This seems like a simple question, but leadership comes in so many shapes and forms that it can have a different meaning to everyone. In most dictionaries, you will find a vague definition along the lines of “the act of leading” or “the ability to lead a group or organization,” but these definitions do not actually tell us anything about what leadership entails. In my own words, I would describe leadership in its broadest definition as a person or group that guides/directs a group or organization towards a common goal. However, if you were to ask ten different people what leadership means, there is a good chance that you will get at least eight fundamentally different answers.
For example, I came across a great article called “33 Ways to Define Leadership” by Brittney Helmrich. In this article, Ms. Helmrich shares the definitions of leadership that she received when she asked business owners for their definition of leadership. Now, there are not necessarily 33 completely unique definitions on the list, but there are no two definitions that are the same. Two of the definitions that really stood out to me are:
Leadership is the ability to take an average team of individuals and transform them into superstars. The best leader is the one who inspires his workers to achieve greatness each and every day. – Jonas Falk, a chef and the CEO of OrganicLife
Leadership is employing your skills and knowledge, leveraged by your attitude to get the results you desire. – Philip Gafka, founder of leadership development firm Leap Associates
The reason that these two definitions stood out to me is the difference in what James Falk and Philip Gafka believe leadership should achieve. Falk believes that leadership should be aiming to inspire greatness every day, while Gafka believes that leadership should simply achieve results. The other huge difference that jumped out to me is Falk’s reference to leadership inspiring its followers, if you will, while Gafka speaks only on an individual basis, not mentioning the group that leadership should be leading.
The difference between Falk’s and Gafka’s definitions of leadership exemplifies the vast variation in meaning that the word “leadership” can carry. This variation in meaning makes it important to understand the different types of leaders that exist, and that is where we will pick up next time!