What is leadership?

  • August 17, 2022
  • Article"> Article (6 pages)

what is a leadership introduction

All leaders, to a certain degree, do the same thing. Whether you’re talking about an executive, manager, sports coach, or schoolteacher, leadership is about guiding and impacting outcomes, enabling groups of people to work together to accomplish what they couldn’t do working individually. In this sense, leadership is something you do, not something you are. Some people in formal leadership positions are poor leaders, and many people exercising leadership have no formal authority. It is their actions, not their words, that inspire trust and energy.

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What’s more, leadership is not something people are born with—it is a skill you can learn. At the core are mindsets, which are expressed through observable behaviors , which then lead to measurable outcomes. Is a leader communicating effectively or engaging others by being a good listener? Focusing on behaviors lets us be more objective when assessing leadership effectiveness. The key to unlocking shifts in behavior is focusing on mindsets, becoming more conscious about our thoughts and beliefs, and showing up with integrity as our full authentic selves.

There are many contexts and ways in which leadership is exercised. But, according to McKinsey analysis of academic literature as well as a survey of nearly 200,000 people in 81 organizations all over the world, there are four types of behavior that account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness :

Effective leaders know that what works in one situation will not necessarily work every time. Leadership strategies must reflect each organization’s context and stage of evolution. One important lens is organizational health, a holistic set of factors that enable organizations to grow and succeed over time. A situational approach  enables leaders to focus on the behaviors that are most relevant as an organization becomes healthier.

Senior leaders must develop a broad range of skills to guide organizations. Ten timeless topics are important for leading nearly any organization, from attracting and retaining talent  to making culture a competitive advantage. A 2017 McKinsey book, Leading Organizations: Ten Timeless Truths (Bloomsbury, 2017), goes deep on each aspect.

How is leadership evolving?

In the past, leadership was called “management,” with an emphasis on providing technical expertise and direction. The context was the traditional industrial economy command-and-control organization, where leaders focused exclusively on maximizing value for shareholders. In these organizations, leaders had three roles: planners (who develop strategy, then translate that strategy into concrete steps), directors (who assign responsibilities), or controllers (who ensure people do what they’ve been assigned and plans are adhered to).

What are the limits of traditional management styles?

Traditional management was revolutionary in its day and enormously effective in building large-scale global enterprises that have materially improved lives over the past 200 years. However, with the advent of the 21st century, this approach is reaching its limits.

For one thing, this approach doesn’t guarantee happy or loyal managers or workers. Indeed, a large portion of American workers—56 percent— claim their boss is mildly or highly toxic , while 75 percent say dealing with their manager is the most stressful part of their workday.

For 21st-century organizations operating in today’s complex business environment, a fundamentally new and more effective approach to leadership is emerging. Leaders today are beginning to focus on building agile, human-centered, and digitally enabled organizations able to thrive in today’s unprecedented environment and meet the needs of a broader range of stakeholders (customers, employees, suppliers, and communities, in addition to investors).

What is the emerging new approach to leadership?

This new approach to leadership is sometimes described as “ servant leadership .” While there has been some criticism of the nomenclature, the idea itself is simple: rather than being a manager directing and controlling people, a more effective approach is for leaders to be in service of the people they lead. The focus is on how leaders can make the lives of their team members easier—physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Research suggests this mentality can enhance both team performance and satisfaction.

In this new approach, leaders practice empathy, compassion, vulnerability, gratitude, self-awareness, and self-care. They provide appreciation and support, creating psychological safety so their employees are able to collaborate, innovate, and raise issues as appropriate. This includes celebrating achieving the small steps on the way to reaching big goals and enhancing people’s well-being through better human connections. These conditions have been shown to allow for a team’s best performance.

More broadly, developing this new approach to leadership can be expressed as making five key shifts that include, build on, and extend beyond traditional approaches:

Together, these shifts can help a leader expand their repertoire and create a new level of value for an organization’s stakeholders. The last shift is the most important, as it is based on developing a new level of consciousness and awareness of our inner state. Leaders who look inward  and take a journey of genuine self-discovery make profound shifts in themselves and their lives; this means they are better able to benefit their organization. That involves developing “profile awareness” (a combination of a person’s habits of thought, emotions, hopes, and behavior in different circumstances) and “state awareness” (the recognition of what’s driving a person to take action). Combining individual, inward-looking work with outward-facing actions can help create lasting change.

Leaders must learn to make these five shifts at three levels : transforming and evolving personal mindsets and behaviors; transforming teams to work in new ways; and transforming the broader organization by building new levels of agility, human-centeredness, and value creation into the entire enterprise’s design and culture.

An example from the COVID-19 era offers a useful illustration of this new approach to leadership. In pursuit of a vaccine breakthrough, at the start of the pandemic Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel increased the frequency of executive meetings  from once a month to twice a week. The company implemented a decentralized model enabling teams to work independently and deliver on the bold goal of providing 100 million doses of vaccines in 12 months. “The pace was unprecedented,” Bancel said.

What is the impact of this new approach to leadership?

This new approach to leadership is far more effective. While the dynamics are complex, countless studies show empirical links among effective leadership, employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and profitability.

How can leaders empower employees?

Empowering employees , surprisingly enough, might mean taking a more hands-on leadership approach. Organizations whose leaders successfully empower others through coaching are nearly four times more likely to make swift, good decisions and outperform other companies . But this type of coaching isn’t always natural for those with a more controlling or autocratic style.

Here are five tips to get started  if you’re a leader looking to empower others:

How can leaders communicate effectively?

Good, clear communication is a leadership hallmark. Fundamental tools of effective communication  include:

And in times of uncertainty, these things are important for crisis communicators :

Learn more about our People & Organizational Performance Practice .

Is leadership different in a hybrid workplace?

A leader’s role may look slightly different in remote or hybrid workplace settings . Rather than walking around a physical site, these leaders might instead model what hybrid looks like, or orchestrate work based on tasks, interactions, or purpose. Being communicative and radiating positivity  can go a long way. Leaders need to find other ways to be present and accessible, for example, via virtual drop-in sessions, regular company podcasts, or virtual townhalls. Leaders in these settings may also need to find new ways to get authentic feedback. These tactics can include pulse surveys or learning to ask thoughtful follow-up questions that reveal useful management insights.

