What is Leadership?

5 min. read

Great leadership makes for a great place to work. But what are the things that comprise a great leader, and therefore great leadership?

One could define Leadership at its highest level as empowering others.

An individual has been placed in a position of leadership and has been asked to lead a group. As part of that, the end result of leading a group is to accomplish some task or thing. Getting something done is the goal. The something will depend on the situation, of course. But that is at the far end of the start.

As one works backward from that end goal of something accomplished or done, is all the tasks and individual component parts that contribute to getting that thing done and all the people involved in that process and really making certain that they are in a position to be successful in doing whatever it is that is being asked or expected of them.

Success in doing all those tasks and ultimately achieving the end result — well, it comes down to empowering others.

People are very bright. Rarely is a person incapable. More often the reason that something doesn’t get done is either a lack of understanding, or something is confusing, or maybe they don’t have the right training for this particular thing.

If you believe that someone is inherently incapable or incompetent, then you’re setting everyone up for a loss if you continue to try and get that person to get something done. But if you believe that there are known obstacles and barriers in the way of achieving a stated goal and that you use excellent communication to help this person become more capable of learning and more able to overcome those obstacles and barriers — then the achievement of that goal becomes far more likely.

As a leader, when this is really understood and believed — it puts you in the right frame of mind to empower others, and consequently, you set the stage for a great place to work. Nobody wants to have someone constantly looking over their shoulder, or questioning their work and capabilities at every turn. People are far more likely to succeed and thrive in an environment where they are valued, appreciated, and trusted.

Maintaining a level head of understanding and compassion and care for the fact that you have this very capable person who is probably able to do anything and they are just missing that one little piece of information that would, if they had it, allow them to be successful.

A lot of leaders take the mindset that they need to drag the team with them. If that’s all you ever do as a leader then you are leading with the definition of “lead” being the head of a line. You are not leading in the sense of empowering a team to accomplish a goal. Doing this all the time will result in you having to do this forever because you haven’t empowered others to do things without your involvement.

A sports analogy would be like a really good coach who is going to empower the team and get out of the way and let them play and let them have fun. Rather than harsh talks or sternness, it is all about being there to pick up the pieces when they fall and dusting them off and getting them back aligned with what needs to be done, and making it safe for them to come and say, I don’t really know what to do and then getting them back on track getting busy doing things.

Empowerment has a lot to do with the delegation of tasks in that way. Because a leader can’t do everything, the best way to take responsibility for your team’s success is to endow other people with responsibility. However, if you delegate all your responsibilities and assume that someone else is solving every problem, you could be unknowingly steering your team toward disaster. That’s why it’s important to strike a balance between hands-on leadership and delegation.

It’s the difference between micromanaging and needing to control everything with an “if I don’t do it myself, then nothing will get done right” attitude — and trusting and believing that your team can accomplish the things you set out for them. And who knows? You might be surprised by the creative and inventive solutions that they come up with when left to do the job that they were hired to do.

Empowering your team takes trust — trust that they will feel internally motivated to hold themselves and each other accountable for their work. In other words, on the ideal team in a great place to work, all members would see themselves as a leader and accept responsibility for the entire team’s mistakes.

Keep in mind here, that responsibility and blame are two different things. When it comes to mistakes there is a huge chasm between “whose fault is it?” and “whose responsibility is it?” Learning to distinguish between the two (and learning which question to ask) is both powerful and empowering. Finding the difference between adversity and opportunity has a lot to do with this. In terms of practicality, this translates to identifying a mistake or problem, and how it can be solved in the present and avoided in the future — rather than assigning blame and punishment.

Creating a corporate culture that values and appreciates employees with a sense of kindness, trust, and pride in their work will not only encourage greater performance and productivity but will empower them to flourish in an amazing workplace.