What is this Thing Called Leadership?

Leadership is an overwrought term or concept in many ways. Everyone wants to think of themselves as a leader in some, if not all, facets of their lives. There is the old hairy chestnut that leaders are born, not made. Contrast that position with the plethora of books, CDs, lecture series and personal coaches who contend an opposing view – by following the steps outlined in xyz, we can make anyone a leader.

As with many things, the reality lies somewhere in the middle of these two opposing points of view. One’s personal leadership philosophy is typically forged by experiences, background and early lifestyle choices and further honed by introspection, reading, practicing and doing.

One approach to understanding one’s leadership philosophy involves a fundamental sense of self-awareness. This encompasses several key elements, including knowing and playing to one’s strengths, respecting others, and valuing and developing the people under one’s charge. In building a reputation of success, the value of honesty is paramount. Honesty is crucial in developing bonds of trust between a coach and his players, a military officer and her troops, a manager and her staff and an organization and its customers or clients.

Another element in dissecting what makes a leader is candor. Leaders are invariably open, often self-deprecating, and are generous in giving credit, taking blame and dealing with defeat. Even the strongest leaders have to deal with setbacks. The value of a loss is that it enables you to learn something from failure that can be applied to securing the next win. It is important to move on after defeat. A good leader has to be prepared to shoulder the blame when things go badly all the while giving credit when it’s due. A true leader knows the value of positive reinforcement; experience has proven that praise is a better motivator than criticism.

A leader has a well established sense of duty, accountability and responsibility. Leaders, like their subordinates and team members, are individuals. They possess many qualities of leadership, but certainly not all. They are alike and different in many aspects from those whom they lead. They can be successful without radically altering their inherent qualities. The individuals or teams that he or she leads are drawn by the confidence, the unerring sense of fairness, that a leader exudes.

A leader is someone who creates value through perseverance, a commitment to excellence and a real sense of fair play – sound advice for anyone leading a team.