Additional considerations, such as making sure that in-person work and togetherness has a purpose, are important. Keeping an eye on inclusivity in hybrid work  is also crucial. Listening to what employees want, with an eye to their lived experience, will be vital to leaders in these settings. And a focus on output, outcomes, results, and impact—rather than arbitrary norms about time spent in offices— may be a necessary adaptation in the hybrid era .

How should CEOs lead in this new world?

Just as for leadership more broadly, today’s environment requires CEOs to lead very differently. Recent research indicates that one-third to one-half of new CEOs fail within 18 months.

What helps top performers thrive today? To find out, McKinsey led a research effort to identify the CEOs who achieved breakaway success. We examined 20 years’ worth of data on 7,800 CEOs—from 3,500 public companies across 70 countries and 24 industries. The result is the McKinsey book CEO Excellence: The Six Mindsets That Distinguish the Best Leaders from the Rest (Scribner, March 2022). Watch an interview with the authors for more on what separates the best CEOs from the rest .

Getting perspective on leadership from CEOs themselves is enlightening—and illustrates the nuanced ways in which the new approach to leadership described above can be implemented in practice. Here are a few quotes drawn from McKinsey’s interviews with these top-level leaders :

What is leadership development?

Leaders aren’t born; they learn to lead over time. Neuroplasticity refers to the power of the brain to form new pathways and connections through exposure to novel, unfamiliar experiences. This allows adults to adapt, grow, and learn new practices throughout our lifetimes.

When it comes to leadership within organizations, this is often referred to as leadership development. Programs, books, and courses on leadership development abound, but results vary.

Leadership development efforts fail for a variety of reasons. Some overlook context; in those cases, asking a simple question (something like “What, precisely, is this program for?”) can help. Others separate reflections on leadership from real work, or they shortchange the role of adjusting leaders’ mindsets, feelings, assumptions, and beliefs, or they fail to measure results.

So what’s needed for successful leadership development? Generally, developing leaders is about creating contexts where there is sufficient psychological safety in combination with enough novelty and unfamiliarity to cultivate new leadership practices in response to stimuli. Leadership programs that successfully cultivate leaders are also built around “placescapes”—these are novel experiences, like exploring wilderness trails, practicing performing arts, or writing poetry.

When crafting a leadership development program, there are six ingredients to incorporate  that lead to true organizational impact:

A well-designed and executed leadership development program can help organizations build leaders’ capabilities broadly, at scale. And these programs can be built around coaching, mentoring, and having people try to solve challenging problems—learning skills by applying them in real time to real work.

What are mentorship, sponsorship, and apprenticeship?

Mentorship, sponsorship, and apprenticeship can also be part of leadership development efforts. What are they? Mentorship refers to trusted counselors offering guidance and support on various professional issues, such as career progression. Sponsorship is used to describe senior leaders who create opportunities to help junior colleagues succeed. These roles are typically held by more senior colleagues, whereas apprenticeship could be more distributed. Apprenticeship  describes the way any colleague with domain expertise might teach others, model behaviors, or transfer skills. These approaches can be useful not only for developing leaders but also for helping your company upskill or reskill employees quickly and at scale.

For more in-depth exploration of these topics, see McKinsey’s insights on People & Organizational Performance . Learn more about McKinsey’s Leadership & Management  work—and check out job opportunities if you’re interested in working at McKinsey.

Articles referenced include:

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Leadership Effectiveness: How to Be a Better Leader

01 Introduction

There may not be an "I" in team, but there is an "I" in disengaged.

What does this have to do with leadership? Well, regardless of what, why and where you lead, you -- as the leader -- are directly responsible for the engagement of those who follow you.

And engagement is supported by your culture, which you are also responsible for as a leader. This is why it's vital for leaders to set the right tone for the organization -- for the sake of engagement, culture and the employee experience.

Whether you're leading a family, a class or a corporation, leadership means inspiring others to achieve certain outcomes. And it's up to you to decide whether you are leading positively or negatively -- and whether you choose to focus on engagement or merely output.

"Improving your leadership begins with a focus on improving what you're already good at."

Leadership can often be equal parts high confidence and self-esteem and worrying if you're doing it right while continually searching for answers . Whether you're a leader in an organizational setting or have high influence in some other capacity, improving your leadership begins with a focus on improving what you're already good at .

what is a leadership introduction

We would call that leading with your strengths : the things that come naturally to you and that help you succeed daily. When you intentionally apply your strengths as a leader, that's when your life and the lives of those you lead begin to change.

This page will provide you with new ways to think about your role or position as a leader. Legitimate improvement begins with a refusal to ascribe to one-size-fits-all solutions. Stay with us, discover why your strengths matter and then learn to use yours to become a transformational leader.

02 What Is Leadership?

Improving leadership is an idea that can be difficult to grasp in tactical or practical ways.

The first step to improving it is to define it.

Our leadership definition , in its simplest form, means the act of getting individuals aligned and moving in the same direction toward a desired outcome.

what is a leadership introduction

Picture this: a world where every leader knew what goals they wanted to achieve, knew how to get their followers working toward that goal and knew how to use their strengths to get there. The world would be a much different place, wouldn't it?

Effective leadership has a lot to do with inspiring, aligning and then activating -- but it doesn't end there .

A key to effective leadership is the ability to define outcomes, but then helps individuals put their talents to use to get there. The best leaders know their people and are more aware of those people's strengths than they are of their weaknesses. Great leaders aren't blind to their own or others' weaknesses; they just know that their competitive edge lies within their strengths.

Let's put this into perspective.

what is a leadership introduction

Consider the owner of a successful bakery. Let's call him Jim. When Jim was in culinary school, he wanted to open a restaurant, but there was a problem. He was terrible at cooking. He burned every pasta dish and dried out every chicken entree. However, when it came to the art of baking, he excelled -- nobody was better.

Jim also had a natural knack for leadership, often pulling other students into his projects and helping them learn through his expertise -- whether it was people or pastries, he knew what he was doing.

And even better, he knew that what he had originally desired had changed.

Now, his friends and family wanted Jim to follow his original dream. His instructors offered him extra cooking lessons because they knew he could get better. His peers told him to work harder, saying, "Jim, we know you're good at baking. You're the best -- a natural! But forget that. Your dream is to cook. Just spend more time on that."

