That’s the number of results Google returned when I typed in the words: definition of leadership.
There may actually be more definitions of leadership than there are leaders in the world!
So, it’s with great trepidation that I submit this blog post and the next that will hopefully result, with any help from the hidden Google search engine elves (‘tis the season), with 255,000,001 definitions of leadership.
‘Leadership is influence’ is the most accepted minimalistic definition.
One definition of leadership that I really like comes from a Forbes article by Kevin Kruse: Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.
I see four interesting aspects of leadership in this definition. Leadership…
- is implicitly about the individual leader,
- includes others actively and is social,
- involves maximizing others’ efforts,
- and works toward achieving a goal.
Last week, while in Charlotte, NC, I had the pleasure of meeting someone involved in leadership development in Major League Baseball. As we enjoyed talking with each other about his designing a leadership development curriculum for MLB leaders, it occurred to me that most of these curriculums are focused on giving people tools for exerting more effective influence.
We talked about how usually leadership development emphasizes one of these four areas. Some programs focus on equipping and growing the leader; others focus on the social, team-building aspects; many attempt to unearth and empower the individual strengths of each team member; and finally, some curriculums work toward achieving maximum operational efficiencies toward a goal.
To get the right answer, you have to ask the right question. – Mark Moore, Journey Faculty
The reason nearly every leadership development curriculum ends up focusing on achieving more effective influence is because most accepted definitions of leadership can be boiled down to leadership = influence. The question we are asking is, “What is leadership?” and the answer that comes back to us is, “influence.”
When you start with the idea that leadership, in its essence, is influence,
leadership development programs, accordingly, become influence development programs.
What if leadership is more expansive than just being influential?
What if we asked the question instead by adding a couple words, “What is the purpose of leadership?”
For instance, a director of a local YMCA may have originally thought of leadership in terms of influence of their team to run the most effective, servant-based YMCA they possibly can for the purpose of benefitting its members. But when you throw in the language of what is the purpose of leadership, you start getting simultaneously deeper and more expansive with the answer. This leader may now broaden his view to think more deeply and consequently think of his leadership influence as a way to expand God’s Kingdom through the YMCA.
However, I want us to think even more existentially about this by asking, “What is the purpose of leadership in God’s Kingdom?” I want us to start there with the question because I think we’ll arrive at a different answer.
When the concept of leadership is moved from the local YMCA level domain and placed in the context of God’s never-ending, always-advancing (redeeming might be a better word) Kingdom, the answer to what defines leadership suddenly takes on a whole new hue.
What someone finds when they awaken to life in the Kingdom is union and, quite paradoxically, freedom. If a leader is going to cooperate with God’s movement as He establishes His Kingdom on earth, she necessarily is going to think of leadership primarily in terms of union and freedom.
God frees to bring life in Him.
I think this is what leading looks like.
Look again at those four aspects of leadership earlier in this blog post.
God, (a triune individual), frees us (active and social) to bring life (maximizes others) in Him (achieving a goal).
I would like to continue this stream of thought in my next blog post by tracing three progressions of maturing leadership in a hypothetical leader’s life. As we look at how a leader may grow to maturity (and more effective leadership), I think we will be able to better understand the answer to the question, “What is the purpose of leadership in the Kingdom?” I hope to argue that the goal and the action very well may be one and the same thing.
Until next time, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think is the purpose of leadership in the Kingdom?