What is Leadership?

Posted by 22 May, 2009


This is the first part of a series on leadership.

Leadership is a tough quality to define. When NFL scouts look at a prospect, they classify leadership as an “intangible.” Leadership is definitely a quality, while tough to define, is a trait that you’ll able to distinguish whether a person has “it” or not.

When you take a look around you and throughout history, the world has been fortunate to have been inhabited by a whole host of influential leaders. Some of the most admired leaders have been Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What made these people such great leaders? Were they particularly great public speakers? Martin Luther King, Jr. undoubtedly was a great speaker, but I’m not sure the same can be said for Gandhi and FDR?

While leadership is certainly difficult to DEFINE, there are attributes that we can associate with signs of being a leader.

1. Visionary: A leader brings a vision to it’s group. It’s a plan by which others can FOLLOW. This vision brings the followers the emotion of hope and something the followers can strive to achieve. The vision should be clear and the leader should stand up for what the leader believes in.

“A leader is a dealer in hope” – Napoleon Bonaparte

2. Reliable: You don’t want to follow someone that shows up late or doesn’t do what they say they are going to do. In a leader, you want someone that’s reliable, with a message that people can follow. If leaders aren’t consistent if their efforts and their actions, it causes followers to begin to doubt the dedication of the leader to the cause. I can’t find a citation, but historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was recently on The Daily Show. She stated that during the Great Depression and during FDR’s tenure a citizen once said something to the effect of “I don’t have any money, don’t have a job, and I don’t have a reason to live, but I keep on going because I know FDR is there.”

“Deligating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half

3. Audacity: It takes guts to be a leader. It’s not for everyone. Some people would prefer to tag along for the ride and that’s fine. Not everyone can or should be a leader.

4. Empowering People: Inherently, people want to do a good job. They want to succeed and make others happy. As a leader, you need to allow people to succeed. By empowering people, the leader isn’t doing the task for the person following the leader, but instead gives them the tools necessary to succeed.

5. Positive: Nobody wants to follow a person who is “doom and gloom.” A leader doesn’t need to be all about rainbows and sunshine, but there definitely needs to be a boost of positivity especially when tackling a difficult project or the “going gets tough.”

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

6. Motivating: If you don’t have the previous characteristics, it certainly isn’t very motivating for the follower to follow the leader let alone do a great job. A leader needs a vision, otherwise people don’t have a map and tend to get lost.

What do you think about the 6 characteristics of leadership I’ve given? Do you have any to add?

Photo by: Jim Bowen


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May 23, 2009

Really great post — especially the positive part! Be positive!!! 🙂

Positively Present’s last blog post..looking to the past to find the present

Posted by Positively Present
May 23, 2009

Being positive helps to instill confidence and if you don’t believe you can do it, you probably won’t. Thanks for the comment!

Dustin’s last blog post..What is Leadership?

Posted by Dustin
May 26, 2009

Those sound like major attributes to me. It is a hard thing to define…

The most obvious trait of the person I’ve happened to know who showed the most leadership was something that I think would fit under “audacity.” She was very decisive.

May 27, 2009

I really think that empowering and motivating are important leadership qualities. A true leader should inspire people to do what needs to be done, and give them the tools to do it. Otherwise, s/he is just another micro-manager…

Miranda’s last blog post..Penalty Exceptions for Early IRA Withdrawal

Posted by Miranda
May 27, 2009

Nice list… I would add humility. No one should want to emulate arrogance, which will ultimately bring down a pseudo-leader.

Posted by Anthony
May 28, 2009

I fully agree that staying positive helps a lot to instill confidence and if you don’t believe you can do it, you probably won’t. It means you dont have much confidence..Leadership is something which can inspire others, motivation..There are so many factors.

Yogindernath’s last blog post..Tutorial –2: Basis Path Testing – Estimation of Complexity Measure V(G)

Posted by Yogindernath
May 28, 2009

This may fall under vision/audacity but a leader also has conviction in his/her thoughts. Having vision is one thing but the audacity to pursue that vision against all odds requires conviction which is where not-so-great leaders often stumble.

Arohan’s last blog post..9 Ways to Manage Your Finances Online

Posted by Arohan
May 29, 2009

Audacity comes close, but doesn’t quite capture the most important quality (to me) of leadership.

A leader is someone who practices The Serenity Prayer, just on a bigger stage with more people involved.

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Posted by Elaine
May 30, 2009

You’re not a leader if no ones following you. Also, you must be able to provoke others toward action. Thanks for sharing.


May 31, 2009

Staying positive always helps to develope confidence within ourself and if we think that we cant do it, we probably won’t. Great post…

Jack Thomas’s last blog post..What is Transgenic Locus

Posted by Jack Thomas
June 30, 2009

To be called a leader and be respected that way,one must posses confidence in reasoning things.

Posted by Chanda James
July 1, 2009

I think being positive assists u a lot. And also motivating othes too. If u think u can do things then the things will ultimately be done.

Posted by Shibanarayan Mohanty
July 6, 2009

I agree 2 d attributes of leadership. I add my own litle contributins. A leader must Accept critisms & be able to make Quick Decision. Thanks.

Posted by Stella O.
August 27, 2009

Im in Teen Leadership and i was just wondering can someone give me some better qualities of a leader

Posted by Lindy Seigler
August 31, 2009

I love this article and I just wanted to add a few more aspects of leadership which can help your guys even more…

1.Leader must have a dream larger than those he/she leads

2. The Leader must have an attitude superior to those he/she leads

3. The Leader is responsible and admits when he/she has made a mistake

4. The leader is a decision maker

5.The Leader puts those he/she leads first

6. The Leader sets the example by being in the front of the peak

7. The Leader displays a commitment to integrity and character

8. he Leader strives for excellence on all things

9. The Leader displays a commitment to personal growth

10. The Leader has the Highest level of Persistence and determination

Take these tips and become a leader! Begin to walk your own path or blaze your own trail

Posted by jonathanfigaro
October 30, 2009

this sucks!! i did not get anything that i needed from this site..you should add more information..

Posted by cinda
December 14, 2010

Awesome, I agree with you in every way pissible, but we all make mistakes, and a great leader will accept them and also learn from them.

Posted by Desiree
March 19, 2011

My forum is a perfect example of what a leader does. I appreciate you interviewing me

Posted by Bill Spetrino
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