What Leadership Is will become the go-to guide that will help new leaders quickly start their leadership journeys. New leaders will understand what leadership really is. And they will learn the art of inspiring, motivating, and influencing people. They will also know the how-to of effective leadership.
If you are a new leader and you want to make an immediate positive impact, trust that this guide is for you.
It is a common mistake that one becomes a leader upon an appointment of a title. Leadership is more than a title or a position, although a simple definition considers a group of people who make decisions as “leadership.”
To understand what leadership is, we need to consider leaders in the real world. Title, position, or charisma may help you become a leader, but you don’t need them to start leading others.
A leader is not a boss. Some managers love hearing people call them boss, but many deserve boos. A leader influences you to do what’s good for you and others.
You are a good leader when you recognize and appreciate the assets of each follower, maximize their efforts, and multiply their impact to create the future they care about.
Leadership is both an art and a science.
As an artist, the leader needs passion, talent, and commitment to lead others.
As a scientist, a leader must know the principles, models, practices, and skills necessary to get things done with others.
What Leadership Is About
Leadership is about helping people co-create the better future they really care about.
It begins with you, but it is not about you. Leadership is about the people you lead.
For this reason, your people can replace you when you are no longer serving them.
And that’s okay.
You let go of leadership when you start to become the obstacle. Your purpose is to help people.
Leadership is about co-creation. People come together to realize a shared purpose.
Each one has a role to play.
In this sense, everyone is playing a leadership role. Some roles are bigger than others, but each is creating a new reality.
Leadership is about a new future. You don’t lead to making things stay the same.
This is why a conservative leader is an oxymoron.
There are things we need to retain, but leadership is about progress. If the intention is to make things stay the same, we don’t need a leader. Leaders initiate change.
The meaning of leadership differs from one person to another. We are meaning-making people.
To define is to name and limit the meaning of something for common understanding. When we define an abstract concept like leadership and leading, we can start a conversation and understand where each one is coming from, so we can decide where to go.
I will start by distinguishing a boss from a leader, then I will share the common definition of leadership as well as my best definition.
Near the bottom of the page, I will also share with you ideas on leadership skills and leadership training.
What is a boss?
A boss is a person in charge of someone, a group, or an organization. An employee is answerable to a boss.
Pejoratively, the word boss may also refer to someone who orders in a domineering manner. People do not like to be bossed around.
The word also has a positive meaning. Someone who does an outstanding or excellent job is the real boss.
In the Philippines, we commonly use the word boss to refer to an amo (employer) and bisor (supervisor). You ought to follow someone who is paying your salary. The amo is the ultimate boss.
The bisor is a supervisor. He has power over an employee because of legitimate power. That power comes from an employment contract which says one has to follow the order of a supervisor. Not following his order is insubordination. However, that power can be taken away by the amo.
People follow a boss because of legitimate power. Becoming a boss does not automatically makes one a leader. Many bosses are hated because they lack leadership skills or because they are power trippers.
Power-trippers are bosses who abuse their legitimate power because they can. They always want to emphasize that they are the boss, that is, they can make your work life miserable.
Power-trippers find it challenging to become good leaders not for lack of skills, but for the wrong attitude about power.
For now, keep these two things in mind:
- A boss can be a leader.
- A leader does not need to be a boss. A leader can lead without a title.
- A leader does not boss people around and he can effectively use his personal and legitimate powers to make things happen.
What is a leader?
A leader is a person who influences, guides, enables and inspires others to achieve a shared purpose. People follow a leader because of personal power.
Personal power comes from a leader’s ability to build trust, confidence, and people. Charismatic leaders often possess both legitimate and personal power.
Leaders differ in characteristics, styles, and strategies for leading people.
A leader who possesses a legitimate power may compel others to follow him and a personal power that is based on respect, trust, and confidence in his leadership.
Though there no leaders are the same, experts come up with leadership models to define good leadership and model people after a model.
What is leadership?
Here are the most common definitions of leadership.
Leadership refers to a group of leaders with the mandate, authority, and responsibility to lead an organization to realize its vision and fulfill its mission while staying true to commonly shared beliefs. These leaders design strategies, set goals and objectives, implement policies and execute plans.
In addition, they must conduct themselves according to the organization’s rules, enable other leaders, improve processes, and motivate people.
Leadership may also refer to a person’s actions and activities to influence people to take action. Leadership requires a clear understanding of people’s motivation, building trust, and the ability to sell a better future for everyone. In this sense, leadership does not require a position or title. Leadership is influence.
Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, guide, and enable others to make things happen. You need leadership to accomplish a project, solve challenges, manage a business, or lead a movement. One does need a title or charisma to be a leader.
What is the best definition of leadership?
Leadership is the actions of individuals working together to make their inspiring vision of the future happen. Leaders challenge, encourage, inspire, influence, equip, and enable each other to transform and become the person they want to be in the place where they want to be.
