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Does Leadership Need a New Definition?

Does Leadership Need a New Definition?

Before we begin down this rabbit hole, let’s look at why we define things in the first place.

We define words to help create a common understanding of their meaning so we can apply the definition in our language and in our life.  With the word ‘LEADERSHIP’ – we must find the right meaning, so we can shape our language and our lives.  If ‘leadership’ is defined poorly or even limited in scope, then few of us apply its power to our own lives.

When defined poorly, we use ‘leadership’ to describe anyone who has followers regardless of his or her direction.  When the direction is wrong, as is the case with ineffective politicians or inhumane dictators, then ‘leadership’ loses its power in the definition, and in its application.  When ‘leadership’ is defined with a limited scope, as it is used to define a person’s position and title, i.e. CEO, President, Director, and Manager; then once again we miss out on a huge opportunity to use the value of leadership at all levels in an organization. Not only that, a title or position in no way implies you have earned the right to be viewed as a leader.

Consider my definition:  “Leadership is the responsibility to positively influence self, others, and outcomes.”

Let’s break it down…

  • “Leadership is a responsibility” – Leadership begins by owning your choices and decisions.  Stop looking outside of yourself to ‘find’ the leader; instead look inside to your inner compass.
  • “to positively influence” – Leadership needs to guide and direct people in the ‘right’ direction, and therefore leaders must always consider the impact of their actions.
  • “self” – Your choices, habits, goals, purpose, and direction determine how you live your own life.  Every thought, action, and inaction establishes “self- leadership.”
  • “others” – Your impact on others is inevitable, and the more conscious you are of your intentional and unintentional impact, the better leader you will become.
  • “and outcomes.” – Leaders produce results, achieve goals, improve situations, and drive change.  Consider how your leadership will influence the outcome.

This simple and direct definition provides a much-needed focus to define the essence of ‘leadership’. 

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