What is Leadership?

Such a simple question, and yet it continues to be talked about and divides opinion.

Let’s start with what leadership is not…

Leadership has nothing to do with seniority or position in the hierarchy of a company. Too many talk about a company’s leadership referring to the most senior executives in the organisation. They are just that, senior executives. Leadership doesn’t automatically happen when you reach a certain pay grade.

Leadership has nothing to do with job titles. Similar to the point above, just because you have a title, doesn’t automatically make you a ‘leader’ and you don’t need a title to lead. In fact, you can be a leader in your neighbourhood, in your family, all without having a title.

Leadership has nothing to do with personal attributes. Say the word “leader” and most people think of a domineering, take-charge charismatic individual. We often think of icons from history or business. But leadership isn’t an adjective. We don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership. And those with charisma don’t automatically lead.

Leadership isn’t management.  This is the big one. Leadership and management are not synonymous.  You have 15 people in your team? Good for you, hopefully you are a good manager. Good management is needed. Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things, but typically managers manage things and leaders lead people.

So, again, what is leadership? Or more importantly what is it for you?

  • What does leadership mean where you work?
  • What is your culture, and how will this be affected by and influence any ‘leadership style’ that you’re looking for?
  • How do you ‘embed leadership’ and what would you see, hear and feel if you do?
  • How will ‘leadership’ change across different levels and what should remain the same?
  • How will your ‘values’ effect your leadership, how will you integrate, demonstrate and measure this?
  • What will your customers see?

These are just a few examples, there will be many more to think about before you can get to the answers that suit you.

That’s not to say there isn’t some consistency in leadership from organisation to organisation, there is, but the application, language, style etc needs to be ‘yours’ and not someone else’s. To put it another way Usain Bolt and Mo Farah both run, and both get to the finish line first, but their plan, training and application is very different.

Even then once you’ve defined it for your organisation, the questions should keep on coming, such as:

  • How do you find it?
  • How do you encourage those that have it at every level in your organisation to deliver it?
  • How do you develop it?
  • And how do you ensure that when you do you move from a programme that changes an ‘individual’s’ experience to one that changes an ‘organisational’ approach?

We’ve helped a number of our clients think all this through, establish what it means to them, what it looks like in the future, and developed programmes to develop, deliver and measure it.

If we can help you define it in your organisation, or at least help you find answers to some of the many questions then drop us a line.