What is Leadership?

Leadership is not about a title or a designation. Its about impact, influence and inspiration.

During the course of an interesting conversation a newbie entrepreneur who had earlier worked in a corporate environment, asked me: “So, how do you define leadership?”

The purpose of our conversation was to understand her leadership challenge in delivering business results. I turned it around by asking: “Which of these definitions resonate with you?” That conversation created more fundamental questions which I decided to address here.

What is Leadership?

Fundamentally leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow. (Kouzes & Posner in The Leadership Challenge). Here are a few interesting definitions from various sources:

  • Leadership is the art of getting people to want to do what must be doneDwight Eisenhower
  • Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goalPeter Northouse
  • The ability to mobilize the talent and skills of others (including yourself) towards an observable result – Strozzi-Heckler in Leadership Dojo.
  • Helping others to achieve their own greatness by helping the organization to succeed.
  • Leadership is the act of creating outcomes that matter most – Adams & Anderson

Are leadership and management same or different?

Many times, the terms management and leadership are used interchangeably. However, there is a distinction to be made. Leadership can be though to be a broader topic than management and is associated with vision, strategy, inspiration, challenge. Management on the other hand may be thought as the implementation of what leaders initiate – the process side of leadership.

So, what does a Leader do?

The one critical competency great leaders possess and deploy is to inspire others. If people believe in themselves it’s amazing what they can accomplish.

According to Kouzes and Posner leaders engage in five key practices:

  • Model the way
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Enable others to act
  • Encourage the heart

Which is why,

“Regardless of changing market conditions, business models and corresponding strategy, leadership can always be an organization’s competitive advantange”