What Is Leadership?

March 3, 2017By

Take My HandThe definition of leadership is the act of leading a group.

Leading is taking someone or multiple people to a place.

I think that leaves it open to enough interpretation.

A leader may command people to achieve a goal. A leader may also set an example for others to follow even if they’re not in the same location.

For example, in the first scenario a boss may set a goal for his team and then lead them on the path to achieve the goal.

In the second scenario, a person today may follow the example set forth by someone that lived a few generations in the past.

So leadership can come in different forms, but the basis of the concept is that some is doing the leading and others are doing the following.

Are We All Followers?

It’s easy to think that life is black and white. Usually we’re involved in this ever changing melting pot of experiences.

The term “follower” can have negative connotations.

I know when I was growing up my mom would always discourage me from following the wrong people in school. It makes sense now, but at the time I was just thirsty for knowledge. I was trying to discover what the world was all about so I was a follower.

That makes me think that we’re all followers in some regards. I think it’s a great quality to have even in the best leaders.

I believe you can be both a great leader and a great follower at the same time. In fact, being a good follower may be a requirement to becoming a great leader.

I had this boss at a company I used to work for. He was a wonderful leader. He had all the attributes you would expect. He was smart, patient, encouraging, decisive and all that kind of stuff.

But he was also curious.

He was always asking questions. He gave off the impression that he didn’t have all the answers. He certainly had a lot of answers, but he was always looking to learn something.

If you knew about something he was interested in he would look to follow your lead.

So even in the most important position in the company this person was looking to follow in certain aspects of life.

Understanding Yourself In Difficult Times

Emotions play a large role in our lives.

It’s easy to let emotions take over our decision making process. We’re not immune to it. I don’t think anybody fully is, but some appear to be better equipped to handle difficult times than others.

What you’ll often find is that leaders are able to remove emotion from important decisions no matter the circumstances. They understand themselves and in the case of a business they understand the business.

They don’t make decisions that sacrifice the long-term.

The reason these people often are in leadership roles is because they’ve been able to make decisions this way. And because others want to learn how to do the same they follow the person’s lead.

So understanding one’s self and being able to go to that knowledge in difficult times appears to be a major factor in leadership.

Empowerment, Trust, Autonomy

It turns out that leaders often struggle when they try to make too many decisions.

Interesting, right?

People generally don’t want to be told what to do it seems. We like our autonomy. We like to live our lives as we see fit. And if we’re good at something we don’t like someone micromanaging us.

We do, of course, look for guidance as we learn something and acquire knowledge, but even then we like to know that we’re being trusted to do something.

The best leaders seem to be the people that are able to blend direction with empowerment. They’re able to blend trust with accountability. They’re able to provide counsel while also providing autonomy.

Obviously that’s not easy to do. There is a balance to be found in any situation, but that’s what leaders are able to do. They work to find the right balance.

For example, if an employee is struggling with a task a good leader will inquire to find the reason for the issue. They’ll provide direction and counsel if necessary.

And on the other side, if there are issues of micromanagement, a good leader will know that backing off is necessary.

Modest & Humble

What have studies found to be the most common qualities of the best leaders?

It might not be what you’re thinking…

The best leaders, it turns out, are modest & humble.

The trait of being modest is your outward behavior and being able to control it. Not projecting your greatness onto others.

Being humble is your inner feelings about yourself. You respect your accomplishments internally, but you’re never too impressed with yourself. You don’t hate yourself, but you put your achievements and knowledge in the proper perspective.

The study linked about modest and humble leaders suggests that one of the reasons for their success is that they cultivate cultures of shared perceptions. In other words, they’re able to get people to agree on goals and motivations. They’re able to get people to work together and to help each other become the best each person can be.

Final Takeaway

The concept of leadership is pretty simple.

It’s the ability for one, like yourself, to lead others.

If you’re an entrepreneur or manager in business then you probably want to be an effective leader. In business, it’s a requirement for success to able to inspire and lead others toward a goal.

Leadership comes from many things including your ability to both follow and lead. Curiosity is important in leadership.

It’s also important to believe in others. You can’t succeed with micromangement in the long run. People perform best with the Yin and Yang of certain elements. The best leaders provide direction while also providing autonomy. It’s tricky, but the best leaders find the right balance.

And finally, being modest and humble have been observed as important factors in successful leadership.

Here’s another little neat tidbit on leadership – people tend to follow those with a healthy appearance. I guess it’s a great way to lead by example. People want to follow others that have proven to be successful even in appearance and in health.