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What is Leadership, Anyway?

Leaders impact our daily lives and futures. In good times and bad, there is always a need for strong leadership. The success of a business or an industry is determined by the leaders it chooses or inherits.
–USA Today

 

Leadership.  It is a term thrown around like plastic beads at Marti Gras.  But what does it actually mean to be a leader?  What is the difference between a good leader and a bad one? An effective leader and one who fails?  At TBC, we are in the business of personal and leadership development.  As one of the first posts in our new social media initiative, we think it important to explore the true meaning of a leader.

 

Dictionary.com defines a leader as “one who leads—” a statement of the obvious.  Merriam-Webster offers the same definition. Urbandictionary.com, a lesser-known niche version of the tried-and-true dictionaries, provides a more telling definition:
“Someone who has the ability to inspire others to achieve tasks and goals that they might not otherwise be capable of reaching.”

 

Finally, the Macmillan Dictionary offers the definition:
“Someone who is responsible for or in control of a group, organization, country, etc.”

 

Finding most of these definitions unsatisfactory to the true meaning of a leader, we have combined them to create a definition of our own.  Our definition of a true leader is:

 

Someone who is responsible for or oversees of a group of people, who has the ability to inspire others to achieve tasks and goals they might not have otherwise been capable of reaching, and who can create positive change in a situation.


Lets dissect this statement piece by piece:

 

Someone who is responsible for: If you are responsible for anything, you have a huge imperative to act morally and with character.

 

or oversees: Even though you may be in the driver’s seat, a true leader knows that he or she is never totally in control.  Overseeing ensures that you give your subordinates your confidence without completely leaving them on their own.

 

a group of people: These people should be just as important as (or even more important than) your superiors.  In an office situation, the relationship you have with your subordinates or group members can make or break a sale, job, or your image.  It is important to have an open relationship with those you lead, and to make ample room for their feedback on your performance.

 

who has the ability to inspire others to achieve tasks and goals they might not have otherwise been capable of reaching: the ability to inspire others is what differentiates a “leader” from a “great leader.”  For example, Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a nation to fight against an unfair racial system; Mahatma Gandhi inspired politicians like Barack Obama along with celebrities like Matt Damon by using his peaceful tactics of civil disobedience to foster change; and Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin (whichever you prefer) inspired millions of little girls across the globe that they too, could run for office.
Sometimes, leaders have to be the first.  They must light the trail, shatter the glass ceiling, or face persecution for their beliefs.  But a true leader will not balk at the thought of going against the grain; instead, he or she will understand that their hard work will aid those they are responsible for.

 

and who can create positive change in a situation: This is perhaps the most important part of leadership.  True leaders contribute to positive mechanisms of change while disregarding the negative.  A leader must have control of a situation and not allow it to control his or her own emotions, as this almost always results in a negative outcome.  Inciting fear or anger does not create a healthy environment.  By creating a positive change, leaders not only help others, but they help themselves.

 

It takes a great deal of effort to be a good leader, and even more to be a great leader.  It takes a lot of personal development, asking those around you what you can do better, and dismissing of the ego to become the “great” leader trapped inside of you.  But the best thing is that you are totally capable of doing it. The question is, Are you ready?

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