What is leadership?

leadership (1)

Leadership is widely seen as both “the problem” and “the solution” to many organizational issues (from the toxic leadership at Enron to the success of Tesla’s CEO) and contemporary issues (i.e., ending world poverty, regenerating local communities, and reviving educational systems).  One issue leadership suffers is that many people do not really understand what it is.  This blog post has two objectives: The first is to give you deeper insight into defining leadership.  The second, to answer three frequently asked questions about leadership.

Defining Leadership

Before I define leadership I would like to remind my readers that leadership is a complex subject. With that in mind, I would like to provide an overarching definition from the research. Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal setting and goal achievement (Jackson & Parry, 2011; Northouse, 2012; Yukl, 2006). Given this definition, I would like to point out three of its major components:

1.) Leadership is the interpersonal process between one person and a group.

2.) You cannot have leaders without followers.

3.) The criterion for effective leadership is goal achievement.

Now that you understand the definition of leadership, I will present the definition of the field itself. Leadership is a multidisciplinary field of study that focuses on leadership in organizational contexts and in human life.

Three Frequently Asked Questions About Leadership.

  1. ) Are leaders born or made?The research indicates that they are both. Although many leaders are “made”, meaning that 70% of a leader’s effectiveness is based on the context of the situation and their experience, it is still important to understand that heredity and genetics account for 30% of leadership effectiveness (Jackson & Parry, 2011).
  1. ) What makes an effective leader?There are five qualities that are particularly vital to promote effective leadership. These are:
  • Confidence – you need self-efficacy to put yourself forward to lead.
  • Integrity – this allows you to be consistent in ethical choices by knowing what you believe in.
  • Resilience – the ability to withstand emotional and physiological stress and conflict.
  • Connection– the ability to translate values through a genuine and authentic link to followers, which involves more than verbal communication.
  •  Aspiration – it is important to want to create change
  1. ) What is the difference between leadership and management?Managers are focused on the day to day activities, whereas leadership focuses on the bigger picture. In sum, managers do things right while leaders do the right things (Jackson & Parry, 2011). It is also important to note that both management and leadership are necessary.


Image: http://alainfassotte.com/2013/05/15/dag-15-cv-soknad-ledelse/

Jackson, B., & Parry, K. (2011). A very short fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying leadership. Sage.

Northouse, P. G. (2012). Leadership: Theory and practice. Sage Publications.

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations, 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.




5 thoughts on “What is leadership?

  1. Thank you for the article!

    Under “What makes an effective leader?” were listed a few traits. How do you think those characteristics work together? Do you think one is more important than another?

    I’d love to read your thoughts.

    • The research suggests that you need a good balance of all 5. If a leader is over confident and does not have enough of a connection will followers then this leader might be considered to be more narcissistic. On the other hand, if a leader has a high level of connection and not enough confidence then that individual may be seen as more of a follower. I am glad you enjoyed the post. Please let me know if you have anymore questions.

      • When I think of the mentors and leaders in my life they do carry themselves with a substantial amount of all 5.

        Thank you for the quick response! I’m looking forward to future posts.

  2. Pingback: Distinguishing between Leadership and Management | Leadership Archways

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