Who is a leader and what is true leadership?

In our everyday language we talk about leaders and leadership but defining these terms with accuracy is not an easy job. Since antiquity, leaders have been the most influential persons among societies, who influenced and leaded people towards certain destinations, shaping various societal statuses and norms, forming organizations or even states. However, the term has gained a controversial meaning through times, considering leaders as manipulative persons who lie for their own interest and lead people towards disaster or towards a reality that serves their own interest. And that is not part of a fictional story. People who possessed leadership qualities have indeed abused their virtues for selfish and subtle motives in the past. Those are leaders by position and despite the possession of the capabilities, they lack something else, which is crucial; they lack character. So, who is considered a true a leader?

Before answering that question, let’s take everything from scratch. According to various dictionaries, “leader is a person who is in control of a group, organization, country or situation” or “the one who convinces other people to follow”. In a more specific definition leader is a person who pushes a group of people towards the achievement of a goal. Therefore, it is related with 3 elements- the 3 P’s- Person (who is the leader), People and Purpose, as depicted in the diagram below.

Thus, it is observed that in the epicenter of the term are the human relationships, the influence relations and the confidence among them. All lead to a specific way of leading. But which are the characteristics that make up a leader? According to Brian Tracy, great leaders demonstrate the following traits:

  1. Vision- great leaders have a clear-explicit idea of where they are going and what they want to accomplish.  
  2. Courage- this is the most identifiable trait of a leader.Courage means you are willing to take risks in the achievement of certain goals with no assurance of success.
  3. Integrity- the core of integrity is truthfulness, for it requires telling the truth, to all people, in every situation.
  4. Humility- humility is having the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognize the value of others without feeling threatened. It also means that you admit you could be wrong and that you don’t have all the answers.
  5. Strategic Planning- leaders have the ability to look ahead and anticipate trends, well in advance of their competitors, so they can adapt to change and still achieve their goals.
  6. Focus- leaders focus on results, on what must be accomplished by themselves, by others and by the organization. Great leaders focus on strengths, in themselves and in others.
  7. Cooperation- after all leadership is the ability to get other people to work for you because they want to. Leaders gain the cooperation of others by making a commitment to get along well with each key person every single day.

So, who is the leader after all? Taking everything into consideration, leader is a person who can go beyond simply influencing people and making them follow him/her. Leader is one who in the view of their talents and virtues is willing to put themselves in second place for the purpose of serving others and helping them reach the better version of themselves, finally accomplishing the common vision.

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True leadership

Some CEOs define leadership as having business acumen, like setting a vision or achieving goals for a company. Other people focus on human qualities like empathy, humility or diversity. However, being a leader among people principally prerequisites being a leader of oneself. The true leader must first be in control of their mental and psychological condition, as leadership, in other words, means controlling every facet of one’s life. It is a way of living, a whole perception and a special-continuous attitude towards everything in life; a stance that allows one in every moment to control, their thoughts, their feelings and their behavior. Therefore, it is obvious that one who cannot control the above will definitely not be able to control and lead others, or even if they reach that position, in a period of crisis they will in all likelihood fail.

Having attained the inner-personal leadership, only then the supposing leader can proceed with creating an inspiring vision, motivating and engaging people to that vision, and coaching towards its realization. On that very moment, after going through all those stages, true leadership obtains flesh and bones.

Turn your leadership mode on

Consequently, every moment we choose to beleaders, almost in every occasion in life, meaning that leadership involves the courage that one must demonstrate by choice in order to take action towards the desired target. So, either we become leaders and take control of every situation that encircles us, or we surrender to circumstances and fate. Everyone has a hidden leader within them; thus, the word “leader” may be synonymous of one’s better version; a version in which they control their life and reach happiness.

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