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Defining leadership is important to business

If you take a trip to the nearest bookstore and scan the books on leadership, you might want to allow plenty of time.  There is no shortage of books on the subject.  One wonders how many variations of leadership there can be. In this column, I’ll save you some reading time and offer a selection of concepts, definitions and quotes.

In his classic article on leadership, titled “The Leadership Advantage,” Warren Bennis states that research points to several essential qualities of leadership, especially business leadership: 

• Technical competence: business literacy and grasp of one’s field 

• Conceptual skill: a facility for abstract or strategic thinking 

• Track record: a history of achieving results 

• People skills: an ability to communicate, motivate, and delegate 

• Taste: an ability to identify and cultivate talent 

• Judgment: making difficult decisions in a short time frame with imperfect data 

• Character: the qualities that define who we are 

In an article in the Gallup Management Journal by Barry Conchie, the principal leadership consultant with The Gallup Organization, he says that his organization’s years of research has found that there are “Seven Demands of Leadership” that separate great leaders from all the rest. They are:

1. Visioning — seeing the future and the big picture

2. Maximizing Values — showing what is important in life and work

3. Challenging Experience — challenge their teams with significant goals

4. Mentoring — invest in the growth and development of key people

5. Building a Constituency — create rapport at many levels inside and outside the organization

6. Making Sense of Experience — learn from their mistakes and successes

7. Knowing Self — identify and understand their own strengths and weaknesses

John Maxwell’s “The Indispensable Qualities of a Leader: Becoming the Person Others Will Want to Follow,” lists the following qualities:

1. Character: Be a Piece of the Rock

2. Charisma: The First Impression Can Steal the Deal

3. Commitment: It Separates Doers from Dreamers

4. Communication: Without It You Travel Alone

5. Competence: If You Build It, They Will Come

6. Courage: One Person with Courage Is a Majority

7. Discernment: Put an End to Unsolved Mysteries

8. Focus: The Sharper It Is, the Sharper You Are

9. Generosity: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another

10. Initiative: You Won’t Leave Home Without It

It’s also been said that a leader is not a person who can do the work better than the team; the leader is the person who can get the team to do the work better than the leader.  And of course how could we forget the axiom that there are no great leaders, only great opportunities.  

So there you have it.  Consider it a primer on leadership.  

In closing, my favorite definition of a leader comes from Peter Drucker, who said simply, “A leader is someone who has followers.”


Phil Hardwick is coordinator of capacity development at the John C. Stennis Institute of Government. Contact him at phil@philhardwick.com. Read his blog at www.msbusiness.com.


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