What Is Leadership

Jesus of Nazereth had it. George Washington had it.  Steve Jobs had it. Mark Zuckerberg has it.  What is it? It is leadership.  We can all agree on what it is and who has it, but how do we define it?  What is Leadership?

What is Leadership?

There we all were, standing in a line, looking down at our feet.  The room was draped in silence.  Aside from the occasional shifting of weight from one foot to the other, no oone moved, no one budged at the request before us.  “That’s enough” I thought to myself and I stepped forward.  “I will be a leader” I blurted out.

This was a common occurrence for me during my life.  Many times as in a group that was called to lead, and many times, I was one of only a very few who had the courage to step out and become a leader.  At the time I didn’t really know what leadership was or what it took to become a good leader.  I had to ask myself, “what is leadership?”  This is my answer.

Leadership is:

Confidence – A leader must be confident that he can create change.  The very need for a leader suggests that something is not right, and the leader, by accepting the role, is accepting the challenge to fix things.

Bravery – Think of George Washington leading his men across the Potomac River, or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marching in the face of adversity.  A leader must be outspoken, creating a voice for those he leads.  Often times he will face certain opposition.

Clarity – He must be able to see the forest through the trees.  A leader can’t get tied up on each tree.  He must be able to see the whole picture at once yet have the focus to see the individual trees as well.  You must be able to see and aim for the ideal.

Intelligence – The ability to outthink the problems that lie in the way of achieving the team’s goals and desires is and essential skill needed by anyone who will try to answer the question “what is leadership?”

Responsibility – People’s lives hang in the balance and they have chosen to entrust the leader with them.  Whether it be an army or a business, the livelihood of your followers hinges on your ability to succeed.  A leader must know this and be willing to shoulder the burden.

Respect – Fear and Love.  A leader will be feared when they are crossed and loved when they are successful.  People will follow you solely to unload the responsibility for their fate on you because they are too weak to carry it themselves.  They’ll be quick to congratulate and even quicker to berate.

Track Record – a leader must have some background credentials that prove they can succeed.  Great leadership is not something achieved over night but a lifetime of winning larger and larger battles.  See my post Leadership is Like Golf for more on developing a great track record.

Trust – finally, leadership is trust.  A leader must be a person whom others can follow and know that they won’t be misled or mistreated.

So, what is leadership?  Leadership is a culmination of these things; confidence, bravery, clarity, intelligence, responsibility, respect, track record, and trust.  When all these are combined in one person, that person is destined to be a leader.


Do you have it?  Can your actions answer the question “What Is Leadership?”


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