The best way to define leadership is by reading many leadership definitions. Discover fifteen well said definitions to better understand leadership. Remember, If you can’t define it, you cannot know it. If you don’t know it, you cannot do it.
The Definition of Leadership
As part of one’s process of leadership development, one needs to define leadership. Coming up with a leadership definition is surprisingly difficult. There is even a fair amount of confusion in the business schools where we see many professors act as though leader and manager are the same role.
A Dictionary Definition of Leadership: Function: noun 1 : the office or position of a leader; 2 : capacity to lead 3 : the act or an instance of leading — Source: Merriam-Webster On-line
Leadership Definitions 1 through 5
“My definition of a leader . . . is a man who can persuade people to do what they don’t want to do, or do what they’re too lazy to do, and like it.” — Harry S. Truman, 1884-1972, Thirty-third President of the United States, Miller, More Plan Speaking
“You cannot manage men into battle. You manage things; you lead people.” — Grace Hopper, Admiral, U. S. Navy (retired), Nova ( PBS TV), 1986
“The superior leader gets things done with very little motion. He imparts instruction not through many words but through a few deeds. He keeps informed about everything but interferes hardly at all. He is a catalyst, and though things would not get done well if he weren’t’t there, when they succeed he takes no credit. And because he takes no credit, credit never leaves him.” — Lao Tse, Tao Te Ching
“Leadership occurs when one person induces others to work toward some predetermined objectives.” — Massie
“Leadership is the ability of a superior to influence the behavior of a subordinate or group and persuade them to follow a particular course of action.” — Chester Bernard
Leadership Definitions 6 to 10
“Leadership is the art to of influencing and directing people in such a way that will win their obedience, confidence, respect and loyal cooperation in achieving common objectives.” — U. S. Air Force
“The feminine leadership style emphasizes cooperation over competition; intuition as well as rational thinking in problem solving, team structures where power and influence are shared within the group . . . interpersonal competence; and participative decision making.” — Marilyn Loden, Founder and president, Loden Associates, Management Review, December 1987
“The first job of a leader is to define a vision for the organization…. Leadership of the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis, President, University of Cincinnati, University of Maryland symposium, January 21, 1988
“The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people’s enduring needs.” — James MacGregor Burns
“Managers have subordinates—leaders have followers.” — Murray Johannsen
Leadership Definitions 11 to 15
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” — John Quincy Adams quotes (American 6th US President (1825-29), eldest son of John Adams, 2nd US president. 1767-1848)
“I am looking for a lot of men who have an infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” — Henry Ford
“Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.” — Grace Hopper, Admiral, U. S. Navy (retired), Speech, Washington, D. C., February 1987
“As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; the next, the people hate.” — Lao Tse, 604-531 B. C., Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism, Tao Te Ching
“A manager takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to.” — Rosalyn Carter
A Final Word . . .
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt, American President