But he didn't listen. Jim opened his own bakery, hired full-time staff and grew a successful business.

From an outsider's perspective, it was easy to see what Jim should do.

The advice from Jim's inner circle wasn't great. Their intentions were, but they were ignoring natural excellence and emphasizing weakness in hopes of mediocrity.

It's the type of advice leaders fall prey to often. "Spend most of your time developing your weaknesses to become a stronger leader" -- when really, you could acknowledge those weaknesses but use your strengths to make up for them.

Not focusing on weaknesses and focusing on strengths is countercultural -- but the best leaders don't follow. They are willing to stray from the way things have always been done and be open to better ways to succeed.

Clarify Leadership Roles and Expectations

Having clear expectations in your role as a leader is vital to success. Most of the time, understanding your role and the expectations that come with it begins with deciding what outcomes or goals need to be met. Whether you define them yourself or have an organization define them for you, they need to be clear, manageable and well-communicated.

When leaders lack clear expectations for their own roles and outcomes, it can create a lack of trust among their followers. They can come off as incompetent and lose buy-in from their team members.

what is a leadership introduction

Think of any leader you've had personal experience with. If you asked them, "What is the outcome of this supposed to be?" or "What is the purpose?" and they said, "I don't know," there would be an apparent issue with how they go about fulfilling the duties of their role.

Action item : List out the responsibilities of your role -- both those that were ascribed to you and the ones you took on yourself. Outlining the expectations and responsibilities of your role as a leader will help you know where and how to focus your energy.

03 Leadership Traits: What Makes a Good Leader

A good leader takes responsibility for their leadership. They understand that everything they do directly affects the people they lead.

In other words, the best leaders lead with their followers in mind.

And one of the most important leadership traits is engaging your followers.

We've studied which leadership skills are the most important to a follower. What do you think we found? Maybe "good communication," "motivational" or "highly committed"?

While these are certainly important for leaders, what followers crave the most are trust, compassion, stability and hope .

Check out the descriptions below. Which one of these areas do you excel in? Which one doesn't come as naturally to you, and how can you lean on strong complementary partnerships for that need?

What Followers Need From Leaders

what is a leadership introduction

Building trust is the foundation for leading . Honesty, clarity and behavioral predictability all make up trust. Leaders must adopt the trait of trustworthiness and prioritize it as one of their most important skills -- because without it, people won't feel as confident to follow.

Example: Share your concerns or struggles as a leader. By modeling this, your followers will be more likely to trust you with theirs.

what is a leadership introduction

Bring positive energy and a willingness to listen . Being compassionate means caring about your followers holistically while seeing them as more than just their ability to perform. Compassionate leaders should be willing to share their own struggles and accept the same honesty from others.

Example: React calmly and empathetically when followers are dealing with difficult situations in work or life. From family burdens to workplace burnout, modeling compassion can help them succeed.

what is a leadership introduction

Ensure people can count on you . Providing stability looks like creating space where people feel psychologically safe, like they can depend on you to answer their questions, hear their ideas and address their concerns. Communication is key for this trait. Stability puts emphasis on the current moment, keeping people grounded in the here and now -- knowing they can count on you.

Example: Try to be as consistent as you can when responding to those who follow you. Seek to answer the questions your followers have. This will help provide the stability they crave.

what is a leadership introduction

Encourage people to believe in a better future . While stability focuses on today, hopefulness deals with the future. People need to see that their leaders have a clear direction in mind. They want to have faith that their leaders are guiding them in the right direction. When leaders communicate hope, they can help followers feel more enthusiastic about the future.

Example: Talk about the future as if it's bright. Even when things are hard, you can acknowledge difficulties while still communicating the best possible outcome to your followers.

To practically apply these traits, make them a part of your everyday communication. Every email, conversation, instruction, etc., should be building hope, trust, stability and compassion.

Learn more about these essential leadership traits (also called the "four needs of followers") from Gallup experts.

Button to play The Four Needs of Followers video

04 Seven Expectations for Leaders

If you Google "effective leadership skills," "developing leadership skills," "characteristics of a good leader" or anything in that ballpark, you'll notice a pattern: Almost every article, website or business leadership skills "solution" is geared toward trying harder and investing in developing weaknesses. Or trying to adopt certain leadership qualities that simply don't come naturally.

This isn't the right way. It doesn't produce long-lasting results.

Great leaders actually start somewhere else: They start with an awareness, of both themselves (through strengths) and their job (their role and expectations). They should begin with a goal in mind, communicate the desired outcomes and then identify where they've had success in the past -- and then consider how they'll use those successes to help them now.

Self-awareness is key in using your strengths. It's hard to use something you're not aware that you have.

Button to play The Importance of Knowing Your Strengths video

What all leaders need is a fresh look at the leadership behaviors that actually contribute to performance, development and success.

After you gain an awareness of yourself through your strengths, you need to learn how to apply those strengths to the expectations of your role. Here's a framework for approaching your role with these expectations:

These expectations work in any scenario where there's a leader. No, really -- think about it. CEOs? For sure. Professors or teachers? Definitely. The leader of your small group at church or facilitator of a book club? No doubt.

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Being able to do these seven things well can be the biggest differentiator between being an average leader and an exceptional leader.

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Want to increase your self-awareness and develop as a leader? Download this free activity to connect your natural talents to leadership outcomes -- and discover how you excel as a leader.

05 The Most Effective Leadership Styles

You may have wondered, "What type of leader am I?"

There are countless ways you could answer this question. But most people look to academic leadership theories or find a list of leadership personality traits and different leadership styles to try to answer this.

For example, there's transformational leadership or authentic leadership. Well, wait, aren't all leaders supposed to be these two things? Then there's transactional leadership and laissez-faire leadership, or you could be more autocratic or a coaching leader. OK, now I'm really confused .

what is a leadership introduction

With many ways to pinpoint your leadership styles or categorize your relationships with your followers, your attempts may leave you feeling discouraged or irritated. But if you're not sure what kind of leader you are, how are you supposed to find support or improve?

Instead, ask yourself a different question: Why and how do I lead?

