My Definition of Leadership

Zac Brown’s Definition of Leadership

Before majoring in Community Leadership Development at UK my definition of leadership was fairly long, complex and vague. While taking leadership classes my definition evolved, got longer, then shorter, got built up and then deflated. Then the RWL Program occurred which exposed me to many “real world” experiences and plenty of advice from different people regarding leadership. My definition is now radically different from what it was previous to the RWL Program.

Arriving home from the last RWL worksite, I attempted to solidify my definition in words. Initially, my new definition was put to paper and it sounded technically correct, but something was missing. After some agonizingly long sessions of contemplating, I arrived at the conclusion that the definition was lacking a destination and a purpose – my definition had to involve goals!

The great leaders that were witnessed within the RWL Program typically had clear goals; or if they did not have them, they knew to how to obtain them. The RWL Program also exposed me to leaders in positions of management who had fuzzy or no goals. The leaders who set clear goals for themselves and their organizations seemed tremendously more successful than those who had fuzzy or incomplete goals.

The substance of my leadership definition also needed to include some of the advice received during the project, as well as some observations. As expected, each piece of advice received was somewhat different from the others. If I attempted to combine all of them my definition would be brobdingnagian! So, after more long sessions of pondering, the similarities began to appear…and they had to do with specific leadership characteristics and traits.

For example: loyalty, humility, discipline and passion help develop leaders and make them more effective, but they do not make a leader. A leader does not have to have most of leadership characteristics, although more certainly helps. What I saw in the RWL Program was that leadership characteristics are the traits that allow a leader to accomplish the goals he or she has set.

Thus, my definition of leadership is:

The ability to set effective goals, then move yourself and a group toward those goals through a combination of characteristics and skills.

After settling on my personal definition on leadership based upon the experiences in the RWL Program I decided to use Google and see what some other sources listed as their definition.

Webster’s definition of leadership is very short and simple, “The capacity to lead.”

The Marine Corps have this to say on leadership, “The 14 leadership traits are qualities of thought and action which, if demonstrated in daily activities, help Marines earn the respect, confidence, and loyal cooperation of other Marines. It is extremely important that you understand the meaning of each leadership trait and how to develop it, so you know what goals to set as you work to become a good leader and a good follower.”
Their characteristics are: Justice, Judgment, Dependability, Initiative, Decisiveness, Tact, Integrity, Enthusiasm, Bearing, Unselfishness, Courage, Knowledge, Loyalty and Endurance.

Regent University professors, Bruce Winston and Kathleen Patterson, define leadership by saying, “A leader is one or more people who selects, equips, trains, and influences one or more follower(s) who have diverse gifts, abilities, and skills and focuses the follower(s) to the organization’s mission and objectives causing the follower(s) to willingly and enthusiastically expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy in a concerted coordinated effort to achieve the organizational mission and objectives. The leader achieves this influence by humbly conveying a prophetic vision of the future in clear terms that resonates with the follower(s) beliefs and values in such a way that the follower(s) can understand and interpret the future into present-time action steps. In this process, the leader presents the prophetic vision in contrast to the present status of the organization and through the use of critical thinking skills, insight, intuition, and the use of both persuasive rhetoric and interpersonal communication including both active listening and positive discourse, facilitates and draws forth the opinions and beliefs of the followers such that the followers move through ambiguity toward clarity of understanding and shared insight that results in influencing the follower(s) to see and accept the future state of the organization as a desirable condition worth committing personal and corporate resources toward its achievement. The leader achieves this using ethical means and seeks the greater good of the follower(s) in the process of action steps such that the follower(s) is/are better off (including the personal development of the follower as well as emotional and physical healing of the follower) as a result of the interaction with the leader. The leader achieves this same state for his/her own self as a leader, as he/she seeks personal growth, renewal, regeneration, and increased stamina– mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual–through the leader-follower interactions.”

Wikipedia’s definition is extremely similar to my definition, which I took as encouraging: “Leadership has been described 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.”

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About the Program

The Real World Leaders - Real World Students Program is a leadership program created in partnership with the University of Kentucky that enables students to work at different work sites across America and observe a wide variety of leadership skills, traits and characteristics.

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