Based in Sydney, Australia, Foundry is a blog by Rebecca Thao. Her posts explore modern architecture through photos and quotes by influential architects, engineers, and artists.

What is Leadership and Why Does it Matter

It's been said before that you learn the most when you teach. For me, that is so incredibly true. I love to study the topics of leadership, creativity, and innovation. Even greater than my love for study, though, is my love for teaching these subjects. My passion for teaching does come from a desire to share what I know and help people grow, but it is equally driven by my desire to learn and develop myself. I learn so much more about a subject when I attempt to teach it. In that spirit, I thought I would share with you not only my thoughts on leadership, but what others have taught me.

This past Friday I sat down with my staff team to talk leadership. This is something we do almost weekly. My team includes three paid guys right now: Marc Birkey, Travis Williams,and Jacob Reynolds. We're currently reading some Harvard Business Review articles on the subject compiled in a book titled, "HBR Ten Must Reads on Leadership". Overall I'd say the book has been just OK, but the conversation this past week was exceptional. In light of our reading, and out of my own curiosity, I proposed three big and significant questions:

What is the definition of leadership?
What do leaders do?
Why does leadership matter?

The answers they came up with are awesome. I started taking notes because I was thrilled with what I was hearing. The following answers to these three questions are composites of my notes from this meeting. They include information from all four us, and it's really good stuff.

What Is The Definition of Leadership
Leadership is influencing people to take action. Leadership is giving credit and taking responsibility. Leadership is organizing chaos - bringing people together to accomplish a goal to their fullest ability. Leadership is helping people accomplish the tasks at hand.

What Do Leaders Do
Grow themselves first
Break behavior patterns
Ask questions
Guide change
Define the problem, not the answer
Take criticism
Fight for resources
Tolerate uncertainty
Maintain discipline
Empower people
Cast vision
Instill confidence
Help draw out the truth
Define what's important
Authentically care
Shape norms
Have difficult conversations

Why Does Leadership Matter
On a psychological level, people need leadership. Something in us looks for leadership. Things have a tendency to break down towards chaos without leadership. We do our best work when led and organized. The Bible says, "where there is no vision the people parish". Leadership is a universal skill needed in every discipline, which is why it's worth learning and developing. Anyone can be a leader.

So there you have it. Some awesome information on what leadership is and why it matters. To a certain extent I know that leadership cannot simply be boiled down to a task list. It's much more abstract than that. At the same time I think leadership too often becomes this mythical, unreachable, quality. For me, as I attempt to become a better leader, I'm going to keep this stuff in front of me. My goal is to lead everyday, and a large part of that is working towards the things on this list.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, I have a request. I would love for you to add to this conversation. I want to learn form you and your perspective. So I'll end this post by proposing the same big and significant questions for you to answer here in the comments or, if it's easier, you can email your answers to micahy[at]

What is the definition of leadership? What do leaders do? Why does it matter?

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