If we are going to develop leaders than it would naturally follow that we should start with a definition. That is; we should start with a goal in mind. What exactly is it that we are trying to develop? What, in the end, is leadership?
Many have taken a stab at this answer, and I can't say that anyone else is wrong. That's hardly the point. I do feel that it's important to explore this process and arrive at a definition that you will accept. What is your end game?
For me, there are three critical pieces to leadership: people, influence, and action. I feel that leadership can't happen without these three. Thus, my definition of leadership is: Influencing people to take action.
For me, there are three critical pieces to leadership: people, influence, and action.
People are probably the most obvious here. Leadership and people skills are inseparable. If we remove people from the equation, you have nothing left. People skills would include listening, building trust, empathizing, and emotional intelligence.
Beyond your ability to work with people, you must also be influential. As I wrote in a recent article for RELEVANT magazine, influence is an intriguing paradox but a critical piece of our leadership success. You can have all the charisma in the world, but without influence you'll never affect change in others.
Finally, leaders put action on the table. Action is the trait I see missing so often from leadership definitions. What is leadership without it? I can't think of a great leader that didn't inspire action, movement, and change. The test of a great leader? They make things happen. They get things done through others.
It would seem that leadership development should work towards these three big ideas of people, influence, and action. That curriculum might include some of the following:
People: Leaders should be developing their people skills and knowledge. They should be learning the psychology behind what makes people tick, they should be developing relationship skills, and they should be learning to communicate effectively with others. Great leaders have high emotional intelligence, which is difficult to learn. Keep in mind this doesn't mean that leaders must be good with masses of people. Some leaders are better in small groups or teams, but all excel at working with people.
Influence: Leaders should develop their ability to affect change in others. They should work on being trustworthy. At the risk of being cliché, great leaders walk the walk. They do what they say and practice what they preach. They have integrity. Counterintuitively, they must effectively develop themselves to gain influence over others. You can read more on the currency of influence here.
Action: Leaders should work to develop their ability to drive action. They should be good project managers, increase their ability to organize, and develop their abilities to focus, simplify, and move. Great leaders are not simply remembered for ideas. They are not regarded for thought alone, but also for their implementation. Leaders execute. They
know how to cast a vision, define a path, and get there.
How do you define leadership? What are the most effective ways to develop leaders?