There is no universally acceptable answer but please let me tell you what is a leader. I won’t separate a leader from a manager (what somebody does, as opposed to their title). A good leader must manage and a good manager must lead. I see no point to split them in definition.
Let me say what is not a leader. A person in power is a person in power. Being able to impact people’s lives does not make somebody a leader.
A leader is a servant. They will work for something or somebody. If you aren’t serving a greater good, then you are leading people to nowhere. To lead people, you need a worthy purpose first. Then you must serve that purpose. A leader delegates. If you doing all the work, those people are riding you, not following you. A leader uses a team to get the job done. She knows that her followers are volunteers, but she still convinces them to help.
A leader is an author of vision. They must have Vision. They must create the vision if needed, or borrow it. They will not have followers unless they can share the vision and use it as a direction to go towards. A leader a pursuer. They are in pursuit of something bigger than themselves. This is a driving force. They need to be motivated before they can motivate others. Ironically, a pursuer can be somebody who follows another. That’s not what I meant.
A leader is a planner. This is why I have no need to split a leader and a manager. The ends and the means are inseparable. The leader figures out the best way to get to the “destination” from here (where ever here is that day). The leader adjusts as needed but stays the course. A leader is an adjuster. My favorite example is the airplane flight, which is almost always off-course except for the take off and landing. The winds continuously blow the airplane off course. The leader either knows how to counter against the unseen forces, learns how to do that, or knows who to trust for that skill. A leader has recognition. She know the difference between urgent and important. She knows how to test for that difference.
A leader is a listener. She gets to know others. She can’t do that from talking), understands their needs, builds rapport with others. A leader is a speaker – one that uses purpose and skill to stimulate action, unify people under a cause, and guide others towards a common goal. Leadership gives her something to talk about!
In my next post, I will talk about ways to build the skills for leadership – of course Toastmasters will be part of that due to my own experience with them.