Most leadership categories are all about how a person behaves when they're leading a group -- when really, you should be focusing on the things that you already know and that are easier to identify: your natural patterns of excellence. These natural strengths tell you more about why you lead the way you do and how you lead best than about what kind of leader you are.

what is a leadership introduction

Each leader is naturally drawn to different things, so you may find that more traditional ways of compartmentalizing leadership styles leave you feeling confused. Instead, answer the questions presented by the four domains of leadership below.


Traditional methods of leadership discovery say to choose the statement that best describes you to discover what one specific type of leader you are.

Traditional coaching styles in four quadrants

Top Left Quadrant: I am task-oriented and like to get things done. Top Right Quadrant: I can motivate others and can often be commanding. Bottom Left Quadrant: I am more analytical in my approach to leadership, always lost in thought. Bottom Right Quadrant: I tend to focus on relationships and can understand where my followers are coming from.

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The four domains of leadership say, "You naturally do all of these things; you just do them differently than others. Let's discover your unique way of leading."

Four quadrants of the domains of leadership

Top Left Quadrant: How do you make things happen? Top Right Quadrant: How do you influence others? Bottom Left Quadrant: How do you absorb, think about and analyze information and situations? Bottom Right Quadrant: How do you build and nurture strong relationships?

The four domains of leadership are a helpful framework because when you search for one specific leadership style, you wind up trying to spend more time categorizing than you do developing.

Traditional leadership styles establish strict boundaries, but the CliftonStrengths domains freely encourage you to cross those boundaries.

Each of the four domains encompasses a set of CliftonStrengths that fit that category. Leaders who know their CliftonStrengths become more effective leaders in a few ways. Knowing their strengths helps them:

Those who know and use their CliftonStrengths are also:

Simply understanding your strengths makes your life better -- and who wouldn't want to have a higher quality of life and be more effective? Haven't discovered your strengths yet? Get started and take the assessment today .

06 Leadership vs. Management

At the end of the day, leaders and managers are both focused on two things: developing people and delivering team (or organizational) success.

Leadership : Traditionally, leaders have been responsible for creating the overall strategic vision.

Management : Managers are the ones who execute leadership direction and direct teams.

But as the workplace continues to change, the line between the roles of leaders and managers continues to blur.

Driven by the pace of change in globalized business and an evolving workforce that prioritizes development and flexibility, today's business world is agile and dynamic. As a result, a manager's role is far more than supervisory -- and Gallup finds that 70% of the variance in a team's engagement is influenced by the manager . Furthermore, the traditional role of a boss as a command-and-control function does not work for today's workforce.

The expectation is for the manager and leader to be more of a coach than a boss .

Gray horizontal arrow pointing left as a timeline pointing to the past

Green horizontal arrow pointing right as in a timeline pointing to the future

The biggest difference between a leader and a manager is where they fall within an organization. A manager is someone who is usually in charge of leading people, where a leader is in charge of leading the people who lead people. Leaders are more responsible for creating the strategic vision and are a little more removed from the front lines. Managers are more about getting the actual work done.

Check out this video that talks about the differences between leadership and management:

Button to play Leadership vs. Management video

07 How to Lead a Team to Success

Success is measured and defined differently by all, which means that good information on how to lead your team to success or understanding what makes a successful team can be hard to find. Before you know how to lead, you need to know what a successful team looks like.

A successful team is a team where individuals are positioned to do what they do best and get the resources and partnerships they need to do their best work.

Leading a successful team requires you to identify the unique contributions that every person on your team makes -- including yourself.

CliftonStrengths makes this easier. Having team members discover, develop and lead with their strengths can lead to higher employee engagement and performance, which are outcomes of a successful team. However, they aren't the most important outcomes because giving your employees the opportunity to do what they do best is the greatest measure of a successful team.

To lead a successful team, be willing to admit to your team that you're not great at everything. It's good to acknowledge, and it's even better for your team to hear.

Conventional wisdom says that to become a better leader, you should develop the areas where you are naturally weak. And to be a good leader, you encourage your team to do the same. But CliftonStrengths says you should invest in the places where you're naturally strong.

"Identify the unique contributions that every person on your team makes -- including yourself."

Here's a practical way for you and your team to understand each other's strengths and intentionally aim them at your goal -- the Team Strengths Grid.

what is a leadership introduction

As a leader, you could look at your team's grid to determine who would good be partners to:

Knowing the makeup of your team's strengths allows you to lead more confidently because you know how to set each person up for success.

Button to play Understand Your Greatest Strengths: What Leaders Can Do video

Position individuals to do what they do best, better use each individual's strengths, build more effective partnerships and teams, and then mobilize the team to increase individual and team effectiveness.

For more information about the team grid and bringing strengths to your team, contact us .

08 Leadership Development

If your attempts to develop in the past have fallen short, it may be because too few leadership development programs can clearly define the experiences that lead to excellence in leadership . They don't individualize, they can't match leader to experience at the time it's most needed, and they don't help leaders analyze their experiences so they can effectively apply them in the future.

Don't overcomplicate your development . Start with these three areas:

1 We believe that knowing your strengths is a great foundation for creating a leadership development plan. When you take the CliftonStrengths assessment, you will get a report with personalized results. Our CliftonStrengths 34 report (featuring all 34 strengths in rank order) will help you discover what you do best and give you the confidence to live and work every day using those strengths.

The descriptions of your top strengths, and the order in which they appear, will be unique to you. Because just as we believe that no two leaders lead the same way, we also believe that no two people have the same strengths.

Take the Assessment

what is a leadership introduction

2 Take a look at the seven expectations for leaders. If you truly want to develop, those are where you should begin. Start with a self-assessment. At first glance, which one of these core leadership competencies do you do really well? How can you get even better? Then determine which one doesn't come as naturally. How can you use your natural strengths to develop it?

For more details, check out the Seven Expectations for Leaders section. And to get started right now, download this free activity to help you develop.

3 Learn to identify your own key experiences, both the ones that got you where you are today and the ones you want to have. Consider your past and present, and decide what you want for your future. Key experiences are some of the most critical components of leader success. Put simply, "Key experiences are events in a leader's life that result in learning, growth and/or increased capacity to effectively lead." Every role and every industry looks different, but key experiences are one of the foundational elements to leadership development anywhere.

