According to research, the definition of leadership is: a process in which an individual influences, directs, guides, and empowers others to achieve a common goal.
Peter Drucker claims the famous quote, “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
My personal interpretation of leadership is constantly growing and becoming more defined as I gain knowledge and experience. What is it that distinguishes a leader from a follower? Personally, I believe every true leader learned how to follow before they learned how to lead. There are those who have a natural tendency to lead others and those who tend to wait for instruction but “great” leadership comes with experience, education, and practicing new acquired knowledge.
How do you gain experience? How do you gain education and knowledge? These are things that you must learn through research, practice, mentors, and learning from personal mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. Nobody is perfect and nobody knows everything. Experience is gained through failure. Show me a leader who hasn’t failed, and I will show you an individual who has never tried. Experience and knowledge stem from failure because mistakes must be learned from. Committing the same mistake and never learning is a version of insanity. The legal definition of insanity is “mental illness of such a severe nature that a person can not conduct his/her affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior.” However, there is a more common definition that states, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” This has been attributed to Albert Einstein, Rita Mae Brown, and others but Rita Mae Brown is the only one who has the phrase published. Regardless, the phrase has caught hot water over the years because people take it too literally. All the phrase refers to is mistakes… If you touch something hot and you burn yourself, will you do it again? NO! And anyone who claims otherwise could probably be categorized into the legal definition of insanity 😛 The phrase does not refer to actions that take time and practice to perfect such as running or weight loss. Jim Collins said, “Reward excellent failures; Punish mediocre successes.” Failure should be utilized as a learning tool so as not to fail at the initial intended goal again. From failure rises success when positively motivated to always improve and learn.
Leadership can either be done well or not at all. A mediocre leader is a failed leader in my opinion. Colin Powell said, “ Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.” A leader who is constantly motivating and empowering others is an individual who is building more leaders. A true leader develops more great leaders; an individual who keeps others as followers is not a leader.
Now, I must emphasize that a “great” leader is a person who knows how to get others to achieve the mission; however, there is a difference between an ethical leader and an unethical leader. An ethical leader may not be a good leader while an unethical leader has the power to motivate the masses. For example, let’s use Hitler as an individual who was an extremely unethical leader but he knew how to motivate others into achieving his mission and he did it well. The differences between a good leader and a bad leader differ immensely from an ethical leader and an unethical leader.
My personal philosophy on leadership is exactly that, a personal philosophy. I believe that in order to lead well, you must understand yourself first and foremost. How can the blind lead the blind? Not very well. When you understand yourself, everything in front of you becomes much clearer. Having the emotional intelligence to understand others stems from a COMPLETE understanding of yourself as a person. In gaining that knowledge, you gain insight into why and how others will react to a situation.
Leadership is: the courage to make ethical decisions; the determination to follow through on all actions; the perseverance to aim for success consistently; the humility to admit failure; the desire to learn from failure for future success; the constant pursuit of new knowledge; the drive to maintain forward motion in all actions attempted; the strength to be a mentor with the obligation of educating future leaders; the adamant attention to detail; the intelligence to understand, and utilize as a resource, the existence of individuals encompassing a higher level of knowledge or expertise than yourself; and a prevailing attitude of WINNING in everything you do.