I had a conversation with a colleague recently about leadership and leadership development, and I was struck by my colleagues assertion: “I’m not a leader…I don’t lead a team or manage other people.”
The phrase is a simple declaration of a current state, but it struck me as painfully simplistic…and it reminded me of how many misconceptions and ill-conceived perceptions many hold regarding the subject of leadership. I realize that it’s useless for me to expound on the importance of leadership development and personal brand building and awareness without providing a simple examination and explanation of what leadership REALLY is.
In his 1997 book “An Integrative Theory of Leadership”, Martin Chemers asserted that leadership is “a process of social influence in which one person is able to enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Additionally, Ralph Stogdill conducted an exhaustive review of the study of leadership and concluded that “there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.” (“Leadership: A Survey of Literature”, 1974). In his article “The Challenges of Leadership in the Modern World” (2007), Warren Bennis noted the lack of a single definition of leadership, affirming it as a nebulous area of study. Much has been written about leadership over the centuries – from contextual concepts to styles to theories.
The bottom line is this: a leader is someone who has commanding authority or influence…someone who guides. It doesn’t matter if you have a title or lead a staff or organization, you are a leader if you can influence and guide – no matter where you are. Don’t worry about whether or not you’ll ever “ascend to leadership” – just realize that your ability to influence and guide others (even from “the back of the room”) qualifies you as a leader.
Now, it’s up to you to commit to further development and hone your skills to become an effective leader!