Here are a few examples of key experiences that have helped develop leaders in the workplace:

Although those key experiences will look different for each person, you can notice a pattern or commonality between them all. Embracing new situations and being uncomfortable are important parts of developing as a leader. When things look tough, lean in. That's where growth happens.

09 Our Best Leadership Advice

Your time is best spent when you're sharpening your skills and honing your talents. Stop worrying about what you're bad at, and start working harder at developing what you're good at.

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What is Leadership? Definition, Meaning & Importance

what is a leadership introduction

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things,” believed renowned management coach and author Peter F. Drucker. He used the quote to demonstrate the difference between management and leadership.

Often, it is believed that a good manager is always a good leader. However, that is not true because behaviours that make a person a good manager are often not in favour of innovation. Continue reading to know what leadership is and how it is different from management.

what is a leadership introduction

Laissez-Faire leadership

Laissez-Faire is derived from a French word that means ‘allow to do’. “The practice of non-interference in the affairs of others, especially with reference to individual conduct or freedom of action,’ defines dictionary.com. In this type of leadership, team members have the freedom to perform their job according to their will. They are given the freedom to bring in their perspective and intelligence in performing business functions. If you take up a leadership course, you’d get to learn about it in detail.

Democratic leadership

In this type of leadership, team members and leaders equally contribute to actualising business goals. Furthermore, they work together and motivate each other to achieve their personal goals too. This type of leadership leads to a positive working environment.

Bureaucratic leadership

In this type of leadership, leaders strictly adhere to organisational rules and policies. They make sure that their team members do the same. Bureaucratic leaders are often organised and self-motivated.

There is no right or wrong leadership style. Therefore, it is up to you to decide the kind of leader you wish to become.

What Are the Qualities of a Good Leader?

1. Honesty and Integrity: Leaders value virtuousness and honesty. They have people who believe in them and their vision.

2. Inspiration: Leaders are self-motivating, and this makes them great influencers. They are a good inspiration to their followers. They help others to understand their roles in a bigger context.

3. Communication skills: Leaders possess great communication skills. They are transparent with their team and share failures and successes with them.

4. Vision: Leaders are visionaries. They have a clear idea of what they want and how to achieve it. Being good communicators, leaders can share their vision with the team successfully.

5. Never give-up spirit: Leaders challenge the status quo. Hence, they never give up easily. They also have unique ways to solve a problem.

6. Intuitive: Leadership coach Hortense le Gentil believes that leaders should rely on intuition for making hard decisions. Especially because intuition heavily relies on a person’s existing knowledge and life learnings, which proves to be more useful in complex situations.

7. Empathy: A leader should be an emotional and empathetic fellow because it will help them in developing a strong bond with their team. Furthermore, these qualities will help a leader in addressing the problems, complaints, and aspirations of his team members.

8. Objective: Although empathy is an important quality a leader must imbibe, getting clouded by emotions while making an important business decision is not advisable. Hence, a good leader should be objective.

9. Intelligence: A good leader must be intelligent enough to arrive at business solutions to difficult problems. Furthermore, a leader should be analytical and should weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. This quality can be polished with an all-inclusive leadership training program.

10. Open-mindedness and creativity: A good leader is someone who is open to new ideas, possibilities, and perspectives. Being a good leader means understanding that there is no right way to do things. Therefore, a good leader is always ready to listen, observe, and be willing to change. They are also out-of-the-box thinkers and encourage their teams to do so. If you enrol for a leadership course, all these things will be a part of the curriculum.

11. Patient: A good leader understands that a business strategy takes time to develop and bear results. Additionally, they also believe that ‘continuous improvement and patient’ leads to success.

12. Flexible: Since leaders understand the concept of ‘continuous improvement, they also know that being adaptable will lead them to success. Nothing goes as per plan. Hence, being flexible and intuitive helps a manager to hold his ground during complex situations.

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A good organisation needs both effective managers and leaders. The key is to match the skillset with a high-quality education degree. Emeritus believes in providing high-quality and affordable courses across various domains, including leadership and management. They have collaborated with top-tier universities across the globe to offer quality education.

Emeritus India hosts a series of leadership courses that offer insight into the real world and help you know more about leadership. Therefore, if you wish to pursue a degree that gives you insight into becoming a good leader, enrol for an all-inclusive leadership programme.

There is no right way to determine whether someone is a good manager or a leader because the roles and responsibilities of both a manager and a leader are different. However, a good leader and a manager are the fellows who learn from their mistakes. They work on themselves and motivate others to do so. Hence, always remember the most important quality for any manager or leader is self-belief.

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Module 10: Leadership

Introduction to leadership, what you’ll learn to do: differentiate between leadership and management.

What is the difference between “management” and “leadership”? Sometimes the terms are used almost interchangeably, but there is an important difference between them. Management includes various aspects, one of which is the leadership function. Learning to distinguish between the two can help individuals evaluate and develop their leadership skills.

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Leadership Styles

The behavioral approach employed by leaders to influence, motivate, and direct their followers

What are Leadership Styles?

Leadership styles refer to the behavioral approach employed by leaders to influence, motivate, and direct their followers. A leadership style determines how leaders implement plans and strategies to accomplish given objectives while accounting for stakeholder expectations and the wellbeing and soundness of their team.

Leadership styles have been studied in various fora to establish the appropriate or most effective leadership style that motivates and influences others to accomplish set goals. The major tenet of effective leadership style is the degree to which it builds follower trust.

Studies carried out indicate that followers who trust in their leader are more likely to follow through with the leader’s instructions over and above the expected. In turn, they will accomplish set goals while being allowed to speak freely to air their ideas and suggestions on the direction of the projects at hand.

The leadership styles discussed in this article are based on studies and findings by several accomplished leadership researchers, which include Robert K. Greenleaf, Karl Lewis, Daniel Goleman, Bruce Avolio, and Bernard M. Bass.

Why Do Leadership Styles Matter?

A leadership style adopted by any leader is usually a combination of their personality, life experiences, level of emotional intelligence , family dynamics, and way of thinking. Thus, leaders should be able to understand their leadership style in relation to a combination of traits listed above and determine how best they can be more effective.

