What is Leadership?

April 2, 2007

Leadership can be defined in many different ways. Every individual has a different opinion on what makes a good leader. However, there are some key ‘ingredients’ that make a strong leader. In the following article I will attempt to characterize what a leader is. Also, I will incorporate the thoughts and views of others concerning leadership and attempt to show a full picture from different perspectives.

To begin explaining leadership, we must first take a look at a few definitions. Dictionary.com defines a leader as “a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.” It also defines leadership as “an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction.” These are both vague definitions and they don’t give us much insight into our topic. I continue my search for more information on leaders and leadership. According to Army Regulation 600-100 (Army Leadership), “the Army defines leadership as influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission and improve organization.” Finally, this is a definition with some meat that we can dive in to.

The basic role of a leader is obviously to lead. A leader is responsible for making sure the mission gets done properly in an efficient manner. He/she is responsible for properly tasking his/her subordinates and supervising their production. The leader is also responsible for making on-the-spot corrections, in the event one of the subordinates is performing their duty incorrectly or inefficiently.

A leader must also analyze the methods his/her subordinates are using to produce a goal. Using personal experience and knowledge he/she must mentor his/her subordinates. However, there is a fine line between mentoring and micromangeing. The leader must observe their subordinates and decide how much mentoring each needs. Some subordinates need little or no supervision and can operate more efficiently when left alone. However, some need constant supervision and prods in the right direction. An effective leader can inspire even the subordinate to want to learn more and seek constant self improvement. Eventually the end result is a subordinate who no longer needs the constant supervision and can perform on his/her own.

Another important function of the leader is to inspire his/her subordinates. Through personal counseling with the subordinate, the leader and subordinate can establish a personal dialogue. In this dialog the leader can identify his subordinates goals, weaknesses and strengths. The leader should always strive to assist in the goals of his/her subordinates. The leader can also identify where best to place the individual, based on his/her weaknesses and strengths. Also, the leader should strive to help with the weaknesses of the individual, as well as, using the strengths of the individual to the best advantage.

A leader isn’t just responsible for his/her subordinates during the duty day. When a subordinate has trouble in his/her personal life it will affect his/her performance on duty. The personal dialogue established during the counseling process will help to identify any problems at home and allow the leader to help establish a solution. Sometimes the solution is as simple as giving the subordinate some guidance or letting them know that others have had the same problem and have made it through.

The leader remain aware of the morale of his team. If the morale is low it will effect productivity and performance. Sometimes simple things such as inter-office competitions can help with morale. There are times when the work load is very high and the environment in the office is stressful. In these situations, things such as a weekly or monthly team building event can help boost morale. A team building event can be as simple as cooking a few burgers together as a team on the weekend.

These are all qualities and traits of a good leader and good leadership. I invite responses to this post and would love to hear what you think. What traits do you think define leadership? Do you disagree with some of the traits above?


5 Responses to “What is Leadership?”

  1. Terri on April 2nd, 2007 4:39 am

    Great article Anthony. A good leader is one who will lead by example, not expecting those under them to do anything that they wouldn’t be willing to do themselves. By being willing to do so, this also serves an example of how the leader wishes for a specific task to be done.

  2. Anthony on April 2nd, 2007 9:55 am

    Ack, very important point Terri. One that I completely spaced out.

  3. Tracy on April 2nd, 2007 7:29 pm

    Great article Anthony. Good point Terri, I agree with your addition.

    The only other thing I would add is that a leader is willing to listen to those he is leading. You kind of mentioned that in the learning about the subordinates strenths and weaknesses through dialogue. But I guess I am talking about when the subordinate has a good idea (maybe better than the leaders?), a good leader will be willing to put pride aside and listen.

  4. Terri on April 2nd, 2007 7:39 pm

    Very good point Tracy. Not only does a leader have to be a mentor, but they should listen to those they lead as well. Luckily I have a supervisor like that.

  5. Anthony on April 2nd, 2007 9:08 pm

    Excellent addition Tracy. Listening is a very important skill for any leader.

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