Defining Leadership

What Is Leadership?
Define what leadership is and brainstorm word associations related to leadership.

Introduction

You are starting a lesson on the topic of leadership. In this lesson, you will define what leadership is, reflect upon your own experiences of seeing leadership in action, learn about different leadership theories, and discuss the characteristics of effective leadership.

Start the lesson by reading the text and completing the exercises below.

What is leadership?

To begin, let’s start exploring your current notions about leadership.

 

Complete the two tasks below.

 

  • Define “leadership” in your own words, and write it down.
     

  • Think of words, phrases, and ideas that you associate with leadership. Write these down, as well.

Definitions of “leadership” vary greatly, so there is no one correct definition of the term. Importantly, definitions of “leadership” can vary by:

Culture


Countries


Regions*


Between one individual and another 

* (e.g., Eastern vs. Western interpretations of leadership)

For this lesson we will use the following definition as our basic definition of leadership:


“Leadership is a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”¹

Think of experiences in your life where someone demonstrated effective leadership.

 

  • What was the experience? 
     

  • Who was it? 
     

  • Why do you consider this effective leadership?
     

  • How did this person make you feel?

References

  1. Martin M. Chemers, An Integrative Theory of Leadership (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1997).
     

  2. Adapted from Kevin Kruse, “What Is Leadership?” Forbes, 9 April 2013, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2013/04/09/what-is-leadership/# [31 July 2020].

Notice four key things² about this definition of leadership:

Leadership stems from social influence, not authority, power, or formal titles.

1.


Leadership requires others.

2.


Leadership must involve a goal.

3.

This definition does not mention specific personality traits or attributes. There can be many paths to effective leadership.

4.

Next Up:

THEORIES OF LEADERSHIP

ACTIVITY

Learn about five main theories of leadership.

EXPLORING THE FIVE THEORIES OF LEADERSHIP

ACTIVITY

Reexamine your notions of leadership and reflect on your leadership experience.

DEBRIEF: EXPLORING THE FIVE THEORIES OF LEADERSHIP

ACTIVITY

Review the five theories of leadership as a group and then reflect on them together.

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