How to Define Leadership

How to define leadership. Based upon the number of articles I have read on this topic of late, it appears to be an increasingly complex challenge.

Why all the recent emphasis on leadership?

If you have read my book, Globalization: America’s Leadership Challenge Ahead, you know the answer. The greatest challenge that we face today is not the economy, it’s not the environment or global warming; nor is it poverty, homelessness and world hunger, population growth, scarcity of resources, or world peace and stability – it is leadership.

Leadership Image

Quite frankly, the thing that is sorely lacking in our country and elsewhere is leadership. There is just not enough of it to go around today to solve all the problems we face as a global society.

There is no better time to talk about leadership than on Memorial Day, as we honor all who have served our great nation, and made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. These are heroes who fought bravely to preserve our way of life and protect our civil liberties. They represent the epitome of leadership. Men and women who have given everything in service to our country and to others. May we all honor their memories through our future leadership contributions.

So back to the central issue, how to define leadership.

Before we can define leadership, we must first distinguish between leader and leadership. A leader is viewed as someone “who is in charge or in command of others”. While leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”. You may not consider yourself to be a leader; however, by this definition each of us has the capacity for leadership through our actions and deeds.

Many of you have heard me say that in one respect leadership is like pornography – it is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. I have read countless articles on the 4, 5 or 7 attributes/qualities of leadership all trying to get at the essence of leadership and each have merit. However, my definition is more directed and can be summed up in a concise statement, “leadership is making a difference by serving others”. Again, you don’t have to be a leader to make a difference, but you do need to serve others.

What does leadership look like? Just look in the mirror … it begins with you. Examples of our leadership are all around us in the things that we do every day to make a difference for someone else …

  • As a parent for a child.
  • As a teacher for a student.
  • As a business owner for customers.
  • As a politician for constituents.
  • As a coach for a player.
  • As a homeowner for a neighbor.
  • As a policeman for a stranded motorist.
  • As a soldier for God and country.

We have also seen numerous examples of America’s leadership response in times of crisis during the past 45 days. From the terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon, to the fertilizer-plant explosion in West, TX.  Most recently, by the response to the devastating tornadoes in Granbury and Cleburne, TX and Moore, OK. There has been a huge outpouring of support for those affected by these catastrophic events.  Much more of this type of leadership response is needed to solve America’s challenges today and in the future, so let’s broaden the scope.

On this Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to the gallant soldiers who fought courageously for our freedom, let us honor their memories by exploring ways to make a greater leadership difference. Seek out a cause or mission that you are passionate about and make the commitment to get actively involved. By doing so, you will be providing the leadership our country sorely needs, while helping many others in return.

God Bless,




COPYRIGHT © 2013 John Carroll