be taken that in so doing we don't lose the essence of leadership which is that it is about influence. This influence can be generative and it can be malevolent.

Good leaders have often learnt to be great followers first. Good leaders seek to take control of themselves, before they seek to command others. Good leaders are motivated to give rather than to get.

Even a cursory search will reveal that many types of leaders exist as do many different leadership styles. Also common are attempts to define leadership by stating what it is and what it isn't. I've attempted to nuance this a tad further by exploring what the hard bit of leadership is, and what the easy bit is.

Have a look at the reflection below and see if you agree with it. Enjoy.  

    THE HARD BIT OF LEADERSHIP

    • The easy bit of leadership is to use inherited gifts for the betterment of oneself. The hard bit of leadership is to use these gifts for the betterment of others.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to be popular. The hard bit of leadership is to be unpopular.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to wear the badge. The hard bit of leadership is to deserve the badge.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to do what is popular. The hard bit of leadership is to do what is right.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to deal with policy. The hard bit of leadership is to deal with people.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to enjoy its success. The hard bit of leadership is to endure its failure.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to follow consensus, the hard bit of leadership is to follow conviction.
    • The easy bit of leadership is administration. The hard bit of leadership is inspiration.
    • The easy bit of leadership is to cope with friendliness. The hard bit of leadership is to cope with loneliness.
    •  The easy bit of leadership is to judge others. The hard bit of leadership is to judge yourself.

    Other items can, and should, be added to this list, but even one of this length suggests that true leadership is not all about power, privilege and position. Being an authentic leader can hurt!

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