How do YOU define leadership? Blanchard describes leadership as “influence.” Leaders do influence, and so do friends, family members, talk show hosts, and advertisements. I would add, “Leadership is influencing people to work toward a shared goal.” Alan Keith expressed it this way, “Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.” Leaders create movement to improvement.
This means that leadership is fundamentally about relationships on a journey to a destination. Effective leaders are not out in front pulling people to go to a place they don’t want to go, or pushing people from behind to do what they don’t want to do. Leaders walk alongside others and work together to make the world a better place. The goal may be making widgets that improve the quality of life for others, digging wells to provide water to impoverished towns, or providing jobs for parents that make it possible for parents to provide for their children–leaders make things better.
Great things can’t be accomplished alone. Generals need an army to fight a war. CEO’s need skilled workers to create a product. Pastors need a congregation to share the Good News. Extraordinary accomplishments are the result of a group of people who share the same vision of the future. It’s not the CEO’s vision, the stockholder’s vision, the superintendent’s vision, or the pastor’s vision; it is OUR vision for the future.
I’ve never met a person who wants a mediocre school for their children, who is fine with a below average marriage, or who wants to work at a meaningless job with people who don’t give a rip about what they are producing. People want the best for themselves, their family, and their community. Leaders listen to the dreams of people and say, “Together, WE can make this happen.” Fundamentally all organizations, whether for profit or not-for-profit, are composed of volunteer workers. Each worker, paid or unpaid is volunteering their will and commitment to help the company or organization accomplish the extraordinary. I’m grateful for the coaches, parents, teachers, bosses, and pastors who taught me, “Servant leaders serve others, who together serve a vision to make something extraordinary happen.”