What is Leadership?

It seems to me that a good opening discussion revolves around defining leadership.  There are many differing definitions, some of them good and some of them, well, you get the picture.

For me, the best definition of leadership comes from John C. Maxwell.  In his best selling book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (1998) he writes that “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”  In the updated version (2008) he has revised it to read “The essence of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”  In either case, the important factor is leadership as influence.  In both editions of the book, Maxwell provides excellent examples of leadership as influence.

So what does this mean in the area of educational leadership?  First, it means that school leaders must acquire the art (and yes, I believe is is an art) of influence.  Please understand that I do not believe that influence and coercion to be synonyms.  Influence is not bullying people to see things and do things your way.  Influence is communicating vision and passion to a point where it is contagious and people buy in and work together for a common good.

Tomorrow’s schools need leaders!  More on that later!

6 thoughts on “What is Leadership?

  1. Leaders blaze trails that open doors to new opportunities. Leaders are not afraid to stumble and get back up. Leaders are visionary and strive to communicate that vision. Leaders grow and change. Leaders are cautious but take bold steps.

    Leaders do not make excuses; they make it happen.

  2. Diallo,

    Leaders are all of this and more. Thanks for the contribution. I also think one very important characteristic of leaders is that they ARE NOT keepers of the status quo, but rather trail blazers leading into the new and unknown. Now more than ever, schools need leaders.


  3. Well said, Doug. A good leader is also willing to be an instructor. One who teaches the position of leadership so that if anything should happen to the leader, the building, students, faculty, are in good hands and things will run smoothly.

  4. Doug,

    It is refreshing to have an opportunity to speak on leadership. I often think about this world and the leadership that we have since our first president. Then I wonder how it would have been a different world, if the other person had been elected. Do you think we would be in thei crisis that we currently face? Would we have been in this situation sooner? Would we have a more effective educational system? Would we look at the world as black and white and not gray? Lots of questions and lots of what ifs, but we cannot turn back the clock. We can only think about our decisions and the directions we will take iin leading our schools to excellence.

    As leaders for today, let’s all join hand in making conscious decisions to change the face of America’s educational system. Let’s lead so other will follow and become productive citizens.


  5. Carolyn,

    Great questions all. I think we suffer from a grave lack of leadership, especially in our elected officials. I think a significant portion of the issue lies with the scrutiny that a candidate faces by the media. Those who could lead at that level are unwilling because they are not willing to be examined under the microscope. None of us are perfect, and yet we somehow expect our candidates to be flawless. Those who can truly lead, don’t. Those who are elected are not so much leaders but media survivors. It saddens and disgusts me at the same time.

    The other thing that is scary is the lack of priority that education and the education system has in the national dialogue. I am concerned, even with the change of administration, that there will be such a narrow focus on what needs to be done that years of rich research will again be ignored for political expediency. Again, I am saddened and disgusted.

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