Friday 26 September 2014

Leadership by Definition

Posted by at 9:20 AM

I recently read with interest a blog by Scott Randall, Principal of Trinity - Lincoln Consulting, concerning the word "Leadership", a favorite word and topic of mine now for some time.  He proposed a working definition in looking at the question of "What exactly is leadership?" and then dissected it by looking more closely at six key words within it.  Come take a look with me. 

Here is his proposed 'working definition':  "Leadership is the ability to influence people so they willingly accomplish the goals you are accountable for achieving."  You'll note the words 'bolded' are the words we're going to take a closer look at.  


We often say we're born with certain talents or traits but the word 'ability' certainly implies that this might be a learned skill.  We are cetainly subject to the environment around us, however the attitudes, skills and behaviors that comprise leadership truly can be learned.  Randall uses physical gift examples like throwing a ball or riding a bike as basic abilities that can be advanced; taking us from novice status to 'pretty darn good' by way of hard work and persistence.  We can all become competent leaders, in part to applying what happens from trial and error to using what you know (the learning) to what works (the practical) in the best possible way.  


Even as we might take cues from other sources, it comes down to the fact that all motivation is self-motivation.  Leadership hinges on getting people to do what you want them to do, what they should do, and what they must do.  Unless you want to do those things yourself, your inherent 'responsibility' is to influence them in such ways as to get them to 'do' whatever needs 'doing'.  Influence stems primarily as an emotional transaction; in leadership translating into 'explaining and convincing'; not 'telling and demanding'.   There are many types of influence, including leading by example, mentoring, shaming, asking, demanding, showing, explaining, directing or coercing.  


With self-motivation, people find themselves truly 'wanting' to do something.  Although that 'want' might come out of duty, loyalty, embarrassment, conscience, friendship or any other number of motivating forces, the end result is acting in a way to 'get her done'!   Absolutely, the best leaders are those who can get their people to see, understand, internalize and ultimately act on this knowledge.


Leadership really comes down to getting specific things done.  It's about doing the work in a specific way, for a given reason and with the end result in mind.  To "accomplish" something usually means delivering it on time, under budget and perhaps even above and beyond the quality required.    


As leadership harbors around getting things done, often these are measurable.  As a leader, you have your own goals to meet and usually pass them along in form to have others helping accomplish what may be a team goal.  It's fundamental that people have goals to focus their efforts, measurement to truly log achievements; both of which help set the bar for the next time.  Aspiring to reach goals often entails getting people to 'stretch' a bit; perhaps taking them beyond what they once would have even thought possible. Wise goal-setters and effective leaders find ways to insure that consequences exist for reaching, or not reaching, prescribed goals. 


We don't need leadership if we don't have a final destination in mind.  Accountability shouldn't be feared and being measured should be just part of normal expectation.  Leaders help others to realize that missing the established goals is not an option.  Goal achievement is the name of the game both in life and in business. 

And so now I ask you, do these six words used in the definition of Leadership make sense to you?  What do you think?