What is Leadership?

What is leadership?  Somebody asked me this the other day, and, as usual, I had some trouble answering it as a definition.

You see, I put answering this question in a similar bucket as answering the “what is love?” question.  How do you answer, “What is love?”  When a young teen going through the drama of first-love pangs asks it, what do you say?  I usually answer with something rather lame like, “Hum, that’s hard to answer.  Let’s just say, you know it when you see it or feel it.”  Well, I have the same problem with the leadership question and my answers are usually about as lame.  So, what is leadership?

  • It’s a child who confesses to breaking something when everyone fully thought the cat did it.
  • It’s a boy who stops on their way to practice to help a woman carry bottled waters across school campus.
  • It’s a young man who gives up his aisle seat on the plane and takes a less comfortable middle seat so a young woman on crutches can be more comfortable.
  • It’s a famous COO who expresses her vulnerability by sharing her grief with the world to inspire and help others feel okay about their own grief.
  • It’s a young man who continues to play even though in pain so he doesn’t let down his team.
  • It’s an employee who comes in for 21 straight days (yes, even weekends) to help out a fellow employee who is injured and can’t fulfill all of their duties.
  • It’s a teenage girl who goes to prom with an autistic boy who is shunned by the crowd because she knows it is a once in a lifetime event and she doesn’t want him to miss out.
  • It’s a CEO who sells his company but shares the profit from the sale with his employees because they were the ones who got him where he is.
  • It’s a mom who spends her life savings to the point of bankruptcy to pay for a cancer drug for her daughter.
  • It’s a community that raises money to help the children of a fallen police officer go to college.
  • It’s firefighters who yearly go to the great southwest to fight brush fires in the tremendous heat.
  • It’s a company that understands when they’ve done wrong by customers and admits it even if it means a PR nightmare.

I could go on and on but I think – and hope – you get the picture.  Leadership is not about 50 habits or laws, it’s not something we can put on a matrix or whittle down to an acronym, it’s about stepping up to do what is right, even when it is hard or might make us look bad.  It is inspiring those around us to be better than we thought we could be.  It’s not a title, a position, an age, a race, a gender or a level of education.  Much like love, you know it when you see it or feel it and it makes you a better person.  Join me in my quest, what’s on your list?  Let me know, what is leadership?

One thought on “What is Leadership?

  1. Leadership is tricky to describe as you say, but is better shown by the actions that show it. It is like your definition of Integrity…”.Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.”

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