January 31, 2013

Definition of a Leader

My group and I have been looking at the definition of a leader and I must admit the exercise was very interesting. With the aid of an analysis matrix we critically looked at the elements of a leadership definition from a list of 20. From the result of our analysis matrix we derived some key characteristics of a leader namely:

  1. Influence.
  2. Effective relationship
  3. Result-driven
  4. Visionary

We defined leadership as " a process of social influence whereby a one person employs the help of others towards the achievement of a common purpose and goals". Most of the definitions that we arrived at in class was very similar to each other. However, I have been reflecting on all definitions and none of them tried to distinguish effective leaders from good leaders. For example, from our definition Lance Armstrong can be classed as a leader simply because he was influential. He was able to influence his team mates to indulge in a doping culture. I read his autobiography almost 4 years ago (it is not about the bike) and I was very inspired.

Lance was also able to build relationshipswith different entities through his cancer charity. He has raised over $15 million dollars for cancer research and although retired, he helped to get kids off the streets and gave them direction by introducing them to professional cycling. Apart from being a visionary, he was also results orientated. He won the Tour de France 7 times, it is hard enough winning it once. Well we all know the Lance Armstrong controversy. He was recently labelled a drug cheat and some have called him a monster. Whatever he has been called, he his still very much a leader from our definition.

Individuals have tried to find a solution to the problem by distinguishing effective leadership from good leadership. I do not think they should be a phrase such as bad leadership. If you are bad then you should not be referred to as a leader. I do not think there should be any negativity associated to the leadership terminology.

As a student of Business Excellence, I decided to look at what the EFQM Excellence Model would define as leadership. Excellent organisations have leaders who shape the future and make it happen, acting as role models for its values and ethics and inspiring trust at all times (EFQM, 2013). The challenge now for us as MBE students is to try to integrate values, integrity and ethics into our definition of leadership.

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