Effective leadership has more to do with leadership style. Hence, a leader’s ability to take charge and know whether a situation requires an executive decision or a more consultative one is vital. Furthermore, a leader needs to have the ability to know the most effective leadership style that is suitable for an organization or situation to succeed. Understanding one’s leadership style allows a leader to take ownership, control, and responsibility for the size and scope of the tasks ahead.

A study by Daniel Coleman in a Harvard Business Review article, Leadership That Gets Results , reviewed and analyzed more than 3,000 middle-level managers to find out specific leadership behaviors and their effect on profitability. The results revealed that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability.

An understanding of one’s leadership style and the ability to be flexible based on changing circumstances will likely result in the additional benefits below:

Below are the most common leadership styles.

Common Leadership Styles

Leadership Styles

1. Democratic Leadership

A democratic leadership style is where a leader makes decisions based on the input received from team members. It is a collaborative and consultative leadership style where each team member has an opportunity to contribute to the direction of ongoing projects. However, the leader holds the final responsibility to make the decision.

Democratic leadership is one of the most popular and effective leadership styles because of its ability to provide lower-level employees a voice making it equally important in the organization. It is a style that resembles how decisions are made in company boardrooms. Democratic leadership can culminate in a vote to make decisions.

Democratic leadership also involves delegation of authority to other people who determine work assignments. It utilizes the skills and experiences of team members in carrying out tasks.

The democratic leadership style encourages creativity and engagement of team members, which often leads to high job satisfaction and high productivity. However, establishing a consensus among team members can be time-consuming and costly, especially in cases where decisions need to be made swiftly.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is the direct opposite of democratic leadership. In this case, the leader makes all decisions on behalf of the team without taking any input or suggestions from them. The leader holds all authority and responsibility. They have absolute power and dictate all tasks to be undertaken. There is no consultation with employees before a decision is made. After the decision is made, everyone is expected to support the decision made by the leader. There is often some level of fear of the leader by the team.

The autocratic type of leadership style can be very retrogressive as it fuels employee disgruntlement since most decisions would not be in the employees’ interests. An example can be a unilateral increase in working hours or a change in other working conditions unfavorable to employees but made by leadership to increase production. Without employee consultation, the manager may not be fully aware of why production is not increasing, thereby resorting to a forced increase in working hours. It can lead to persistent absenteeism and high employee turnover .

However, autocratic leadership can be an effective approach in cases where the leader is experienced and knowledgeable about the circumstances surrounding the decision in question and where the decision needs to be made swiftly. There are other instances where it is also ideal such as when a decision does not require team input or an agreement to ensure a successful outcome.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is accurately defined as a hands-off or passive approach to leadership. Instead, leaders provide their team members with the necessary tools, information, and resources to carry out their work tasks. The “let them be” style of leadership entails that a leader steps back and lets team members work without supervision and free to plan, organize, make decisions, tackle problems, and complete the assigned projects.

The laissez-faire leadership approach is empowering to employees who are creative, skilled, and self-motivated. The level of trust and independence given to the team can prove to be uplifting and productive and can lead to job satisfaction.

At the same time, it is important to keep such a type of leadership in check as chaos and confusion can quickly ensue if the team is not organized. The team can end up doing completely different things contrary to what the leader expects.

According to research, laissez-faire leadership is the least satisfying and least effective.

4. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is all about transforming the business or groups by inspiring team members to keep increasing their bar and achieve what they never thought they were capable of. Transformational leaders expect the best out of their team and push them consistently until their work, lives, and businesses go through a transformation or considerable improvement.

Transformational leadership is about cultivating change in organizations and people. The transformation is done through motivating team members to go beyond their comfort zone and achieve much more than their perceived capabilities. To be effective, transformational leaders should possess high levels of integrity, emotional intelligence, a shared vision of the future, empathy, and good communication skills.

Such a style of leadership is often associated with high growth-oriented organizations that push boundaries in innovation and productivity. Practically, such leaders tend to give employees tasks that grow in difficulty and deadlines that keep getting tighter as time progresses.

However, transformational leaders risk losing track of individual learning curves as some team members may not receive appropriate coaching and guidance to get through challenging tasks. At the same time, transformational leaders can lead to high productivity and engagement through shared trust and vision between the leader and employees.

5. Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is more short-term and can best be described as a “give and take” kind of transaction. Team members agree to follow their leader on job acceptance; therefore, it’s a transaction involving payment for services rendered. Employees are rewarded for exactly the work they would’ve performed. If you meet a certain target, you receive the bonus that you’ve been promised. It is especially so in sales and marketing jobs.

Transactional leadership establishes roles and responsibilities for each team member and encourages the work to be completed as scheduled. There are instances where incentive programs can be employed over and above regular pay. In addition to incentives, there are penalties imposed to regulate how work should be done.

Transactional leadership is a more direct way of leadership that eliminates confusion between leader and subordinate, and tasks are clearly spelled out by the leader. However, due to its rigid environment and direct expectations, it may curb creativity and innovation. It can also lead to lower job satisfaction and high employee turnover.

6. Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is a “go by the book” type of leadership. Processes and regulations are followed according to policy with no room for flexibility. Rules are set on how work should be done, and bureaucratic leaders ensure that team members follow these procedures meticulously. Input from employees is considered by the leader; however, it is rejected if it does not conform to organizational policy. New ideas flow in a trickle, and a lot of red tape is present. Another characteristic is a hierarchical authority structure implying that power flows from top to bottom and is assigned to formal titles.

Bureaucratic leadership is often associated with large, “century-old” organizations where success has come through the employment of traditional practices. Hence, proposing a new strategy at these organizations is met with fierce resistance, especially if it is new and innovative. New ideas are viewed as wasteful and ineffective, or even downright risky.

Although there is less control and more freedom than an autocratic leadership style, there is still no motivation to be innovative or go the extra mile. It is, therefore, not suitable for young, ambitious organizations on a growth path.

Bureaucratic leadership is suitable for jobs involving safety risks or managing valuable items such as large amounts of money or gold. It is also ideal for managing employees who perform routine work.

7. Servant Leadership

Servant leadership involves a leader being a servant to the team first before being a leader. A servant leader strives to serve the needs of their team above their own. It is also a form of leading by example. Servant leaders try to find ways to develop, elevate and inspire people following their lead to achieve the best results.