They are mindful of who and where they are. They take ownership of their problems and challenge the status quo.
The seed of leadership begins with one who dares to articulate what others are afraid to speak about for fear of being ridiculed, mocked and harmed. The first follower who becomes a leader gives life to leadership.
In essence, leadership brings out the leaders in other people to make things happen.
The meaning of the last sentence is significant. A great leader does not make leaders out of people. Instead, he brings out the leaders in them. These leaders will do everything to make their vision real.
What leadership is not?
Leadership is not about bossing people around. You can tell people to do something because their employment depends on their ability to please you.
But your happiness is not their happiness. Insecure bosses often fail, so they become power-trippers.
Even not-so-powerful people resort to power-tripping.
It isn’t about having people follow you because you pay for their services.
You don’t exercise leadership with the waiter who serves your food.
You don’t exercise leadership with an employee who is afraid to lose his job when you are not pleased.
You don’t exercise leadership with someone who will do anything for a price.
You exercise leadership when people work with you to achieve shared dreams. Even in your absence, they will continue to work to see that they finish what you started.
We will explore each of these concepts later. Let us define leadership development.
Leadership development refers to the process and activities that ensure leaders acquire the confidence and competence to lead. Leadership development may include training, mentoring, coaching, and self-learning.
For an organization to succeed, it must develop leaders. Allow me to explain further.
You can be appointed to important positions because of your technical skills. Or get a post because of your ability to connect with people.
But leaders must make people deliver. And people are not as predictable as machines or mathematical equations.
Leaders must make people love what they hate. Leaders must make people believe they can go beyond their limits. Leaders must make the possible probable.
Everyone in the organization has the potential to lead others. But not everyone has the knowledge, skills, and disposition of leadership. This is why companies design interventions to develop leaders.
Interventions are enablers. Examples of interventions are training, coaching, mentoring, and counseling.
For professionals to succeed, they must invest in technical, interpersonal, and leadership skills.
The most common intervention is training.
Now, that you have learned what leadership is about, let’s explore the 4 simple steps to grow your leadership.
How to Be a Breakthrough Leader
I will share with you four ways to grow your leadership. These ideas are very simple, you might ignore them. Please don’t. Start seeing yourself as a leader today and do what good leaders do.
Know what you want to achieve and WHY. Leadership is moving from A to B or C or D. You want something better than today. Be clear about what you want for yourself and others.
If you can only think of your dream, that’s okay. Leadership begins with self.
If you want to make a difference in the lives of other people, then I suggest you figure out how you can sell your ideas to these people. Your vision will become a shared vision.
A vision shared with others is more challenging and rewarding. This means you have to learn how to communicate more effectively.
In my life, I have been elected too many times to leadership. But you can say that I was a hesitant leader. I did not want to lead. But there are people who pushed me, and because of what they did, I learned little things about leadership.
One of those things is that you have to set your goals. Set goals for your organization. Set goals for your people. Set goals for yourself.
Many times, I found myself overachieving. Not because I am a great leader. It was because I set smaller goals.
You can set your big hairy audacious goals. If it makes your hairy stand, that’s a pretty good clue that you are doing it right. Don’t worry if your goal sounds like an impossible dream. Every great thing starts as impossible.
Later, you will discover how to turn your goals into milestones. Milestones are possible and doable achievements.
Again, you can make your leadership a goal. You can move from X to Y by When.
Examine where you are now. This is very important. You need to know your present situation or the situation of the people you want to lead.
It is important that while you are looking at the heavens (your vision), you are very much aware of where you are standing.
Some gurus recommend that you do your personal SWOT. You can try that too.
My recommendation is to focus on what you have. Consider what strengths and opportunities you have today.
Do your SOAR assessment.
Begin with your strengths. Think about all your experiences and those times when you are at your best. Rediscover the assets and talents you have.
Explore the Opportunities. Your strengths can tell you a lot more about what you can do with others. When I discovered that my stories can make people listen and inspire them to do something about their lives, I started to think of many opportunities to help others.
Identify all your aspirations. What change do you want to see in the world? What value do you want to create? Dream big and let your dreams inspire you.
Determine your results. What is the positive impact you want to make happen? This is a goal, your big hairy audacious goal.
With SOAR, you can bring Step 1 and Step 2 together. In truth, it does not matter which one comes first. These are not really steps going upward. This is an iterative process. You will keep going back to what you already have, and you will improve how you construct your goals.
Just focus on what you already have.
A common pitfall is to focus on what you don’t have. Many leaders do not move until everything is ideal.
But our situations seldom become ideal. We cannot wait until life is not hard anymore before we choose to act.
You already have talents, skills, and maybe resources you can use. Find out how you can get started with them to reach your goal.
Before you take action, you need to identify the opportunities for growth. This is why it is important to zero in on your realities. You will discover many opportunities you can use to speed up your leadership.
