What is leadership? One important question concerns how to define direction. There are many possible leadership definitions. In this article, I wish to provide a leadership definition that is different from many other possible meanings of leadership. This may help in thinking in creative ways about leadership.
A definition of leadership:
Leadership is the collaborative process of developing and implementing ideas to achieve positive change in an organisation.
There are some essential elements of the above definition. First, leadership is perceived to involve a thoughtful process of developing good ideas. Leadership development is about learning to create good designs. The direction is not merely the process of communicating and implementing a vision or plan. It would not matter whether there is someone in an organisation who can effectively implement a vision or program if the ideas that are part of the image or plan are not likely to produce positive change in the organisation. Ideas may sound convincing, but they may be too simplistic, based on faulty assumptions, or fail to take into account all relevant variables. The foundation of good leadership is good ideas. The process of selecting ideas must involve extensive critical evaluation. The views should reflect a full-scale model of organisational change. This model should be comprehensive, based on research findings, and include a complete analysis of the causal relationships among the variables.
Second, leadership is perceived to be a collaborative process. Leadership may often be viewed as reflecting the influence of one particular person. In contrast, the above definition suggests that positive outcomes may be a product of the collaborative efforts of some individuals (team leadership). No one person may be able to develop all of the possible ideas about organisational change. Sometimes the best ideas are an integration of concepts from some individuals. Organisations should strive to consider plans from everyone in the organisation. All proposals should be evaluated using the same objective standards (e.g., consistency with scientific evidence). Assess all ideas using the same objective criteria can be viewed as an element of authentic leadership.
Third, leadership is perceived to involve achieving positive change. Leadership is not merely providing direction for maintaining current standards or procedures. Leadership is about striving for positive change that may include creating new rules and procedures. It may involve evaluating the culture of the organisation to find ways to improve the learning. It may also include revising the vision and mission statements. This element of the leadership definition provides insight into the leadership vs. management distinction. Leadership, but not management, may involve organisational change.