How can we define leadership?

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.
Peter F. Drucker

There you go a working defintion of the difference ebtween leadership and management. This page is to help you get a little clearer on what we mean by the term leadership and important understanding if you want to be a better leader

To define leadership then we can define three main strands in the management of people:

  1. Leadership and motivation
  2.  Communication
  3.  Decision making, productive thinking and problem solving

These three are interwoven but with people little can be accomplished without leadership.

When we talk about leadership we are talking about the process of influence of the leader with their team in order to achieve some postive change.
If you think about that then it means that a leader is defined by those that choose to follow.

Anybody who gets others to carry out what needs to be done is behaving like a leader. If the team find this acceptable then they will treat the person as a leader and agree to follow.

Common issues that define leadership:

Can anyone be a leader?

Potentially yes as long as they have the ability to get others to perform certain required task and duties.

There is huge debate around weather true leaders are made or born. most experienced leaders will tell you they had to put in a lot of effort over time to develop their leadership skills

Is a manager a leader or a follower?

Most managers are probably both leaders and followers, even the CEO is accountable to the Board

Is a person who is not a manager but uses their initiative a leader

Absolutely yes, if they have influence and persuade others to do required tasks then they are behaving like a leader and being treated like a leader by others


No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.
Abraham Lincoln

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Leaders can be appointed
You are selected by the organisation and given clear accountabilities and some delegated authority
You may have the last word on issues because of your position power
Your direct reports will choose how much to treat you as a leader based upon their perceptions of your behaviouryou may be the Boss, but are you a leader?

Leaders can be elected
You are selected by the majority of the group and given temporary delegated responsibility and accountability
With important issues the group might expect discussion and for you to test for consensus

The Emergent Leader
You gradually take on the role of leadership in the group without any formal process or delegated authority by using your influencing skills
You can operate through influence but to stay a leader you will need to follow the group consensus even if it contradicts your view
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.
John Quincy Adams

Characteristics that define leadership


I am going to borrow John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership model to talk about some key characteristics that define leadership.


Find out more about or more information on defining leadership check out this excellent site John Adair. Action Centred Leadership here





Achieving the Task


Being proactive not passive ,using your initiative,  

the ability to getting the group moving



Seeing things through, keep going when it gets tough

Keeping the group going when it is inclined to give up



Being busy having energy

Not being distracted

Single minded

Outcome focused

Personally efficient


Quality decisions

Breadth of perspective

Knows what makes sense of the organisation

Good decision making models

Trusts judgment of self and elected others

Building the Team


Acts and encourages honesty , ethical behaviour

Builds trust with and within team



Keeps a sense of perspective

Can relieve tension with humour

Doesn’t take self too seriously


Self Confident

Trust your self and your capabilities before you can expect others to trust you


Moral courage

Stands up for what is right not what is easiest

Will appropriately challenge

Will “sell” difficult decisions to team and the organisation


Developing the Individual


Sensitive in your dealings with others

Nimble enough o adapt your style

Considerate of others



Can empathise and build effective working relationships with others




Teats people fairly and consistently

Your behaviour is relatively consistent on the “important stuff” and not full of contradictions and inconsistencies  



Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
George Patton

For more information on defining leadership check out this excellent site Define leadership.

So How Does Leadership change by level?

At first line management level leadership might be more "technical leadership" and coused on changing and improving operational technical matters.Once people have been promoted into middle management and above the human and conceptual sides of leadership become more important. This is about forming tactical plans and then getting those plans implemented through other people.

The ability to absorb a broad range of information from inside and outside the organisation and make some sense out of it when formulating plans is critical. As is translating these ideas into a compelling vision and plans for others.At the top of organisations leadership success is increasingly influenced by the leaders ability to operate sucessfully in a complex political environment of competing agendas of managers, customers, Board members, suppliers and regulators.

The last factor that helps to define leadership is looking at a balance between task and management. This is about priorities,interest, habits and focus. In my experience better leaders are better learners.

Golf Club Leader (low task, high relationship)Likely to use negotiation and mutual self interest to get others on board but unlikely to try to coerce others as this could impact on relationships.

Non Leader (low task, low relationship)

Not a leader as they are nether focused on results or people, could be “missing in action” or possess poor skills and motivation .

Dictator Leader (high task, low relationship)

Heavily task orientated for these people the “ends certainly justify the means” These leaders tell other what to do and expect their instructions to be completed without delay or question. Could be a necessary approach in a crisis when debate is not an option or when the team has very low capabilities. This approach tends to turn over staff and does not grow capabilities at all.

Team Leader (high task, high relationship

Has a team focus and defines success in terms of the team. Has a balanced approach of getting the job done whilst bringing the team along and provides a good role model for others. Team has potential to be the most productive with this type of leader

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