Definition Of A Leader : What Makes A Leader A LEADER?

What is the definition of a leader? The simplest definition is likely someone who leads, guides and inspires a group of followers.

To delve deeper into what is defined into leadership, you will have to understand the various theories that explains what leadership is and how does one define leadership?

The theories that exist be it traits, behavioral, contingency or transformational take into consideration the role of a leader, what it does, the process and implications of the style of leadership. One thing is clear; the definition of a leader has been argued and debated for a long time. Throw in the classic like - is a leader born or made and the difference between a manager and a leader, one can actually get even more confused.

As someone in the working world, it is important to understand the role of leaders and also what leadership means. At some point, you will have to develop leadership skills yourself and it is never too late to start building these leadership skills.

A definition of a leader must take into account leadership. A leader in majority of the time finds himself in a position of authority but this position does not mean he automatically provides leadership. In fact, on many occasions we find people who are in the position of leader do not provide leadership at all.

So, a leader being a position of authority must provide leadership. This leadership must be able to crystallize the vision that needs to be achieved by the group of followers. A leader must give his people a sense of purpose, an objective to achieve, and to rally people towards this cause.

He is able to achieve this by building upon trust and respect from his people by loving his people. In fact, leaders are people who are not afraid to dish out tough love, meaning praise when credit is due but punish when a mistake is made. A leader makes tough decisions and prepares the team for the stress that will follow. He prepares his team for change and manages the disruption change brings to his unit.

He will also push someone under him to be the best that they can be. He challenges this person because he understands that as the people under him grows, he as a leader grows too. And the growth is good for the unit he is leading.

Which brings us on to leaders who are good at reaching an objective but not very skillful at creating relationships with his people. There are also those who are excellent at building bonds but aren’t competent at the task at hand. So, a leader by definition should be competent and being competent at deploying resources to achieve the team’s objective.

A leader needs to inspire the team and hence communication is an important aspect of being a leader. A leader needs to be able to speak to different levels of the organization in order to inspire his followers to rally towards the organization’s cause.

So, what is the definition of a leader? A leader is someone in a position of leadership that inspires a team of followers by earning their trust and respect via good example and being competent at what he does. He is authentic in building on this relationship with them and pushes them to reach their potential. He motivates them in times of change and manages the change in order for the team to reach the collective goal.

That hopefully is a succinct definition of a leader that will help you in your quest to build your own understanding of leaders and leadership.



Here are my recommended books and articles on leadership.


Harvard Business Review on Leadership (Harvard Business Review Paperback Series) has a good collection of classic articles on leadership and its challenges. It includes classics like What Leaders Really Do (John P. Kotter), Managers and Leaders: Are They Different? (Abraham Zaleznik) and The Work of Leadership (Ronald A. Heifetz and Donald L. Laurie).

Harvard Business Review on Breakthrough Leadership contains important work on leadership like - Primal Leadership: The Hidden Driver of Great Performance from Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee.

Lastly, Harvard Business Review on What Makes a Leader has an excellent collection of articles that includes What Makes a Leader (Daniel Goleman), Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, the Inevitable Cons (Michael Maccoby) and Why Should Anyone Be Led By You (Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones).




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