Servant leadership requires leaders with high integrity and munificence. It creates a positive organizational culture and high morale among team members. It also creates an ethical environment characterized by strong values and ideals.

However, other scholars believe servant leadership may not be suitable for competitive situations where other leaders compete with servant leaders. Servant leaders can easily fall behind more ambitious leaders. The servant leadership style is also criticized for not being agile enough to respond to tight deadlines and high-velocity organizations or situations.

Other Leadership Styles

1. coach-style leadership.

Coach-style leadership involves identifying and nurturing individual strengths and formulating strategies for the team to blend and work well together, cohesively and successfully.

2. Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership employs charisma to motivate and inspire followers. Leaders use eloquent communication skills to unite a team towards a shared vision. However, due to the charismatic leaders’ overwhelming disposition, they can see themselves as bigger than the team and lose track of the important tasks.

3. Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership leads the company’s main operations and coordinates its growth opportunities. The leader can support multiple employee layers at the same time.

Which Leadership Style is the Best?

No one leadership style fits all organizations or situations. In addition, there is no one right way to lead, and there may be a need to switch between different leadership styles. It is therefore important to know all leadership styles and their pros and cons. The right leadership approach is often determined by the following factors:

A consideration of the above factors will likely determine the appropriate leadership style to adopt or an appropriate combination of certain leadership styles.

More Resources

Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to the different Leadership Styles. To keep advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful:

what is a leadership introduction


Elevate Your Career and Business Growth

Introduction of Leadership with examples

Introduction of Leadership

Introduction of Leadership: Leadership is the process of actions and operations, creativity, and emotions of mind, body, and soul. A leader is one who inspires (Self/Others) for the fulfillment of the mind, body, nature, and the activities of the environment to a particular purpose in business, career, and life.

He works for the (Self/Others) foundation of the mind, body, nature’s relationship, attachment, separation, and action.

In this post, you will learn what is leadership. How leadership works. How do develop leadership skills? How we do it and our understanding of it. And how we teach leadership. There are already many definitions and explanations of leadership. They are very good and evergreen.

But here you will learn technical, spiritual, and creative angles of leadership. And I hope it will help you the way you want. So let’s start.

There are top 3 things that I am able to research in leadership:  “Leader+ User (follower) + Object (situation, physical products, and thoughts).

Following are the examples to understand the above definitions of Leadership:-

1. The process of performing a ritual for their child by the parents is leadership. The child is the follower here and the parents are the leaders of the child, deciding what is best for him. The object here is the situation in which the child has to make adjustments between the present and future activities.

Also, by listening to, understanding, seeing, and experiencing the daily activities of his parents, he will develop the ability to make decisions for himself. The better parents are at understanding the child and the situation, the better they will be able to do those actions that constitute good parenting, guiding, and handling. The whole process is leadership.

2. As the child grows up, there are times when the child does not have anyone with him. So after calling for his mother and not finding her there to help, the child is taking the lead, understanding the environment, and making the next decision according to the wait and consideration involved.

Now in this case object (situation when he/she is feeling alone) is the user, the child becomes the leader and the brain is the follower. It’s because the brain has to make adjustments according to the direction of the child’s (Soul) such as playing with siblings or toys until the mother comes back. (There could also be a situation where the older child steps up to take responsibility for the younger child.)

Now the child is the leader because he/she is handling the situation, providing the right direction to mind and his brother or sister (such as playing with toys), and keeping up hope because the mother will definitely come. The whole process is leadership. In this example, the child is in a different situation now he/she is a leader, but in the 1st example, he/she is just a follower and his/her parents are the leader.

A Myth that people are holding is- “not all are leaders” 🙂 Actually, the above 2 examples are enough but I am telling you that we all play leadership and follower roles according to the time, situation, platform, workplace, and business a billion times in life.

3. Books are an important part of our life. Most people read a lot of books. When we read books, words become leaders and we (the soul) become followers while we are reading. And books are the object.

Everything that we see, touch, and feel is manifested in the form of a leader and a follower has to act according to the situation, demand, needs, desires, and actions.

But many fail to become leaders due to thought processes and lack of control of mind and body. When students learn from their teacher, the students are followers, the lessons are leaders and the teacher is an object.

Related:  Why is leadership important in life

4. Absence of the boss in the workplace tests the leadership qualities of employees. If employees take charge of the business productivity and keep working towards the goals, then it’s because they are followers of the boss but also the leader when the boss is not present.

While many will take advantage of the absence of a boss and start using social media and gossip. They are the follower of their minds and habits. This is the process of leadership.

5. In tough situations, such as when everyone leaves the job at an owner’s business, the owner or founder is still working and believes that he/she will achieve success very soon.

What drives the person who is alone to become successful, is leadership. His/her mind is the follower of the soul and beliefs, thoughts, knowledge, and habits.

6. When we use mobile, computers and the internet or any kind of machine, the machine and process become the leader, and we become the follower.

It’s because we’re following the options and direction that software and websites are suggesting us do. So the website software becomes the leader and the machine, computer or mobile is just an object.

One more thing I want to add here is the fact that AI (artificial intelligence) is the leader and the user or operator is the follower. The leader is artificial and the follower is the real object. Read More :  How can artificial intelligence benefit humans?

7. It’s natural that we are happy and sad many times in a day or week. The reason for this happiness and sadness is our minds. We make, position, and designate the mind as a leader of our body, soul, and life.

The mind is playful. He wants to do a lot, all together at the same time, he becomes greedy because of the show, he wants praise, and he wants money. And that’s why he puts himself and the working people together to get what he needs. And if he does not get it then he is angry, sad, and tortures others too.

And if he finds it, he is happy for a few days, makes a lot of ostentation, and then again he lingers to get something else. And thus his/her time keeps passing.

This happens when the mind becomes the owner and the owner (soul) becomes the employee. In fact, our mind is quite unhappy because it has to become the leader of our life, career, and business. But it becomes the leader automatically and it happens because we can not hear the voice of our soul and we do not follow the instinct. We act based on the temporary memory that is created or placed in our minds through various sources. But instincts or thoughts actually need to get developed organically not forcefully.

