What is Leadership?
There are many definitions of Leadership, however, there is still no widely accepted one. Therefore, the concept is still quite elusive.
The APM Body of Knowledge (BoK) provides the following definition of Leadership: “Leadership is the ability to establish vision and direction to influence and align others towards a common purpose, and to empower and inspire people to achieve success.”2
Whereas, other definitions suggest the following3:
- “Leader is someone who has followers.” (Peter Drucker)
- “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” (Warren Bennis)
- “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” (Kevin Kruse)
Examples of famous strong leaders include the American; Steve Jobs, the Britain; Richard Branson and the Russian; Vladimir Putin. However, it is believed that Leadership is not about seniority or rank within an organisation. Leaders (that do not hold senior positions) can be observed within the organisations as well as outside of the workplace. One brilliant example of leadership in action is presented in the video of the dancing guy on YouTube here.
Qualities of a strong leader
The common key characteristics observed in strong leaders include:
- Vision; strong leaders are able to define and communicate their vision in a way that would encourage and inspire others to follow their lead. Referring to one of the definitions mentioned above – leaders are able to convert vision into reality.
- Persuasiveness / Influencing Skills; strong leaders are able to persuade and influence their audience to buy-in to their goals / vision. Strong leaders tend to present convincing arguments to support their cases.
- Can-do attitude; strong leaders tend to be positive, enthusiastic and open to new opportunities and challenges. They truly believe in themselves and their workforce to be able to achieve the goals and vision.
- Fairness; strong leaders tend to be firm, but fair. They respect other people views, recognise achievements of others, and always are honest and transparent.
- Sensible decision-making capabilities; strong leaders are able to make the right decisions at the right times. Their decision-making process is informed – evidence-based / research-based. Strong leaders are not afraid to make difficult decisions when required.
As reviewed above and presently, leadership is often associated with the qualities of being a visionary, inspiring others, having a positive can-do attitude, as well as fairness and decision-making capabilities. These are key qualities for leaders to be able to create a vision, to inspire and motivate others to deliver and achieve it.
However, there are other qualities that also deserve recognition, such as integrity and accountability. These are often overlooked and not provided the attention they deserve within the leadership context. Integrity and accountability are vital for building and, in particular, maintaining people’s trust.
Management vs. Leadership
Management responsibilities are associated with planning, organisation, control and co-ordination of work and people. Whereas, Leadership, as explored above, is primarily about the vision, inspiration and influencing of people.
However, it is important to recognise that despite the fact that management and leadership present two different concepts, in professional world they have to be used in tandem. Manager will never be perceived as a good manager if they do not demonstrate the leadership qualities, e.g. when leading a team, when communicating with stakeholders etc.
The same applies to leaders. To become a strong leader, the fundamentals of it lie within the managerial competences. If the leader is not able plan, organise, control and co-ordinate the work and people, it is unlikely that they would be in a position to become a strong leader and support managers within an organisation.
This is particularly relevant to the competencies associated with integrity and accountability qualities. As mentioned above, these are often overlooked within the leadership context as are often considered to be of a management nature. However, if you want people to follow you, you need to ensure that you deliver on your promises, are transparent, consistent, take responsibility and learn from mistakes. Without consistent delivery of these actions, people are less likely to listen, believe and follow your lead.
Do you want to become a strong leader?
Despite some arguments in the past that Leadership skills are inherited / born with, presently, it is recognised that Leadership behaviours can be learned. Therefore, leaders can be ‘made’.
The famous quote states: ‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’ (John F. Kennedy). Professional development via learning and practical experience is therefore vital for the development of strong leadership skills.
As we have explored above, the fundamentals of leadership skills always lie within the managerial competences. Therefore, the development of strong management skills is a starting point for all aspiring professionals who want to become strong leaders. There are a number of nationally-recognised professional management-level certifications covering both, management and leadership topics. These certifications can provide you with a good foundation to become a strong leader.
Browse the SkillPoint® certification catalogue and select the certification depending on your area of specialism or the one you want to enter. This will enable you to start your journey to becoming a stronger leader.
 Hurlow, S. 2014. Setting the Scene. Leadership & Entrepreneurship lecture handouts: Cardiff University
2 APM Body of Knowledge (BoK). 6th Edition.
3 Kruse, K. 2013. What Is Leadership? Forbes
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