What is Leadership?

Victory is not defeating others. Victory is winning others.

The three skills that people in an organization have are leading, managing, and working. Every person has a combination of all three. I refer to a leader as someone who is strongest in leadership, a manager as one who is strongest in management and a worker as one who is strongest in workmanship.

To understand better what leadership is, let us first discuss it in the context of what leadership is not.

Leadership is not equivalent to managing others. A leader manages him/her self while teaching and guiding people to manage themselves and others.

Leadership is different from management in several aspects. While a person can be a good leader as well as a good manager, the two are two different talents. A President & CEO needs to be both a leader and a manager. The Chief Architect can just be a leader. A Project Manager can be just a manager. A programmer can just be a worker. A manager often needs to make others do things, but rarely needs to do those things her/himself. This does not imply that a manager’s role is less significant. The manager does the important work of making the workers successfully do their work.

A manager does not need to be an innovator, but a leader needs to be. A manager follows the rules and makes workers follow the rules. A manager is most effective when things are going according to plan. A leader on the other hand, is equally effective when things are going according to plan or not. A leader rewrites the rules when necessary. A leader guides the manager in coming up with a new plan when needed. A leader often realizes it even before a new plan is needed. A leader is a visionary. A leader imagines great things. The leader formulates a high level plan. The manager creates a detailed plan from that and manages workers to implement using that plan.

To be a leader does not mean being a high and mighty boss. A leader is a servant as much as a commander. A good leader cares about others. A leader must lead others to success. If a leader’s goal was to achieve success only for one’s own self, then I’d call him or her a climber, for one who climbs to success, but not a leader. A leader who does not benefit others serves no purpose in an organization or in society.

Being a leader sometimes requires sacrificing ones own interests for the good of others.

Contrary to some beliefs, a leader should be generally popular and liked. A leader does not do just what the leader thinks is best for others, but what the team decides is best for the team. A leader provides results and enlightenment (as in understanding of those results). If people consistently do not understand what or why the leader is doing, the leader needs to be replaced. A leader realizes that people are intelligent and gives them appropriate credit.

A leader is not merely a teacher. A leader is a student and an instructor.

Leadership is not easy. It is not for everyone. Can anyone become a good leader? Yes. Should everyone become a leader? No. (As an illustration consider the question: Should everyone become a carpenter? No.)

(Note: In his career, the author has been successful and won awards while working at various levels of Programmer, Manager, Regional Director, Vice President and External Consultant. The knowledge presented here is compiled from those experiences and by learning from others. The author does not claim these ideas as original.)





One response to “What is Leadership?”

  1. Dr. Neha Arya

    I tend to agree very insightful.Recently I was reading about ZPLP – Zero-based Proactive Learning Paradigm, as explained in the seminar and book – Nurturing Business Leaders – by three doctoral scholars of Manchester Business School, UK book published in India by – http://www.sterlingpublishers.com – the concepts need to change with change. (Amazon.com)

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