What’s the definition of Leadership?

According to a quick Google search, you’ll find that “Leadership” is defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization”.

At first glance, this definition makes some sense but what’s interesting is that the use of this word “leadership” really didn’t take off until around 1900AD.  This puzzled me because I knew there were leaders long before the 1900’s. 

I wondered what we (humans) called leaders before the word leaders.  Did we just call them Kings, Lords, Priest, etc...?  After another quick search, I stumbled on a great blog titled “Etymology of Leadership”.  It’s an interesting read. 

So... after looking up the meaning of “etymology” (the study of the origin of words) and thinking about what I had just read, it reminded me that leaders come in all shapes and sizes. 

A leader can be the person who leads a business.  A leader can be the grandma that raises her grandkids.  A leader can be the neighbor that helps a neighbor.  A leader can be the volunteer coach for a little league team.  The list goes on and on. 

So... What is Leadership?

The reality is that today’s definition of leadership can be unique to each of us.  None of us are the same.  We’ve all had different experiences, moments and influences that define what we look for in leadership and what inspires us.  In fact, before we define leadership, we usually gravitate quickly towards defining the traits and characteristics of what makes a great leader. 

This further complicates our ability to actually define what leadership is as no two leaders are the same.

Somewhere along the way, a wise person shared this definition that resonated with me. 

Leadership is:

     “The art of motivating a group of
      people to act towards achieving a common vision.

This definition made sense to me and was in alignment with what I had learned over a career that included conducting over 12,000 interviews, managing over 10,000 employees and having spoken to well over 100,000 business owners from around this country.

Leadership is indeed an art and it does come in many shapes, sizes and forms.  Over a career of working with so many talented people and paying close attention to how leaders go about their business, it became clear to me that there were a few characteristics or traits that seem to separate the great leaders from others. 

Seven (7) Traits of Leadership:

The greatest leaders seem to have a heightened ability to

1.  Process Information – Leaders are constantly learning.  They crave information to help them in their decision making.  They understand that learning is an ongoing exercise.

2.  Organize It – Leaders create a Vision and define what success looks like.  They organize information to see where there are gaps in knowledge and what still needs to be learned to accomplish the Vision.  They approach it like a game.

3.  Prioritize It -  Leaders define Goals and Steps to support the Vision.  They know that reaching the Vision is going to take work along with patience as new information is learned.  They are constantly focused on the next step.  Prioritizing allows a leader to enjoy the journey and each moment in that journey. 

4.  Enroll Others – Leaders communicate with EQ – Emotional Intelligence.  Leaders lead others the way they need to be led.  Leaders acknowledge their vulnerabilities and fears while removing fear for others in the process.

5.  Communicate the Vision – Leaders articulate the Vision with clarity.  They remove uncertainty through listening, sharing, planning and motivating.  They can inspire with words, actions or both.

6.  Bring it to a Close – Leaders focus every day.  They’re committed to the Vision.  They work at it every day.  They dig in and remove the roadblocks that stand in the way.

7.  Reinvent as Necessary – Leaders know that despite all of the ongoing learning and planning, that unexpected events, moments and influences will always be a part of life and part of the journey in pursuit of a Vision.  Leaders stay open to what is possible.

I shared these with a friend recently who said, “that sounds a lot like life”.

Those were my thoughts exactly.  Leadership is a lot of work.  Leadership is an everyday game of Choice and Attitude.  Choosing to be personally accountable as the leader in your life is a lot of work.  It’s also the quickest path to achieving your Vision.

Before we can lead others, we need to learn to lead ourselves. 
I hope you find these 7 traits useful in your pursuit to be the best leader you can be.

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