What is Leadership?

What is leadership?

Despite the simplicity of the Miriam Webster Dictionary definition of leadership: “a position as a leader of a group, organization, etc.”, in practice, there are many ways to define leadership. In fact, the Business News Daily recently published 33 definitions of leadership!

I like Kevin Kruse's definition, "Leadership is a process of social influence which maximizes efforts of others towards achievement of a goal."

This definition includes five key elements that are worthy of consideration.

  • First of all, Kruse defines leadership as a process recognizing that it involves a series of actions or steps to be taken over time to achieve an outcome rather than a static position.
  • Second, leadership arises from social influence, not authority or power. Thus leadership is something that virtually anyone can engage in from any level within or outside an organization.
  • Third, leadership requires other people. While self-leadership is the first developmental step, as leaders evolve, they learn to influence the efforts of others. Notice that there is no reference here to "direct reports" or to people over whom you hold power.
  • Fourth, leadership requires maximizing efforts of other people. In other words, leadership involves influencing others to give their very best: to contribute their best knowledge, expertise, skills, resources, strength, abilities.
  • Fifth, this definition includes a goal - a target - a specific outcome acknowledging that influencing others to maximize their efforts without a specific goal is wasted effort.

Notice that Kruse makes no mention of specific skills, attributes, education, personality traits, titles or gender thus recognizing that there are many paths to effective leadership.

At the Acacia Institute, our focus is on women. We believe that effective leadership in 21st century organizations requires that leaders grow and develop, evolving and adapting to ever changing conditions. To support the creation of exceptional women leaders, we have built our programs on four specific pillars:

  • Communication – to influence others requires the ability to effectively communicate
  • Personal Power – to influence others requires individual power, power that emanates from within rather than power that arises from position
  • Business Acumen – to influence others, to maximize the efforts of others towards a specific goal requires a fundamental understanding of how business works
  • Leadership – starting with self-leadership, individuals evolve and expand their abilities to influence individuals, teams and organizations

Through our competency-based programs, we provide women with opportunities to understand their own authentic strengths and abilities, to collaborate with others to achieve common goals, to be accountable as role models and participants in the journey, to be compassionate as they lead and encourage others to contribute their best, to be innovative as they learn and grow and polish their skills, and to be ambitious in setting goals for themselves and others.


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