Leadership Definition

So what is the definition of leadership? Our personal leadership definition can be very different from other’s leadership definition. The goal in this post is to examine some of the different definitions of leadership. No one leadership definition is correct, but the careful analysis of multiple leadership definitions can help us better understand what it means to be a leader.

  • the activity of leading; “his leadership inspired the team”
  • the ability to lead; “he believed that leadership can be taught”


The first definition of leadership references the activity of leading. It is important to remember that leading is something you do. It isn’t a position you hold, it is an activity. Your position may require you to lead, but it is possible to hol a leadership position without doing any actual leading.

The second definition of leadership above, talks about ability. This helps remind us that leadership is something that requires a skill. Don’t ever assume that you can lead merely because of your position. Leadership requires you to do something and it requires you to have the skills to actually lead.

  • Leadership has been written as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. …


Wikipedia’s definition examines that the social influence perspective. This definition of leadership helps point out the importance of influencing others. It isn’t enough to tell people what to do. Your social influence is what determines your ability to actually lead. Having a plan is good, but isn’t very useful unless you have people willing to help you execute your plan.

  • leader – a person who rules or guides or inspires others
  • leader – drawing card: a featured article of merchandise sold at a loss in order to draw customers


Princeton’s definition of a leader talkes about a person who directs or inspires others. You can lead from a place of power (for example when you can fire an employee) or you can lead from a place of inspiration (where people do what you ask because they believe in you and your mission).

The final definition of a leader from Princeton is the idea of a product that draws people into your store. For example, a loss leader is an item that is priced intentionally below cost inorder to get people to the store so they wil spend money on other things. This idea of a leader is something that attracts people–it draws them in of their own free will because it is attractive and valuable. While this type of leader isn’t a person, it is helpful to think about when examining leadership definitions. being a leader requires that you attract followers in much the same way that a store product leader needs to bring in customers.


  1. Kevin Beinke says

    I was a trainer in leadership at the South Australian Police Academy Centre for Leader Development.
    When I retired I presented my manager with a framed Leadership Philosophy Statement of my own as below:

    Good leadership motivates the employee and it leads to increased productivity and decreased absenteeism. It improves work performance and lights the fire of desire to succeed.
    Poor leadership demotivates the employee and it leads to increased absenteeism. It deceases productivity and can leave smouldering embers of resentment. Kevin Beinke Sgt 2514/2

    I hope people can find it useful but I suggest if leaders develop their own leadership philosophy statement, they have a greater likelihood of taking ownership of their own leadership style and developing it to a greater level of effectiveness. This means identifying and using techniques that work and avoid at all costs the techniques that fail. It does not mean you will not make mistakes, but good leaders on identifying their own faults rectify them immediately and if that means apologising, do so post haste.
    I have always maintained that you manage ‘things’ for efficiency and lead people for effectiveness.

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