It’s because the mind is busy trying to convince other people, the mind is busy on social media, busy in debates, busy in arguments, busy on mobile, and many other daily life activities and materialistic showoffs. He (mind) does not have any time for the soul and it’s not working in the direction suggested by the soul, he is busy working on his own agenda and propaganda.

Therefore, when we do not give ourselves time to think of ourselves and talk to ourselves, then how will our soul become a leader?

So friends, remember, to become a leader but you have to become a follower at the same time. Your mind is a follower and your soul is the leader. Never ignore your voice of the heart and never control your soul through your mind. Make the mind a driver of your body but not the owner. The real owner is your soul.

In conclusion, leadership is when minds manage the commands and process of the soul’s purposes. Such leadership is very dangerous for the world, when one’s mind or show off, luxuries, reputation, and pomp is influencing other minds and souls negatively.

The best leadership is when one soul is influencing a billion people to believe, create opportunities, and control their minds and body in a positive way.

Do what your soul tells you to do, not what your mind says. If you are able to do it, you’re the leader of your life and then you will become successful in whatever you (your soul) want to do. The mind is a manager, (processors, compiler, integrators) and the soul is system software (operating system). Let them work together. Connect your mind and body, and let both will be agreed on your vision.

According to me, A Leader does not like followers he likes more leaders. Followers are good for managers and influencers but not good for leaders. 

But you don’t need to ignore the importance of the mind or Manager. It’s because in real life (business, career, lifestyle) we can’t live without a manager. The leader (soul) shows the Vision (Karam) but (Mind) manages the Karma. A leader does not need to worry about the profit, loss, reports, and presentations only the manager does the calculations.

So it looks like we are two. But in reality, we’re one. And we become one when our heart and mind focus on one thing, one thought, one goal.

That’s it, friends. This is what I think about leadership and doing in my life and business.

Vijay K Sharma

Vijay K Sharma

Author and Founder: www.klientsolutech.com and Freelance business softtware, skills, strategic consultant and Trainer.

With over 15+ years of experience in technology field, freelancing, blogging, training, website design, SEO and development, Vijay is an expert in helping small business owners overcome their digital challenges.

As a consultant, Vijay understands the unique struggles that entrepreneurs face and is committed to providing personalized solutions that meet their specific needs.

Through one-on-one consultations and expert advice, Vijay helps clients navigate the complexities of the digital landscape, selection of software, from website design to online marketing and beyond.

With a focus on clear communication and practical solutions, Vijay is dedicated to helping businesses thrive in today's fast-paced market.

If you're a small business owner looking to take your online presence to the next level, Vijay is here to help. Contact today to learn more and start solving your digital problems once and for all.

If you do not have any queries yet, you can also follow on social media and build connections for the future.

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More From Forbes

What is leadership.

What is leadership , anyway?

Such a simple question, and yet it continues to vex popular consultants and lay people alike. I’ve now written several books on leadership for employee engagement , and yet it occurred to me that I never actually paused to define leadership. Let’s start with what leadership is not …

Leadership has nothing to do with seniority or one’s position in the hierarchy of a company. Too many talk about a company’s leadership referring to the senior most executives in the organization. They are just that, senior executives. Leadership doesn’t automatically happen when you reach a certain pay grade. Hopefully you find it there, but there are no guarantees.

Leadership has nothing to do with titles . Similar to the point above, just because you have a C-level title, doesn’t automatically make you a “leader.” In all of my talks I stress the fact that you don’t need a title to lead. In fact, you can be a leader in your place of worship, your neighborhood, in your family, all without having a title.

Leadership has nothing to do with personal attributes . Say the word “leader” and most people think of a domineering, take-charge charismatic individual. We often think of icons from history like General Patton or President Lincoln. But leadership isn’t an adjective. We don’t need extroverted charismatic traits to practice leadership. And those with charisma don’t automatically lead.

Leadership isn’t management.   This is the big one. Leadership and management are not synonymous.  You have 15 people in your downline and P&L responsibility? Good for you, hopefully you are a good manager. Good management is needed . Managers need to plan, measure, monitor, coordinate, solve, hire, fire, and so many other things. Typically, managers manage things . Leaders lead people.

So, again, what is Leadership?

Let’s see how some of the most respected business thinkers of our time define leadership, and let’s consider what’s wrong with their definitions.

Peter Drucker: "The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers."

Really? This instance of tautology is so simplistic as to be dangerous. A new Army Captain is put in the command of 200 soldiers. He never leaves his room, or utters a word to the men and women in his unit. Perhaps routine orders are given through a subordinate. By default his troops have to “follow” orders. Is the Captain really a leader? Commander yes, leader no. Drucker is of course a brilliant thinker of modern business but his definition of leader is too simple.

Warren Bennis: "Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Every spring you have a vision for a garden, and with lots of work carrots and tomatoes become a reality. Are you a leader? No, you’re a gardener. Bennis’ definition seems to have forgotten “others.”

Bill Gates : "As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others."

This definition includes “others” and empowerment is a good thing. But to what end? I’ve seen many empowered “others” in my life, from rioting hooligans to Google workers who were so misaligned with the rest of the company they found themselves unemployed. Gates’ definition lacks the parts about goal or vision.

John Maxwell: "Leadership is influence - nothing more, nothing less."

I like minimalism but this reduction is too much. A robber with a gun has “influence” over his victim. A manager has the power to fire team members which provides a lot of influence. But does this influence make a robber or a manager a leader? Maxwell’s definition omits the source of influence.

So what is leadership?

DEFINITION: Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Notice key elements of this definition:

Lastly, what makes this definition so different from many of the academic definitions out there is the inclusion of “maximizes the efforts”. Most of my work is in the area of employee engagement, and engaged employees give discretionary effort.

I guess technically a leader could use social influence to just organize the efforts of others, but I think leadership is about maximizing the effort. It’s not, “Hey everyone, let’s line up and get to the top of that hill someday.” But rather, “Hey, see that hill? Let’s see how fast we can get to the top…and I’ll buy the first round for anyone who can beat me up there.” So what do you think of my definition of leadership?  Social influence, others, maximize effort, towards a goal. Do those key elements work for you?

Kevin Kruse is the creator of the  Leading for Employee Engagement   eLearning program for managers. and author of the bestselling book,  Employee Engagement 2.0 .

Watch on Forbes:

Kevin Kruse


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