What is Leadership?

The Ripple Definition Of Leadership

I often ask, “What is leadership” for your company?

I speak to companies of all sizes to help them define and develop what leadership really means for their organization. Oftentimes someone has sought me out to share my unique perspective on the Ripple Effect of leadership. I love these opportunities because it gives me a chance to share how their organization should embrace leadership as a skill, not simply a distinction of authority. 

Leadership to me is believing in someone enough to help them see what you in see in their potential. Then giving them whatever resources they need to develop and fully realize that potential.

When you take the time to invest in your people at that level you are set the bar pretty high. And trust me, your people are hungry for it and will respond accordingly.

Your leadership example will be the measuring stick by all leaders, past, present and future will be compared. This simple but powerful approach will serve them so well as they adapt their own leadership influence with people they engage with personally and professional. It will inevitably influence how they answer “what is leadership” for them when they find themselves in a position of influence with a coworker, colleague or subordinate.

It’s not some Jedi mind trick to get more out of your people. It’s a common sense way of starting a Ripple that will serve them for the rest of their career.

The Pause

When I share my philosophy with company executives, I often get a lot of head nodding and agreement. But I can always tell there’s a little anx and tension as well.

The passive unspoken resistance comes from individuals who immediately make the mental leap to two ways of thinking. Either to competition or loss.

The leaders who worry that encouraging a super star of tomorrow to rise up and show their real potential might somehow undermine or even compromise their own future. As if somehow they are mentoring their future replacement.

Still other leaders deviate to the other way of thinking, a sense of potential loss. If they put too much time and effort into this individual and help them see their true potential they may leave.

Both ways of thinking are short sighted and revolve around feeling some level of threat.

Which as you can imagine undermines much of what I’m saying from the front of the room. That means they won’t really be committed to executing and that’s a problem.

Leadership Legacy

When I see polite head nodding from an audience and know that what I have shared is concerning them because of the reasons stated above, I switch my approach.

I appeal to the ego.

Developing a future leader and seeing them off on a career path of great success is an extremely rewarding thing. I mean how awesome is it that you played some significant role in helping them become successful? I tell them, “That’s legacy leadership people!” Because it true.

Nodding stops. Brains start going into overdrive as they contemplate what their leadership legacy might be and how history may judge it.

What is leadership? Great leaders understand it’s more than a title it’s a frontrow seat on to someone else’s journey. And if they do it right they will inevitably play some small or potentially big role in helping someone realize new levels of personal and professional success. How can that not make you feel proud. The sense of accomplishment alone and the Ripple your leadership has started certainly outweighs any downside to supporting someone develop and grow. Right?

At this stage, eyes are wide open, people are engaged. They are ready to start working on their leadership legacy.

What Is Leadership?

The question is really quite simple if you think about about. So is the answer.  Developing the people you serve as a leader into something more; perhaps something more than they ever thought possible. It might mean they get promoted. Maybe they become your colleague instead of your subordinate. Or maybe they  leave the company altogether.

The great leaders understand the risks and they invest the time, the emotional and professional capital anyway. Why? Because great leaders know as one amazing new leader leaves the nest, there will be others waiting in the wings to be developed and led.

So I ask, what is leadership for you?

The question applies whether you are in a position of management, corporate leadership or simply one of the worker bees. I believe you need to  define what leadership means to you. Once you are clear on that, then strive to be the very best leader you can be.

There are several great articles on leadership. The Harvard Business Review has several great articles on the topic but here’s a one to read:


Ripple On!!!


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