What is a Leader?

What is a leader? A while back, I wrote about the difference between a leader and a manager. I still firmly believe that there is a difference between the two. I did not, however, actually get into the nuts and bolts of what a leader really is.  First let me share with you a couple of actual definitions:

Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leader) defines a leader with the following:

  1. a person or thing that leads.
  2. a guiding or directing head, as of an army, movement, or political group.
  3. Music: a conductor or director, as of an orchestra, band, or chorus.

Merriam Webster (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leader) breaks it down a little bit differently, but still has the same basic definition in regards to the human aspect: [Note: my quote below is actually definition #2 from Merriam-Webster.com]

Definition #2: a person who leads: as

  1. guide, conductor
  2. (1) : a person who directs a military force or unit (2) : a person who has commanding authority or influence
  3. (1) : the principal officer of a British political party (2) : a party member chosen to manage party activities in a legislative body (3) : such a party member presiding over the whole legislative body when the party constitutes a majority
  4. d (1)  conductor c (2) : a first or principal performer of a group

One definition that caught my eye when starting this entry was a music conductor as in an orchestra, band, or chorus. This is partly because I have always been around music, and also because I love the analogy that comes in to focus.

Have you ever seen a conductor’s score? What an amazingly complicated document. Each page contains the scores for every part played by every instrument. Even the simplest of musical pieces can get complicated very quickly. It is the role of the conductor to ensure that everyone plays their part at the appropriate time, and to make sure everyone is paying attention to the various marks on the page.

It is beautiful to watch a good conductor at work. Such grace. Such concentration. All of the various pieces come together all at once to turn dots on a page into a musical masterpiece. All eyes are on him, trusting him to lead them the right direction. Any false moves, and embarrassment can quickly ensue, ruining the musicality altogether. The key here is trust. Not only are the musicians trusting the conductor, but the audience is trusting him or her as well.

Business leaders must know enough about what they are doing to be trustworthy. In my current business, I have to know what goes into a repair and maintenance manual. My team looks to me to make good decisions which will allow them the best opportunity to succeed. It is my job to make sure my team has the tools to do their job. That is the role of a leader. A leader is a person who inspires people to achieve great heights despite their own limitations. A leader inspires people to want to achieve more and more every time. A leader is a motivator that people look up to. A leader is someone who people come to for direction and feedback. A leader has many followers, people who want to stay, people who want to succeed.

One final note: A good leader puts his or her followers ahead of himself or herself. I don’t believe there is any room in this world for a selfish leader. A selfish leader steps on the toes of those below him in order to make himself look good. What they don’t understand is that by pushing the team down, they are not really leading or motivating. The selfish leader puts undue stress on a team and fails to give credit where credit is due. A selfish leader misses out on the rewards of seeing everyone succeed. This is the most valuable part. A leader should be like a proud parent, wanting to see the accomplishments of their children grow and grow and grow. A good leader should always be training the next generation.

As always, I appreciate you reading this post. I also covet your comments as they help me grow and give me opportunities to make my blog posts even better.

Jim

2 Replies to “What is a Leader?”

  1. the one thing that strikes me most is the idea of “trustworthiness”. . . as what we always hear, “if no one if following you, then you are not leading. you are just walking” (by John Maxwell)…..

    Truly, TRUST is the heart of every leadership. either in a family, business and political arena, if other people cannot give their TRUST to the LEADER, then no one cannot expect to follow his/her decisions and directions…….

    Thanks for the nice insights.

    Iris Allan S. Astillero
    Civil Engineer

    1. Hi Iris! I apologize for the extended elapsed time in responding. You make a very good point in that trust is the root of every leadership relationship. Really, it is the root of every relationship we have. Trust is more important than any other trait.

      I read another blog just today talking about other traits of a leader. The one that stood out is loyalty – one must be loyal to all levels of command. I think that helps to instill trust in the hearts of the project team.

      Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them!!!

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