How do you define leadership for an Emerging Leaders Program? There are literally thousands of definitions of leadership – what is most appropriate for explaining the concept to groups of supervisors, Managers and small business owners looking to understand more about how they should lead?

How To Define Leadership

The current definition of leadership at the Institute of Management & Leadership Development (IMLD) is ‘leadership is service to a purpose’. I say current because leadership skills and behaviours evolve to meet the challenges of their times, and are not set in stone. What was appropriate (or expected) of leaders 50 years ago is not the same as what is expected of leaders today. In the wake of pandemic response around the world, there is a far greater expectation of leaders to be empathetic, understanding the needs of their people and responding to challenges by taking into consideration the impact on business, team, individual and culture. Many could argue that this has always been the case.

How Do You Define Leadership? 
Leadership Is Service To A Purpose
How Do You Define Leadership

By defining leadership as ‘service’ it implies either a. You are serving something greater than yourself, or b. you are serving others (people, team). Depending whether you are leading yourself, a small team or a large business will probably impact how you see the focus on service.

We have also tied the focus of leadership to a purpose – bigger than a task and including a series of goals over time, leading others should always have a greater purpose in mind. Leading is more than just doing – it is guiding others to do something for a purpose. It follows that the greater the purpose (or more urgent or more compelling the purpose) the more people will follow your leadership.

Definitions of Leadership Through Time

How has leadership been defined in the past?

The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.

Peter Drucker

Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.

Warren Bennis

Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.

John Maxwell

Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Kevin Kruse

Each of these definitions of leadership can be seen as true, as well as having limitations depending on the group, the leader or the culture that it is defining leadership within.

What Is A Leaders Most Important Role?

A Leaders Most Important Role Is To Prevent DRIFT

If leadership is service to a purpose, then a leaders most important role is to ensure that they themselves, their team or their business does not drift too far from meeting that purpose.

How Do You Define Leadership?

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