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What is leadership?

Updated: Oct 18, 2022

Leadership. What is it? How do we know it? How do we recognize it? All burning questions that need to be much better understood when we think about managing and leading. Management has been around as a practice for a long time. Leadership in contrast is relatively new. We really didn’t learn about “leading” and the power of leadership until the 1940/1950’s as new research emerged giving us clues that as humans we needed something much different.

Unfortunately, we’ve not done a great job of explaining or helping others to understand what “leading” and “leadership” is. Historically, we’ve labeled “leaders” as those who have moved into positions with titles like: Director, Sr Director, Vice President, executive something, based entirely on actions like: creating a vision, setting strategy, making executive level decisions, and/or approving the spending of lots of corporate money. We have completely ignored the most important elements of leadership: reciprocal conversations, relationships, and influence (among so much more!), feeling heard.

Leadership is about getting things accomplished through people, while management is about accomplishing a task. Sadly, we continue to promote individuals who manage rather than lead. We look entirely at the outcome not how we arrived at the outcome. There is a significant difference between the two. So, to answer the burning question: how do we know it, feel it, recognize it? Its a bit like being in love, difficult to describe but we know it when we feel it. So, how does your workplace/leader/colleagues, etc., make you feel? Are you excited to go to work? Do you feel that you’re at your best? Do you get to contribute and feel heard? Are you in love with your workplace?

Its time to re-think leadership. Create a culture of leaders by ensuring that everyone has access to leadership development, because we all lead!

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