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What, really, is leadership?

I am fortunate to be teaching/facilitating a graduate course called Influential Leadership for a local university so have been immersed in that topic for the past month. 

Which leads me to today's question: what, really, is leadership?

There are probably as many definitions of that word as there are leaders, so ust defining the term has led to some great dialogue.

Here is one of the best definitions I've come across. It's by Joseph Rost in his book "Leadership for the 21st Century":

Leadership is a dynamic relationship based on mutual influence and common purpose between leaders and collaborators in which both are moved to higher levels of motivation and moral development as they affect real, intended change.

 In many corporate settings, this definition is nothing more than theory. It seems more often people are promoted to positions which should involve a level of leadership, but which instead end up exposing fears, limitations and incompetence.

I'll never forget being at a retreat a few years ago where a woman with a prominent position in a Fortune 100 company made the declaration that she didn't want to be considered a leader because that title carried with it a lot of baggage she didn't want to have to live up to or be burdened with.

What is it about the word "leader" that brings up so much emotion?

There is a distinction between leaders and managers that has been documented in many publications. Most of those distinctions claim that leaders lead people and managers manage systems; that leaders hold the vision and managers implement that vision.

In the class I'm teaching I'm beginning to see that although people don't seem to have trouble owning their title of leader, putting that title to action is where the fear comes in.

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