What is leadership?

We all have people in our lives–past and present–who we considered “leaders.”  And if you’re like me, you have likely spent years striving to be like those people you have admired.  But what IS leadership?  And how do we know it when we see it?  Better yet, what is GOOD leadership, and how can we demonstrate it?

The best definition of leadership I have found was written by Kevin Kruse, in a 2013 article published in Forbes Magazine. According to Kruse, “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, toward the achievement of a goal.”

In that quote, the words “social,” “efforts” and “goal” jump off the page for me. It tells me that leadership is about people…their work….and goals. I can answer my own question about what GOOD leadership is by contrasting those three key elements with what isn’t good leadership.   Good leadership is NOT about the leader.  It’s also not an isolated effort by one person, but the work of others.  And it is also not about managing the status quo, but about setting a target for change or improvement.

Despite the countless works on the subject of leadership, which often promote a set of criteria or qualities, it isn’t really that complicated. The more I read and the more I listen to others, I think leadership doesn’t have to be a complex set of strategies or actions.  Instead, it’s just figuring out how to tap into others’ intrinsic motivation. 

Of course motivating others requires that relationships and trust be established and that a compelling vision exists. Where bad leaders get it wrong is that they dismiss the power of other’s intrinsic drive and either do everything themselves or force others to do it–whatever “it” is–their way. So really, GOOD leadership starts with letting go of the reigns and giving others the opportunity to own the goal as well.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s