Find out how you can move strategically from where you are to where you want to go.
Before I decided to become an inspirational speaker, I was a school teacher. I have stories to tell. I was a decent speaker, having been trained in debate, theater, street activism, and as a classroom teacher.
I have leadership qualities, talents, and skills I can use. I read books on professional speaking, selling, and marketing. But I knew I need something more. The ability to teach in a classroom is not the same as the ability to wow a paying audience.
I needed to evolve. That means I have to work on crucial leadership skills which I still don’t have. I must amplify what I already have and find complementary skills to multiply my impact.
I explored the strategies and techniques of those leaders I look up to. I did not just pick the “famous” leadership gurus. Instead, I looked for leaders who are living the life that I desire.
Anyhow, one of the strategies I found is to speak often and well. This is why I joined Toastmasters International and offered myself as a speaker in Rotary International and other civic organizations. I used email to reach out to as many people as possible.
When it comes to your leadership, you also need to explore the strategies and tactics that can help you become a better leader.
You need a strong will to start and continue toward the fulfillment of your vision as a leader. Many dreamers plan for their success with full enthusiasm, but lose the will at the first fall.
Leadership is not a position alone. It is a disposition. You can do the first steps above sitting down or while drinking your favorite coffee at Starbucks.
But the will to go on when no one seems to believe in you is the true essence of leadership.
That’s because a leader who believes in the nobleness of his mission and who cares about the people he is leading will not stop until he makes things happen.
I recommend that you use my version of the Personal Development Plan in creating your Leadership Development Plan. Steps 3 and 4 ensure that you keep on moving each day.
The six articles below can also help you get started in your leadership journey.
You can also find inspiration in the five exemplary leadership practices I explained below. These are the best practices of good leaders worldwide.
Developing leadership competencies can make you an effective and influential leader. Competencies are performance enablers. Competencies are sets of knowledge and skills that help leaders achieve their objectives.
The leaders most people know are those who get elected to office. Often, they rely on name recall and charisma. But charisma isn’t enough to make a big difference.
Think about the charismatic political leaders we had. Unfortunately, those who lack leadership skills failed us. They promised the heavens and the stars but could not deliver their promises.
To become effective, you must identify and master the skills you need to deliver your tasks, projects, or vision.
Leadership training refers to instructional and experiential activities provided to leaders in an organization to increase knowledge, build skills, and develop the standards for leading people and growing the business. Effective leadership training will help leaders do their jobs correctly and purposefully.
Most training programs for leaders are based on the idea that leaders have to develop a specific set of skills.
These providers design leadership training programs the way they design training for technical skills. This is not effective.
You can train someone how to assemble a cellular phone. You can train everyone with the same steps. You cannot do this in training.
Once you recognize that you do not grow to fit in a box, then you will focus on creating opportunities for leaders to grow.
You can take a peek at the leadership training programs I design for companies.
Supervisory Training: 10 Courses to Develop Essential Skills for Supervisors
Leadership Training Programs: 25 Workshops
21 Key Benefits of Leadership Training 
Continue your journey to good leadership. Explore the following articles and share them with others.
When people ask you why you are doing what you are doing, what would be your answer? May these articles help you clarify your purpose.
- Mission, Vision, and Values spell your strategic direction. I call it your purpose or your WHYs for leading.
- 7 Questions to Clarify Team Purpose. Knowing your purpose is the beginning of your leadership. But you won’t stop there. You must understand both personal and team purposes.
- 7 Practical Self-Leadership Tips. These tips are for supervisors, but anyone who desires to become a better leader will also find these tips practical.
- Embrace Winning Personal Values. Not all values are equal. Many values limit us, and some values empower us. Choosing values is a deliberate effort.
- Filipino Values. Knowing the values of the people you lead provides clues on how they make decisions. I explained the values most Filipinos share and shared ways you can use them in the workplace.
- Leadership Characteristics. Discover the qualities of good leaders. Take inventory of the qualities you already possess and explore other desirable characteristics.
- 21 Benefits of Leadership Training. Every employee deserves to enjoy the benefits of leadership training. Find out why.
Mindset & Principles
One can develop the skills necessary to lead people. But with the wrong mindset, we won’t go further. Our mindset defines our distance and velocity.
- 19 Leadership Principles. Have you written your leadership principles? You need to know your non-negotiables.
- Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset. Leaders who embrace a growth mindset are the ones who make breakthroughs. Find out why.
- 1000x Mindset. How does one dream bigger dreams? A thousandfold mindset is my answer.
- Today is the Best Time to Take the Lead. The pandemic disrupted our lives; good leaders emerged.
- Passion for Excellence. Do better than your best.
- Be the Power of One. You can start with only one person: you.
- Why They Are Afraid to Lead. Excuses, mostly.
You can explore more articles in the blog. I recommend you explore the topics of Good Leadership and Personal Growth.