The term “leadership” brings to mind different images. For instance, in a business setting, you could use the term to describe executives responsible for developing the company’s strategy. On the other hand, it could also refer to a political leader pursuing a worthy cause.

This proves that leadership is different for everyone. In fact, a search for the “definition of leadership” on Google generates more than 5.9 billion results! However, various definitions share the same concept: Leadership is the ability to influence and direct a group of people to accomplish a certain objective.

Contrary to how most people perceive it, leadership has nothing to do with a person’s hierarchy or stature. So, what is a leadership role? The definition of a good leader is one who develops and maintains a positive attitude and passes it on to others, thus effectively mobilizing them towards a common goal.

5 characteristics of a good leader

To be an effective leader, you should possess a set of characteristics that will help you communicate your leadership vision to others. The ultimate leadership qualities list has 5 primary characteristics of effective leadership. These include:

  • The ability to communicate clearly
  • Self-motivation and confidence
  • Courage
  • Collaborative
  • Good listening skills

In most cases, the leadership qualities definition largely depends on individual abilities and the existing frameworks.

7 other definitions of leadership

Below are various definitions of leadership by different authors. Each of them is considered an effective leadership definition.

  • Gary Wills: “The leader is one who mobilizes others toward a goal shared by leaders and followers. … Leaders, followers, and goals make up the three equally necessary supports for leadership.” Leadership is all about helping subordinates and those who follow you realize their potential.
  • U.S. Airforce: “Leadership is the art of influencing and directing people in such a way that will win their obedience, confidence, respect, and loyal cooperation in achieving common objectives.” As a leader, you need to mentor and coach others in a way that commands respect and confidence in the vision you put forth.
  • Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” Can you picture a scenario where an executive brews some coffee for his subordinates? In the future, we are bound to see more servant leaders.
  • Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” In essence, leadership assumes that there has to be a group of people who share your vision and willingly follow you.
  • John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” John Maxwell’s definition does away with hierarchy and authority and instead focuses on the ability to influence.
  • Jack Welch: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Leaders need to grow continually. However, they have a responsibility to train and grow those who follow them.
  • Brene Brown: “I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” Among the most critical leadership qualities and responsibilities is the ability to challenge and empower others to help them overcome their limitations.

A modern leadership definition

Leadership concepts have changed over time, and we can no longer rely on an old leader definition. Oxford, for example, says that leadership is simply the state or position of being a leader. While in the past leaders focused on improving efficiency and productivity, modern leaders have to cope with such factors as the digital revolution. For instance, modern leaders have to redesign processes to accommodate work-life integration at the workplace. A good leader will find a way to exploit such developments to their advantage.

Different types of leadership

Examples of effective leaders include:

Democratic leadership

In this type of leadership, leaders make decisions after listening to each team member’s input. While they have the final say, each person contributes to the project’s direction.

Autocratic leadership

This is the exact opposite of democratic leadership. The leader makes decisions without any consultation and expects the followers to adhere to them. In this age, it’s difficult to sustain such a leadership style.

Transformational leadership

In transformational leadership, the leader is constantly pushing followers out of their comfort zones by improving on the policies and procedures.

Strategic leadership

Strategic leaders find a balance between the company’s operations and development opportunities. This is quite desirable as it can support numerous types of employees.

Laissez-Faire leadership

Laissez-faire leaders make no major policies. Rather, they put their trust in the followers’ abilities while focusing on the big picture.

Leadership vs. management

The primary leadership definition is all about getting people to believe, understand, and work towards your vision. On the other hand, management is all about ensuring that the day-to-day activities are going on as they should.  There are several distinctions between leading people and managing them. For instance, leaders have to come up with a clear picture of their vision come up with a way of engaging followers so that they can turn the vision into reality. On the other hand, managers are more focused on setting, assessing, and achieving goals.

Leaders have to be innovative. This implies that they sometimes have to disrupt processes for the good of their vision. Every so often, leaders have to realign and refine processes, structures, and systems. Managers have tended to stick with what has already been tried and proven.  In most cases, leaders are risk-takers while managers control risks. For a leader to be successful, they have to try new things even though they know they might fail. To them, failure is often a path toward success. Managers seek to control problems rather than embrace them

Leaders are more about forging relationships with all stakeholders. This is because they need to influence everyone involved to achieve their goal. This is done by nurturing a culture of loyalty and trust. Managers focus on ensuring that policies and systems are already in place for you to realize your desired outcomes. Managers are more or less analytical than intentional.

The role of leadership in management

In most cases, a leadership management definition is used in place of a leadership role definition. A manager has to possess certain leadership qualities to achieve their set goals and objectives. The types of leadership roles in a management position include:

  1. Initiating action: The leader is responsible for beginning the work by communicating the plans and policies to their subordinates
  2. Guidance: As a manager, a leader has to play a guiding role in his subordinates. This involves supervising them and ensuring that tasks are carried out effectively and efficiently
  3. Motivation: A leader has to motivate his subordinates by giving them monetary and non-monetary incentives and rewards. This motivates the subordinates to work towards a common goal
  4. Boosting employee/team morale: This refers to the fostering of a culture of cooperation among employees and entire teams. You need to boost your employees’ morale by building their trust and confidence in you and their ability to work together towards a common goal
  5. Coordination: Leaders, and managers need to know how they can reconcile their subordinates’ personal interests with the overall organizational goals. A balance between the two can only be achieved through coordination
  6. Imparting confidence: Leaders and managers can impart confidence in their subordinates by giving them clear explanations of their roles, tasks, and how these will be achieved. You should also take the time to listen to their challenges and complaints

These are only a few examples of leadership roles. As is evident, it has nothing to do with imposing views on others. Instead, it is assuming an attitude and confidence in a specific goal and transmitting the same to your followers through optimism and enthusiasm.