What is Leadership?

Initially posted on February 23, 2016 from the website kirkrandazzo.com

Welcome to the inaugural post of the Leadership in 3D Blog, written by Dr. Kirk A. Randazzo, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Carolina Leadership Initiative at the University of South Carolina. In this blog, I will explore all aspects and dimensions of leadership in the hopes of providing information to help everyone become a more effective leader.

To get started, we should explore the most basic and fundamental question – what is leadership? Obviously there are an almost infinite number of answers to this question, but one that I keep returning to and using in my Introduction to Leadership Studies class is a definition I first encountered in The Absolutes of Leadership by Philip Crosby. This is a definition that he paraphrased from President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Leadership is the art of getting others to do something you want done because they want to

I like this definition because we can pull out some important concepts that help us focus on what leadership truly is.

1. Art – Leadership is an art. There is no scientific formula that can be replicated to achieve the ‘leadership result’ nor is there a mathematical equation that produces the ‘leadership answer’. Rather, leadership is an art which becomes interpreted through the eyes of another person. Therefore, we need to make sure we apply different ‘colors’ and ‘textures’ to our leadership in order to positively affect all people.

2. Others – The true focus of leadership is NOT ON THE LEADER. Rather, our attention needs to remain focused on someone else. Remember, leadership is not about the leader but instead on the change he/she produces in someone else.

3. What You Want – In order to exercise our leadership, we must articulate a vision or set of goals or ideas. This is how leaders provide direction to the team and inspire individuals to achieve specific goals.

4. Because They Want To – This is the key part of leadership, inspiring someone else toward accomplishing a vision. It is not merely enough to use our positions or influence as leaders to order individuals around. Instead, we need to inspire them toward our goals and help them become part of the process.



Author: Kirk Randazzo

I am a Professor of Political Science and Director of the Carolina Leadership Initiative at the University of South Carolina. I also conduct public presentations on a variety of aspects related to leadership, conflict management, and public speaking.

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