Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Latest Leadership Definition

Why does a leadership definition make a difference?

Because it is reflective of the leader who uses it.

I am all for each one of us having our own definition of leadership if serves the individual and the organization well. In fact this is probably more the reality than the exception.

Rather than seeking to get what is a squishy topic definition (leadership) just right, and be all encompassing and technical, why not just admit most independent thinkers will adopt that which reflects their particular approach to leadership ... that which 'rings true' for them in the daily give and take of working with people and making things happen.

For the record, here is the definition of leadership I have used for about 25 years now.

Leadership is discontent in motion.

Sometimes I'll add that leadership is creative discontent in motion.

You see, it is part of who I am. Part of how I explain myself to the world. I believe that leadership is going somewhere. Leadership looks at what is and realizes it can be improved on. Then it reaches toward what is possible.

Management maintains what is. Absolutely vital if 'what is' is serving people with great efficiency and effectiveness.

Leadership reaches for what is possible. Equally vital if 'what is possible' will make things better.

I want to see people be the very best they can be. In working with hundreds of young men and women, I always saw them as tremendous gold mines of potential and absolutely enjoyed working shoulder-to-shoulder with them ... still do, when I have the occasion. It's the same with our current leadership and executive coaching clients. Leadership sees yet to be tapped potential in people.

I want to see systems - ways of doing things, improved.  It is my belief that almost every regularly repeated activity can be looked at as a system, and that almost any system can be made to work better ... even the large systems of causes, projects and programs. They can be improved.

It's a restless discontent with the way things are. It's creative in offering options and solutions that capture the imagination and can be translated into practical on-the-ground action. It's in motion because it is results oriented. It mobilizes people, capturing their attention and shifting their vision of what can happen.

So there it is. The next time you write up that page of leadership definitions, include mine. Leadership is discontent in motion. Put my name beside it, Gary Wood. Put it right after your definition of leadership ... the one that is reflective of the way you think and work.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Gary. I'll add the definition to the ones I ask my students to explore. I agree that we should work out our 'own' definitions. Taking someone else's is like map reading. Figuring out own own is like map-testing and map making.

    The only reservation: I would distinguish between 'every day definitions', and hose intended to contribute to concept-building or theoretical definitions.

    Best wishes