A New Definition of Leadership
In a recent blog post, Jesse Lyn Stoner shares that 86% of the respondents to a World Economic Forum survey believe there is a leadership crisis in the world today. Chances are you agree. But what exactly is the definition of leadership?
Highlights from the Article
Most dictionaries say “leadership is the act of leading.” The common definition of lead is: Show the way to a destination by going in front; be in charge of or command. (Merriam-Webster, Oxford, et.al.) But these definitions are rooted in the assumption that leadership is based on authority and hierarchy, and not everyone holds this outdated view.
Today, we realize that leadership involves influencing the direction people are going. And, since leadership efforts unite and mobilize followers, we could expand that to say: leadership involves influencing people to go somewhere together.
Stoner proposes this definition of leadership:
Leadership is a phenomenon that occurs when one influences the direction people are going and unites them toward accomplishing a common goal.
Instead of thinking of leadership as a role or as an action, with this definition we see leadership as a phenomenon that emerges.
This definition takes leadership out of the realm of power and control as it implies leadership is the result of a social contract, not simple cause and effect. Leadership is not reserved for the elite. Each moment holds a leadership opportunity. And it sets the stage to understand leadership from a perspective that:
Clearly separates the phenomenon of leadership from the role of leader.
Encourages people with good ideas to speak up and engage – to provide leadership.
Encourages the official leaders and others to recognize and value emergent leadership when it occurs.
Helps us in considering alternative organizational structures, rather than holding onto structures that support outdated, control-oriented models.
The Gifted Perspective
Jesse Lyn Stoner’s take on leadership is very compatible with ours. At Gifted Leaders, we believe that leadership is a collective capacity that is widely distributed. It extends beyond the formal, positional leader or just a few members of the senior leadership team and is a shared, co-constructed function that encompasses vision and strategy as well as day-to-day policies and procedures. Collective leadership invites and embraces a diversity of perspectives and relies on the intelligence and wisdom of the group.
The Center for Creative Leadership puts it this way: “We view leadership as the collective activities of organizational members to accomplish the tasks of setting direction, building commitment and creating alignment. Leadership is the potential outcome of interactions between groups of people rather than specific traits or skills of a single person.”
Unfortunately, though, Dee Hock is right, “It is true leadership - leadership by everyone - that this world so badly needs, and industrial age, dominator management that it so sadly gets.” We want to change that!
We will partner with you and your team to coach, consult, support, and encourage you through the process of “redefining leadership” for yourself, your team, and/or your organization. Contact us today about individual leadership coaching or our Teams That Talk™ coaching approach!
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