What is Leadership ?

What is Leadership ?

November 19, 2009 Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Good question.
I think it’s the most important and relevant one that has to be asked at first when someone intends to learn something about how to become a holistic leader.

It surely makes sense to start with a definition of the word leadership.

Definition Of Leadership

“[Leadership means the] process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (wikipedia.org)

I assume that you can find dozens of such definitions in the web. In my opinion this one applies very well to what is meant by the word leadership. Independent from that it meets my own personal understanding of this term. But there’s just one obvious problem with this definition: it’s too abstract. So let’s try to define it more precisely.

Of what do you think first when reading about “social influence”? I must think of things that I do to others. I hope you agree. Okay, but as I’ve still remarked in my introduction of this blog there can be no real leadership of others without learning about how to lead yourself. That’s why I want to extend the definition a little bit. Leadership doesn’t only mean what I do to others but also what I do to myself. So leadership seems to have something like content. Content that concerns you as well as the people you want to lead in order to accomplish something. And content as you know is always contained in a certain form.

To reveal the form you don’t have to ask for the “whats”. You must ask the “hows”.

How are you doing what you’re doing to others and how are you doing what you’re doing to yourself. The choice of the whats determines whether you are going to be effective in leading yourself and others or not. The chosen hows determine whether you are going to be efficient too. You can’t see the difference? Let’s think about an example.

Imagine you’re the leader of a department in an industrial company and there is somebody in your department who doesn’t accomplish to be on time every morning when work begins. You hate tardiness and you think about how to change that situation rapidly.

Suddenly you remember a very effective tool like openness which you have seen on a very reasonable website (hehe) and you decide to use that tool in order to change that specific situation. Openness is definitely a very important tool for people who want to lead humans in organizations. I will post an article to this subject later on. Okay, back to this example. Obviously effectiveness in this context also means sustainability.

So you invite this employee to an urgent meeting with his boss that means with you. As soon as he enters the room you begin to scream the following sentence : “In case you don’t stop coming too late from tomorrow morning on I will give you just one more further chance: the day after tomorrow receiving your dismissal.” In case you have the managerial authority over this person you might have success in changing the situation.

But what will that mean to the relationship between you and this man or woman?

In the best case he feels ashamed and internal dismissed. In the worst case he will never accept you as his leader again although you chose a very effective leading tool. So what went wrong? You’ve told your employee openly what you think about the current situation and what has to be different. But you’ve put it in a very bad form which has made it really inefficient.

That doesn’t necessarily imply your employee won’t follow your instructions afterwards. Therefore you have the managerial authority. But probably you will lose the loyalty of your staff more and more. And a lack of loyalty creates a source of disturbance that complicates realizing things. But this is exactly the opposite of what you want. We don’t want to be complicated. We want to be effective.

Now you know the main reason why there are so many ineffective managers out there who can even be marked as bad leaders.

They use their managerial authority instead of leadership in order to accomplish something. Bad choice.

But you can’t find this only in organizations. It’s the same thing with many other relations like between parents and children, or teachers and pupils e.g.

Of course using these authorities (that are based upon a certain hierarchy) instead of leadership has after all the potential to change a situation into the wanted direction. At least it seems so. But as far as the persons you want to lead are humans and not animals or things they don’t like to be managed.

Humans want to be leaded.

The feeling of having the option to decide whether to follow somebody or not makes the difference between managing and leading. And the free and conscious decision of a human to follow someone as result of the leading process reveals the great leader.

Sometimes your can read in newspapers or books that we have a need of managers and not of leaders. This is due to the image the word leader got thinking of thugs like Adolf Hitler etc.

But we can’t deny that a knife is a very reasonable and useful thing even though there were many people and are still who abuse such a tool by killing somebody e.g.

So we should not always interpret a certain term in the most negative way you can think of.

We should try to understand leadership as what it really is: the art of accomplishing common projects, tasks, challenges or whatever you’ve initialized effectively and with sustainability.

Sustainability means that the created relationship to your people allows you to repeat this process of accomplishing again and again without any appearances of attrition. Far from it! The relationship is even getting better and better. And in the end your people don’t want to miss you at all because they have trust in you as they realized that your way of leading always allowed them to grow and to learn as part of your team in the past.

In the common literature the terms of management and leadership are very often used in a quite similar way. For my blog I want to divide it up like this:


comprehends all the strategic methods and techniques that are used in order to define targets, to plan, to organize, to execute, to control and to establish operations and activities in order to achieve results.


comprehends all the other things that affect humans or your own conscious personality to follow you voluntarily just in order to participate on your ideas.

If you want to realize things and produce results you need both of them.

They depend on one another and they’re always concerning other humans as well as yourself. To make your own personality follow your ideas may sound bit strange. But you will be amazed when reading something about the corresponding principle behind it. The definition of leadership doesn’t emphatically express that you can’t confront your people with unpleasant facts. You must do that sometimes. But why you have to do that and how you should do it is the content of another article in this blog.

Okay, let’s try to sum it all up:

1.) Leadership has content and form that concerns the people you want to lead as well as your own character an personality

2.) Content and form determine effectiveness and efficiency of your work

3.) Management and leadership are two different things that depend on one another

You need management as well as leadership in order to succeed

I have good news for you: management and leadership follow universal rules. There is no good leadership or management without following these rules.

So feel free to learn them here in this blog. Every single article on this blog contributes something to the different fields described above. It shouldn’t take much time to find something of interest for you.

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