[March 26, 2018] A few months ago, I was listening to a speech given by a university president. He identified some of the problems he believed were necessary to solve and the only way to do that was through better leadership. After the speech, which received a standing ovation (it was very good), I asked him at dinner what he meant by “leadership.” Surprisingly, he could not answer the basic question, What is leadership?
In his words to a large number of faculty and staff, he said the issues facing his university was a decline in the teaching and mentoring of students, occasional disruption of classes by protests, and a decline in academic rigor. His solution? More leadership. My first thought was whether he actually understood what leadership meant. Clearly, he knew enough to speak about it and like many of us who love art; often we cannot describe it in clear and concise words.
In the footnotes below the end of this blog post, I listed 13 quotes about leadership used here at theLeaderMaker.com. I like them and they are all from very famous leaders. But there is a flaw in each. They do not tell us what leadership is. The one, in my opinion, that comes closest to truly getting at the heart of what leadership is about, is the last one by Dwight Eisenhower:
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Leadership always contains two elements; people and a common task. Reading these quotes comes close to giving a greater understanding of leadership but often generates more questions than it answers. Leadership becomes the easy answer; have a problem, just exercise more leadership. This is what the university president was doing. He had a problem and so the solution for him and his audience was more leadership.
I like my definition of leadership because it’s simple and has both elements. “Leadership is about getting people to do things they would not ordinarily do because they want to do it.” …. Yes, leadership is complex, difficult, and requires focus on people but it is also about the end result and what needs to be accomplished.
1. “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis
2. “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” – Bill Bradley
3. “Leadership is a choice, not a position.” – Stephen Covey
4. “Leadership – leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses.” – Mitt Romney
5. “Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.” – Simon Sinek
6. “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
7. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
8. “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles, but today it means getting along with people.” – Mahatma Gandhi
9. “The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger
10. “Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller
11. “Leadership to me means duty, honor, country. It means character, and it means listening from time to time.” – George W. Bush
12. “True leadership lies in guiding others to success. In ensuring that everyone is performing at their best, doing the work they are pledged to do and doing it well.” – Bill Owens
13. “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower