There are several stock answers most people trot out. Even Post Grad students on their MBA stumble over this. I know, I lecture or have lectured some of them.
The Oxford English dictionary states leadership is; “The action of leading a group of people or an organization”.
Peter Drucker stated: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
Warren Bennis said: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
And so the list goes on.
I would say, “Leadership is a process of influence, whereby, one directs the efforts of others towards achievement of a goal”.
The “Who”, can be anyone, people will follow.
The “What”, has to be aspect, whereby others, will allow themselves to be manipulated by another person to achieve a specific objective.
There have been something like 26,000 articles and books written on leadership, according to Nan Keohane of Harvard Corporation, the University’s governing body. All these treaties on Leadership have identified 90 facets, which collectively define leadership. So the “aspect”, I make reference to has to be the 90 facets of identified Leadership.
Our pre-2000 thinking made great reference to styles and traits, likewise today we make reference to the facets of leadership. That does not mean to say that every facet must be used, to make someone a leader, it all depends upon the given situation. So, some of our pre-2000 thinking still stands.
I doubt any single person can claim to espouse that they have all 90 facets of leadership.
In a simple analogy, both the styles/traits and facets of Leadership can be considered a toolbox, used by any engineer. The engineer’s toolbox may consist of 120 different tools. Yet each job the engineer works on, may only require 10 tools, not the complete toolset. So, the engineer mixes the tools to the specific job being completed.
The secret, to good leadership, is the ability to mix and match only those facets needed at any given time. A simplistic example is the way in which we engage various groups, using different language and body posturing; in order to communicate an idea or message (influence). What makes it more complicated are the social and cultural aspects which need to be deployed as well. This is made more difficult when one has to adopt new sociocultural norms for the society and the community one may be commercially parachuted into.
As a consultant Executive Interim working globally, on operational or corrective assignments, I utilise this multi-faceted approach to engage those around me, to achieve successful goals, for the end client.
As a Lecturer, I attempt though mentoring, curriculum and study to pass on these skills, to those who hopefully will follow us.
One last thing, a leader who uses facets, is able to adapt to the environment around them and in doing so evolve, continuously.