The Measure of Leadership


With a title like “The Measure of Leadership,” you might think that I have bitten off a little more than I can chew for a short blog post…

 You might be right; but because there are literally thousands of articles, blogs, and websites dedicated to discussions of leadership, I wanted to offer a logical definition of it in a thousand words or less…

So here it goes…

Despite the multiplicity of interpretations, we read everyday that leadership can be defined simply as:

“Organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal”

That said, a leader can be anyone. There is no need for any formal authority to lead. A person simply needs to have the will, the courage, the charisma and the ability to capture the imagination of one or more followers in order to be considered a leader.

Born or Made?

Centuries ago, it was assumed that good and powerful leaders had naturally occurring leadership traits that set them apart from others…Hence, the term, “leaders are born not made.”

However, more recent studies have made it clear that given the right set of circumstances and with the appropriate motivation, most people can become true and effective leaders.

Some of the naturally occurring traits that make leadership ability come more easily to some people are:

When those instinctive traits are combined with learned skills and natural talents, variable levels of leadership ability may be reached. Without all of those traits, effective leadership is possible but much more difficult to achieve.

It is important to note that one can lead much more effectively when the leadership endeavour involves something that the leader has good expertise in so that they may set an example.

Starting Point

It must also be something in which the followers have a need or interest in being lead.

For example: An expert tennis player might make a great tennis coach, but also might be a lousy sales manager. In addition, there would be no point in trying to lead someone to better customer service skills when he or she works in the depths of a coal mine.

As trite as those examples might seem, it is not unusual that people are put into leadership positions that they are not capable of handling simply because they have done well in another unrelated area. Also, self-promoting or toxic people who have no business trying to lead will often attempt to influence or lead coworkers in inappropriate directions. Both situations will create poor results.

Emotional Rescue

“Good and powerful leaders need to have self-awareness and a solid grip on their own emotions”

Leadership skill necessarily includes the ability to set a mood or tone for the team. Leaders unavoidably telegraph their moods and attitudes to their followers who will adopt the preeminent emotional tone of the leader and carry it throughout the organization.

“One must not assume the only way to achieve financial success or even team success is through servant leadership, participative leadership, or compassionate leadership”

Given the right impetus and favourable circumstances an autocratic, command and control leader can drive his team to success both in the business world, on a sports court or on a battlefield.

Modern Leadership

In the twenty-first century, we tend to reject that style of leadership, but it can be an effective (albeit, potentially negative and harmful) form of leadership nonetheless. If the team is not engaged and motivated, a strong autocrat might be the only leader who can create the environment needed for success.

Modern leadership lecturers and writers also reject the term management,” since it seems to imply a lack of compassion and favours transactional or task orientation as opposed to transformational or people-oriented leadership.

In reality, all organizations have some form of tasks and a specific number of people so it is evident that management may still be an integral part of the leadership cycle in many cases.

 “In essence, even bad leadership is a form of leadership”

It’s Only About Results

The efficacy of any leadership style can only be measured in results. In other words if the team meets or exceeds all of its goals, under the direction of its leader, those who benefit from those results may assume that the leadership was good regardless of the leader’s style. However, it is important to note that bad leadership in any form is usually short-lived.

The best and generally, most effective form of leadership occurs when a leader is able to maintain a high level of concern for his or her people while simultaneously keeping high-level performance paramount in the minds of all participants.

This form of leadership often goes a step beyond servant leadership because it allows the leader to accurately control production and monitor results for maximum success.

A leader who can juggle tasks and people without sacrificing integrity for either is a great leader indeed. That leader will almost always turn out better performance, more production and measurable growth while presiding over happy, well-engaged employees.

“It is important to recognize that groups of working people are assembled primarily to create some sort of product or service”

Great leaders are able to create buy-in to the vision of the organization while accepting and embracing the direction of its leaders. The key to buy in and strong followership is communication.

The simple truth is that great leaders are great communicators.

Ten ways to recognize a great leader:

  1.       Great leaders create a sense of unity amongst all team members.
  2.       Great leaders have strong interpersonal skills and they encourage interpersonal communication amongst team members.
  3.       Great leaders have the ability to create a unanimous desire amongst team members to achieve common goals.
  4.       Great leaders communicate their vision to their team enthusiastically.
  5.      Great leaders constantly seek feedback from team members.
  6.       Great leaders never stop learning new leadership techniques.
  7.       Great leaders set fair and reasonable performance standards and assist team members in achieving them.
  8.      Great leaders set a conscientious, diligent example for the team.
  9.      Great leaders never settle for mediocrity from themselves or from their team.
  10.     Great leaders give credit for great results to the team.

So, what is leadership?

“Leadership is the embodiment of the positive dynamics evident in all great human relationships within one person or leadership team!”


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Web | Blog | Book

Image Sources:

13 responses to “The Measure of Leadership

  1. What a superb summary. I have read entire books that say less. Thank you for this great post. Pat


  2. Another Wayne Kehl winner! Wayne, you have a way of making these concepts very clear, very simple, and very easy to understand. This one is going in my “keeper” file. In fact, I’m sending it to a coaching client right now. Great post, as always.


  3. Pingback: The Perils of Leadership – When Leaders Collide | Coaching Leaders·

  4. Great article Wayne. Well structured and written, I’ve just doscovered this site and will be reading some of your other articles too.


  5. Pingback: How do you select potential leaders? | BroadVision Marketing·

  6. Pingback: How to be That Leader | BroadVision Marketing·

  7. Pingback: Characteristics of a Team | BroadVision Marketing·

  8. Pingback: Leadership Thought #278 – Leadership Requires More Than Intelligence and Potential « Ed Robinson's Blog·

  9. Pingback: How Important Are Informal Leaders? « Linked 2 Leadership·

Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.