What Is Leadership?

by Alan Kirk; Updated September 26, 2017

Leaders are recognized in sports, schools and businesses every day. Not all of these leaders are managers. Some are members of management, but others are employees who lead through example for coworkers. It does not take a specific title to be a leader. Instead, there are skills leaders have that make others want to perform at a high level when either working with them or for them. Leaders improve the performance of everyone around them.

Significance

Leadership of a team can be the difference between success and failure. Leadership is the process of determining goals for the team and finding a way for the team to meet those goals. Leadership involves finding ways to motivate team members or employees to reach their goals. Learning how to motivate for leader is not easy, as each employee or person on his team may have to be motivated in a different way. Finding out how to get each team member or employee to perform at her highest level is the job of a leader.

Types

Leadership can be passive or aggressive. Showing good leadership involves reading people you are leading and finding what works with them. An "in-your-face" approach might get high performance from some members of the team, but it also can result in negative feedback from others. A laid-back leadership style can empower employees who work for you, but it can also result in an atmosphere in which the team feels unmotivated. The wrong type of leadership for a team or employee can be more damaging than no leadership at all.

Effects

Solid leadership can help explain difficult tasks to an employee. Leadership should involve gaining confidence of your employees and teammates. This can be done by demonstrating your level of knowledge. This avoids having to deal with feedback from employees stating that "you just don't know what this job is like." By showing you understand the challenges and offering solutions to solve them from your own experience in the job, you can gain a level of respect from your employees. If your employees respect you, they will be more likely to follow your directions.

Misconceptions

The old philosophy "leaders are born, not made" is incorrect. Leadership skills can be learned. It takes a combination of studying different leadership philosophies and practicing them. Leaders learn skills as they progress through their career. Take notes of at least one positive trait you admire in each boss or supervisor you have during your career. Write down these attributes that you admire, and practice them even if your job is not a supervisory role. Supervisors are not the only ones who demonstrate leadership. Employees can show leadership in how they do their job every day and interact with their coworkers.

Identification

Learning successful skills as a leader is possible from books. One of the books that is very popular among managers is the "ABC's of Leadership: 26 Characteristics of More Effective Leadership," by David M. Hall. This book gives skills for new managers and experienced managers as well for leading their teams. Learning is also possible from courses, and the American Management Association has some very good leadership classes for employees and managers. The managerial classes range from beginning management classes to classes for managers with years of experience wanting to fine-tune their skills.

About the Author

Alan Kirk has been writing for online publications since 2006. He has more than 15 years' experience in catering, management and government relations. Kirk has a bachelor's degree in business management from the University of Maryland.