What is leadership?

What is Leadership?

Great question and one I’ve explored over time as I’ve talked to senior execs on a development journey towards leadership and those who are already there!

Take a read and if you want to add anything, please do so in the comments below.

#leadership#leadershipdevelopment#gamingboardroom#eventsboardroomGreg SaintJon Bruford

May 25, 2023

Looking back at my career it’s been interesting to see the growth that I have made over the last 30 years from a lowly classified ad sales person on a national newspaper to a group MD at one of the world’s largest event organisers. Over that time have made my fair share of leadership mistakes, but spent a lot of time honing my skills to a place where I led a successful team of about 70 to drive success and great performance in the world of gaming events.

I’ve been recently asked to talk to groups of executives who are on a career journey about leadership and what I’ve learnt and I thought I would share one small part of that talk today and ask the question, What is Leadership?

Leadership, is a term we’ve all heard, and a role many of you occupy, but what does it truly mean? If you ask ten different people, you might very well receive ten different answers. That’s because leadership is complex and multidimensional and we naturally begin to be the leader we think we should be and only after we have arrived in a leadership position do we really question how we should be and what we should do.

John C. Maxwell, a renowned leadership author and expert, once said, ‘Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.’

Peter Drucker, another distinguished academic, suggested that ‘Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.’

While these definitions may seem different, they share common elements. They imply that leadership is about influencing others, inspiring and enabling them to achieve shared goals.

Why is leadership in companies so important?

Good leadership is often the driving force behind successful businesses. It shapes culture, drives performance, and influences the bottom line.

Let’s look at Apple’s success under Steve Jobs. His visionary leadership drove Apple to unimaginable heights. His ability to inspire and influence his team led to innovative products that revolutionised multiple industries.

In contrast, poor leadership can lead to low morale, high turnover, and below-par performance. As you may recall, Nokia was once a leading player in the mobile phone industry. However, due to a lack of strategic leadership, they failed to adapt to the advent of smartphones and lost significant market share.

These examples demonstrate how leadership, or the lack of it, can have profound implications on a company’s journey.

Understanding the essence of leadership

Leadership is more than a position or title; it’s about action and example. It involves core principles like vision, integrity, courage, empathy, humility, and resilience.

Vision enables leaders to set a direction and inspire others to follow. Nelson Mandela, for example, envisioned a racially unified South Africa and inspired millions to join his cause.

Integrity, on the other hand, ensures leaders are trustworthy and ethical, which is crucial for building strong relationships with followers.

Why does it matter for executive leaders?

As executive leaders, understanding the essence of leadership is crucial. Your actions and decisions can significantly impact the company’s direction, culture, and performance.

As the leaders of your respective organisations or teams, you set the strategic direction, influence the working environment, and make decisions that affect the future of the company. Therefore, understanding and embodying effective leadership principles is essential.

Remember, leadership is not a destination but a journey of continuous learning and growth. It requires self-awareness, adaptability, and a commitment to improving oneself.

So, for those of you who are on a development journey, what I’ve learnt over time is that leadership is complex yet vital. It’s the cornerstone of successful companies and effective teams and you have to work at it every day. You also need to bring your own blend of patience, humility, emotions and drive to your role and make it your own in order to take your team on the same journey towards success.

The other thing I’ve leant is that you can make mistakes, in fact, if you don’t, your leadership journey takes longer to hone and you may run out of time, but you can right those wrong actions as long as you are willing to learn, admit, you’ve made a mistake and move on and keep learning!

Let me know in the comments if you have any other answers to the question What is Leadership? as it’s great to be able to talk to them when I’ve talked to others about the whole subject of leadership and how you can learn more!