What is leadership? One important question concerns how to define
leadership. There are many possible leadership definitions. In this
article, I wish to provide a leadership definition that is different from
many other possible definitions 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 organization.
There are some important elements of the above definition. First,
leadership is perceived to involve a thoughtful process of developing
good ideas. Leadership development is about learning to develop
good ideas. Leadership is not simply the process of communicating
and implementing a vision or plan. It would not matter whether there is
someone in an organization who can effectively implement a vision or
plan if the ideas that are part of the vision or plan are not likely to
produce positive change in the organization. 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 ideas should
reflect a full-scale model of organizational change. This model should
be comprehensive, based on research findings, and involve 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 a
number of individuals (team leadership). No one person may be able
to develop all of the possible ideas about organizational change.
Sometimes the best ideas are an integration of ideas from a number of
individuals. Organizations should strive to consider ideas from
everyone in the organization. All ideas should be evaluated using the
same objective standards (e.g., consistency with scientific evidence).
Evaluating all ideas using the same objective standards can be viewed
as an element of authentic leadership.
Third, leadership is perceived to involve achieving positive change.
Leadership is not merely providing direction to maintain current
standards or procedures. Leadership is about striving for positive
change that may involve creating new standards and procedures. It
may involve evaluating the culture of the organization to find ways to
improve the culture. It may also involve revising the vision and
mission statements. This element of the leadership definition provides
insight concerning the leadership vs. management distinction.
Leadership, but not management, may involve organizational change.
Creative Leadership and Collaborative Leadership
The above definition of leadership is consistent with creative
leadership and collaborative leadership. The leadership definition
involves developing ideas (creative leadership) and collaborating with
others (collaborative leadership).
Moreover, a leadership qualities list could include the ability to be
creative and collaborate.