What is leadership?


How do you define leadership? Which are the skills, behaviours and attitude defining a leader? How do you show your leadership?

Leadership Development
Paolo Beffagnotti
6 months ago

9 answers


In 1967, the Austrian-born management consultant and philosopher Peter Ferdinand Drucker defined: "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Nearly 20 years later, Warren G. Bennis y Burt Nanus took this phrase and re-modeled it to: “Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing.” But what we really need and want is “efficient effectiveness” or a leading manager, who does the right things right.

Patrick Henz
5 months ago
That is the main challenge, sometimes is already difficult to do the thing right or the right thing. THe most popular inspirational leaders are the ones doing both. Patrick, to you experience who are the inspirational leaders? Any example? Thanks! - Paolo 5 months ago
If you work in a bigger company you (for example also the Ethics&Compliance Officer) take a look at the original founder. What had been his/her ideas and vision? In most cases these entrepreneurs understood their business not only as source of income, but had the idea to change the world, or at least a region or market. You make like take a look at my article: - Patrick 5 months ago
Agree, the vision is to change the world in your area. At least this is what has happened where I am working now. - Paolo 5 months ago
Yes, of course this is also no 100& protection against non-adequate behavior, as it may lead to "Ethical Blindness". But nevertheless it reduces the risk. - Patrick 5 months ago
but then Ethics&Compliance team will take care of this. - Paolo 5 months ago
Yes, for this Ethics&Compliance require knowledge in behavioral science. - Patrick 5 months ago

There are several "leadership" models. The one I embrace and that seems to clearly produce the best sustained results over time (see such seminal books as Built to Last and Good to Great) is servant leadership... humble but firm team-first leadership for a greater/aspirational purpose. The best leaders demonstrate their prowess and trustworthiness (i.e., worthy of being followed by the best volunteer team members) via the three C's: Character, Competency, and Caring. A well-known Christian CEO, Max DePree (Herman Miller Company) once said: "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant."

Don Barefoot
6 months ago
I haven't read the book but I agree that servant leadership supports to build better organization. If you want to serve, to serve first - Paolo 6 months ago
I agree and I think leadership essentially like border between the brick. - Venkatramana 6 months ago
Venkatramana... the best leaders also cast a clear enough vision for the aspirational future of the business that they also help the team see what all the bricks together are building... hopefully a beautiful, life-changing cathedral, not just a wall! - Don 6 months ago

In my experience, a person who poses supreme leadership poses the skill of Clarity + Reality distortion.
1.Clarity means that one is clear in his or her thoughts so that he could be consistent and knows what he/she wants so that others could follows. Without a clear perspective, followers can;t follows and perform. Hence, a clear though means that one plot out the vision as vivid as possible.
2.Reality distortion means that one is able to ask to get what he/she wants. The ability to persuade, IQ, EQ, soft skills are part of reality distortion. Without the ability of reality distortion, a vision will remain as a vision, while good reality distortion skill without clarity, one could not get what he wants because he do not know what he wants. What do you think?

Lawrence Loy
5 months ago
Agree with clarity. Ability to persuade is right too, however leaders develops a natural inclination to have people following their thoughts and activities spontaneously - Paolo 5 months ago

L versus M

Without question, while it is possible to cram for at test and graduate at the top of one’s class, that does not assure  leadership ability. We all know at least one person who scores at the highest levels on cognitive measures but would be incapable of pouring liquid out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.

So, here is my philosophy:

  • Leadership: By example and thru transparency with collaboration [Do the right thing]
  • Management: By walking-around thru tangible / intangible metrics [Doing things right].

Dr. David E. M
5 months ago
David, you hit the point. People need both someone showing the way and a concrete support on how to do this. - Paolo 5 months ago
Many thanks. - Dr. David E. 5 months ago
David... this reflects Warren Bennis' thinking. I'm a 'both/and' proponent... the best leaders are capable general managers and the best managers possess the leadership gifts to get things done. Regarding academics, Coolidge said, "the world is full of educated derelicts"! - Don 5 months ago

As skills, I would like to call out delegating, trustworthiness, responsibility and creativity. You are a leader when people recognize this, it is not something that you can force.

Paolo Beffagnotti
6 months ago
I would relate "responsibility" to managers, and "accountability" to leaders. - Patrick 5 months ago
These are good adds. Then an accountable leader will take responsibility too. - Paolo 5 months ago
Yes, the accountable leader is responsible, but not always the responsible manager perceives to be accountable. - Patrick 5 months ago
however it should do this - Paolo 5 months ago

A Leader has to provide 'meaning' to everything they are asking us to do.

I subscribe to the 'start with the why' school. Don't tell people what to do and then show them how to do it unless you have explained why first.

David Cottrell
6 months ago
Right, and this start with communication.. First explain why and then delegate, it helps to motivate and engage more with the team. Agree that we work in a better way when we understant the scope of what we are doing. - Paolo 6 months ago

Leaders make a positive difference in a organization by motivating people with soft power (influence) versus force. I don't lend to textbook models much being the type of group or commodity will have require different leaders. Not to say firmness at times is not needed but this should not be the main approach.

6 months ago
Good points, firmness is needed in certain occasion, however the acknowledged leadership requires soft power - Paolo 6 months ago

The most effective leaders are those who are charismatic and transitional, example Martin Luther King, Jr III. A leader who can effect change must be humble, willing to serve and not be served, such as Mahatma Gandhi. That person must have conviction to the beliefs he/she espouses. and be above being bribed. The ability to delegate and hold individuals accountable to their responsibilities is important, as one person cannot have all the skill sets to succeed at everything, nor would that person have the time or energy to excel as necessary.

Apollone Reid
6 months ago
Great call out Apollone, thanks for sharing these - Paolo 6 months ago

Which are your examples of leadership and why? Apollone Reid already called out some

Paolo Beffagnotti
6 months ago
Jesus Christ personifies effective servant leadership. Without economic means or worldly "status," He established the largest, most enduring and beneficial "organization" in world history. Those who emulate His leadership - humble but firm servant leaders operating according to timeless Biblical wisdom to attain worthy goals on behalf of their stakeholders - continue to "outperform" their peers! - Don 5 months ago
Great example and good points Don! - Paolo 5 months ago

Have some input?