Leadership Defined

Leadership has been defined as the art, science, or gift by which a person is enabled and privileged to direct the thoughts, plans, and actions of others in such a manner as to obtain and command their obedience, their confidence, their respect, and their loyal cooperation.  Simply stated, leadership is the art of accomplishing [a] mission through people.[i]  Another definition is the process of influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization.[ii]  To accomplish this, the leader employs the principles of leadership, core values and the qualities that lead to success.[iii]  Within these two definitions are three basic elements of leadership; to lead, to develop, to achieve.  I discuss these three rudimentary cornerstones (and competencies) of leadership in-depth in one of my previous posts, BookLink: Army Leadership (Lead ~ Develop ~ Achieve) {Book 1, Wk. 2}.

There are many definitions of leadership.  Many articles and books have been written on the topic of leadership, and there are many people, like myself, writing about the topic of leadership everyday on blogs and on Twitter.  In nearly all of what you will find written or discussed, and what is most important to understand, is that leadership is not about the leader; it’s about the people who are being led.  The people are the commodity that are at the heart and soul of everything the leader and the organization are seeking to accomplish.  Therefore, the people become the biggest part of the definition of leadership, as it is their behavior, motivation, training, skills and knowledge that play an integral role in the success and victory of the organization.

This morning, I tweeted my definition of leadership.  Below, I have embedded an active link of that Tweet for you.  If you think the Tweet below has true value to you, and to your Twitter followers, please retweet it.  Simply click on the Tweet below as you would a Tweet on Twitter to reply, retweet or favorite it:

Again, it is very basic and elementary.  But it covers all of the core elements: To lead…taking your vision for the future, and declaring your intentions, goals and objectives…to develop…mentoring, training, inspiring, motivating, informing, equipping, (etc.) the people of the organization with the knowledge and tools…to achieve…the desired outcome, objective and/or goal, ultimately accomplishing the mission, and gaining victory.

Any basic definition of leadership, including my tweet, can be seen as a loaded statement; quite honestly, it is a loaded statement.  It is loaded with much more meaning than the words say on the surface, and has more meanings than you first may think.  Leadership is such a vast subject, and goes far beyond what has been discussed here.  But, at its basic level, it’s not more complicated than this.

I can go further with discussion about the definition of leadership.  But, that is the reason for this blog; to dissect and discuss leadership in great detail.  I would like to know what your definition of leadership is.  What do you see as the important aspects of leadership that go to its basic definition?  Let me know what you think by commenting below.  And, again, please retweet my Tweet if you think it has true value to you, and to your Twitter followers.

Don’t forget to comment on this blog post.  And, please follow me on Twitter; follow @5StarLeadership.

**A follow-up post to this one has been published.  Please proceed to Leadership (further) Defined.

Copyright © Dale R. Wilson


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Footnotes –

[i] Montor, Karel, Anthony J. Ciotti, and Malcolm E. Wolfe. Fundamentals of Naval Leadership. The Department of Leadership and Law, U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute, 1984. page 1. (The definition of leadership is adapted from Naval Leadership, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1939, page 1, and Frederick Ellsworth Wolf, A.M., Leadership in the New Age, U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, MD, 1946, page 3)

[ii] Army Leadership – Competent, Confident, and Agile {FM 6-22} (formerly FM 22-100) – Headquarters, Department of the Army – 12 October 2006 – Page 1-2 – Web – http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/repository/materials/FM6_22.pdf – Accessed 11 December 2012 – United States Army Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas – http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/index.asp and/or Army Leadership {ADP 6-22} – Headquarters, Department of the Army – 1 August 2012 – Page 1 – Web – http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/adp6_22_new.pdf – Accessed 11 December 2012 – Official Department of the Army Publications and Forms – http://armypubs.army.mil/ via this link: http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/events/adp622/index.asp

[iii] Fundamentals of Naval Leadership – By Dale R. Wilson – Posted February 7, 2012 – https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/fundamentals-of-naval-leadership/ – Accessed December 11, 2012 – Command Performance Leadership – https://commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com/


16 Responses to “Leadership Defined”

  1. Reblogged this on Mark Schröffel and commented:
    Another great article from Dale. So much can be gained in the corporate and social enterprises from reviewing tried and true lessons from military leadership. Though, I also think the military has a lot to gain from looking at emerging models of leadership from the civilian world, especially models based on participative leadership and social justice.


  2. Jose LugoSantiago - Craft Your Journey! Says:

    I like to define leadership as the “Art” of influencing ad directing people to accomplish an objective. Although sounds simple, when you mention “Art”, I believe to be right on point. Leadership always varies. It’s never static…there are so many factors which affect its execution. But some things will never change….people, mission, objecitve, infleunce, direction, vision. Always motivated, lugo


  3. A well written post…makes a meaningful reading. On the issue of ‘your vision’, I believe that true leadership is ‘catalytic’ in nature. The leader facilitates each constituent comprehend the purpose, realise his/her respective potential & relevance towards achieving the same and, getting intrinsically motivated to allign this capability towards a common synchronised effort/attempt to deliver….’steer the SHIP’ to its destination.
    Also, while there is one common goal to be achieved, each constituent should be able to define her/his own little goal and feel motivated to give their best while enjoying the journey and rejoicing when the respective and collective goal is achieved….and the leader has to facilitate all this by making it happen from within each follower….


    • Thank you for your comment. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. You have helped to further clarify my thoughts by adding some important points. I am working on a supplemental post that further discusses the definition of leadership that, to a greater extent, goes into some clarity on vision, people, action, refining tactics, empowerment, etc. Thank you for sharing your thoughts; they’ve added to the discussion.



  4. Exceptional work, as usual. Leadership used as an influencer can and generally does have a synergistic effect on an organization in that as each member learns and applies fundamental leadership techniques and talents at each level, the organization rapidly outpaces others as it climbs the totem of competition and success.

    Best wishes, Dale; as always. ~ Rick


    • Thank you, Rick. Your comment describes the fundamental leader development process of followers; or, as some (like David Marquet), like to say, leader to leader. At some point, you have fewer followers and more leaders. The organization benefits because the intrinsic value and result is a team of people who are working for universal goals and objectives to benefit the organization, the people working for that organization, the partners and stakeholders, and the clients. Victory is assured when the leader has that process working in their favor.

      Thanks, again, for the comment, Rick.



  5. […] via Leadership Defined « Command Performance Leadership. […]


  6. Mike McGuire Says:

    I have always used the following definition, which I used when I was teaching a management course years ago for a utility company. It’s very simple, so probably should be expanded.
    “Any attempt to influence behavior”


    • Mike, Thanks for expressing your thoughts. Your definition is very simple, but is probably the most accurate. My post was an attempt to keep the definition of leadership very basic; very simple. You have nailed it. Thanks, again, for your comment. Please browse this blog for other interesting topics for discussion. I invite and encourage you to join the conversation.



  7. Perfect…will start using it, thanks Dale


  8. […] A Blog Discussing Military & Corporate Leadership Competencies – By Dale R. Wilson « Leadership Defined […]


  9. […] Leadership Defined This is from Dale Wilson. I really appreciate Dale’s blog and his insights from many years of military leadership. I have highlighted Dale before on 5 for Leadership. Take a look at Dale’s definition for leadership and also take a look at some of his other posts. There is much to glean. […]


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