How do you define leadership? Is it a skill set? Is it a role?
Everyone has their own definition of leadership. The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary defines a leader as “a person who has commanding authority or influence” and leadership as “a position of leader of a group, organization, etc.”
That is, of course, how most people view leadership — as a formal role or title within an organization or group. The function of being “in charge.” But if we further explore the dictionary definition of leadership, we notice words like guide, steward, sway, and inspire.
Leadership is Influence
I pose to you that at its most basic, leadership is simply influence. Nothing more or less. Any time you influence or inspire the thinking, behavior or development of people in their personal or professional lives, you assume the role of leader.
When I got up this morning, as a mom I had influence over my children in choosing what to eat for breakfast and what to wear to school. When I meet with my coach, she influences how I approach what I say that I value, and how those values show up in my business and life. If I get in a fender bender on the way home tonight, my response to the other driver will influence their behavior in some way.
Think about it. Who, in your life, has most influenced your thinking, behavior, or path in life? Perhaps it was a parent or grandparent. Was it a teacher? An athletic coach? A family friend?
That person you just thought of was a leader in your life, regardless of his or her formal title. Leaders holding titles and positions of authority are just a small part of what we call leadership.
Every one of us exerts influence daily. Our influence can heal and bless others or it can wound and hurt. Our influence can create steps toward change and growth or it can create negativity and complacency.
Your Role as a Leader
And as we consider this, we realize that all of us are leaders in various ways. At times, each one of us leads. At other times, we follow. No one is excluded.
Kind of changes the landscape a bit, doesn’t it? Accepting this and realizing your potential as a leader within your own life, and in others’ lives, becomes your responsibility. It also opens doors of possibility you may never have considered.
So the question is not whether you are a leader with influence over others. The question becomes what kind of influencer will you be and how will you grow into your leadership skills?
Learn it. Apply it.
Now it’s your turn.
- In what ways do you influence others that you may not have thought of?
- What kind of influencer do you want to be?
- How do you want to make a difference?
- In what area of your life or career can you make a bigger difference by stepping up as a leader and being intentional in the way that you influence?