What is Leadership?

What is leadership? As it is becoming a popular, progressive field of study that is gaining more and more interest, you may be hearing about its importance but not about what it really means. Leadership is a difficult term to define because it is a concept that encompasses so many things. When you think about it, leadership is all around us. When you turn on the tv, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, or browse the internet you are being made aware of the decisions of leaders from around the world. When you are learning in the classroom, working in the office, going to practice, or even shopping at the grocery store you are being subjected to the actions and opinions of those around you. How you are influenced by those actions and opinions, and what you do with them, is the basis of leadership. It is about influencing others towards a shared vision.

While there are entire majors and courses devoted to teaching students and professionals the skills and tactics of leadership, there are some basic ones that can help a person stand out and develop as a leader. Whether is it using leadership skills to make a difference or guide people in the workplace, on the soccer field, in the classroom, or just to brighten someone’s day, here are some skills that will help you do so.

  1. Take initiative. Leaders know they want change and they make it happen. When you start working for what you want, you gain the attention of those around you.
  2. An effective leader has the ability to develop, communicate, and implement visions and strategies that mobilize organizations and followers for change. They do this by modeling the way, enabling followers to act, and balancing their concern for people and the task. Modeling the way means doing the action expressed in number one, taking initiative and guiding others. People follow by example so it is important to set a positive example. Enabling followers to act means guiding them but not controlling them. Allow your followers to grow with you and contribute their own ideas and creations. Balancing concern for people and the task brings us to number three….
  3. An effective leader has character, empathy, competence, and confidence. Leaders are the people others look to for guidance, direction, and inspiration. Therefore, leaders need to know how to work well with others, make decisions that guide their followers in the right direction, and achieve the vision they share with their followers. Be kind to people, get to know them, and talk about your goals and visions but prove to them that you are capable of guiding them in the right direction and make sure you get the task done.
  4. Know that there are different types of leadership and different types of motivators. Not everyone is the same. We are all inspired and motivated by different things. Successful leaders get to know their followers and what moves them so that they can work together efficiently and effectively.
  5. Leadership is about passion! This is a big one. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, you will not be able to convince others to be on board with your actions. Passion is fuel and it guides us where we need to be. Find something that you are passionate about so that you can be an agent of change and empower others to be the same.

Whether or not you decide to step up and be a leader to others, just remember that you are a leader. You are a leader to yourself. Figure out what your passions are, set goals for yourself, and achieve those goals to get to where you want to be. You just might inspire others to do the same along the way!

Molly O'Neill
University of Delaware, 2018

Photos courtesy of Carlyn Hill