What Is Leadership?

What is Leadership?

Over the last few decades, we have seen different buzz words for “leaders”. For a while it was management, strategic management, leadership, etc. It is rare that we ever achieve everything promised with the latest and greatest concept. Why is it that leadership is such a mysterious and difficult subject to comprehend and what is leadership?

Michael Jordan - What is Leadership

Over the last decade, I have had the pleasure of dedicating much of my life to public safety. In this field, leadership can mean the difference of life or death. We often call people in positions “leaders”, but it is my experience that this is far from the truth far too many times. To me, leadership is simply influence. The person with influence will lead the others, regardless of position.
During my tenure, I have seen “leaders” with positional power come in and attempt to push their agendas. These “leaders” would fight any resistance and refuse any input from others. Sadly, the leader does not always look at the big picture to see that the senior person has all the influence and the rest of the organization will usually follow the person with influence. John C. Maxwell details this philosophy in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership through The Law of Buy-In. Maxwell explains the importance of buy-in to win over influence before casting a vision.

Leader Vision Result
Don’t buy in Don’t buy in Get another leader
Don’t buy in Buy in Get another leader
Buy in Don’t buy in Get another vision
Buy in Buy in Get behind the leader


Without influence, you simply have a manager. A manager cares about processes, a leader cares about people. If you care about the people, they will care about your process. This is similar to the frequently quotes “people don’t care what you know, until they know how much you care.”

What leadership is about.

First and foremost, PEOPLE. We often overlook the reason for leadership, it is to lead people. Without people to follow, you are not a leader, you are a lone person. To be able to lead people, you must also have the ability, knowledge, experience, and the personality. Leadership isn’t simple, but it doesn’t have to be complicated.

He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only taking a walk.

I am a firm believer that leadership is a skill that people are born with to varying degrees. Similar to the talent of Michael Jordan, a man who is arguably the best basketball player of our time, he was cut from his high school basketball team. Although he had the capability, it took intentional dedication to develop his skills and talents to become the greatest.

Michael Jordan clearly had the ability to play basketball, but he also studied the game and determined what steps were necessary to succeed. He built his success around the knowledge of the game, the strategies, his opponents, and most importantly, himself. Having the ability to identify areas of his own strengths and weaknesses, Jordan dedicated himself to learning everything he could in order to succeed.

Overtime Jordan’s dedication gave him the ability to make the high school team, go on to play at the University of North Carolina, and finally a long career with the Chicago Bulls. Each experience was a learning opportunity for him. Jordan once said.

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in life. And that is why I succeed.”

His ability, knowledge, experiences, and personality allowed him to succeed. Although we can’t all be Michael Jordan’s, we can all be the best we can be to our own potential. As a leader, it takes intentional dedication to expand our capabilities.

Question: What are you doing to intentionally become a better leader? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please share your experiences and what you are doing.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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