The 7 Definitions of Leadership All Organizations Recognize

7 definitions of leadership

You’re looking to be a more effective leader for your employees, but aren’t sure about the best path. What now?

Today we’re looking at the 7 definitions of leadership, each a piece of the puzzle in mastering the art of leading.

By understanding these core concepts, you’re not just solving the leadership puzzle–you’re unlocking the full potential of your organization and its people.

1. Leadership as Visionary Guidance

Leadership starts with a vision. A vision is like a picture of the future that a leader wants to create. It’s not just any picture, but one that inspires and excites people to work together towards a common goal. Imagine a captain setting the course for a ship.

The captain must see beyond the horizon, believe in the journey, and convince the crew to sail in the same direction. This is what visionary leaders do. They see possibilities where others see obstacles.

But having a vision isn’t enough. A leader must share it in a way that everyone understands and supports. This is where effective communication comes into play.

Visionary leaders know how to explain their vision clearly. They make sure everyone feels a part of something bigger than themselves.

Leaders also need to learn and grow constantly. This is where executive education plays a big role. It helps leaders gain new skills and knowledge. This makes them better at creating and sharing their vision.

2. Leadership as Empowerment

Leadership as empowerment is about giving power to others. It’s like a coach who doesn’t just call the plays but teaches players how to make decisions on the field.

Leaders who empower believe in sharing knowledge and authority. They trust their team members to take on responsibilities and make decisions. This trust builds confidence and helps everyone grow.

Empowering leaders are great at delegating. They match tasks with the right people, considering their skills and development needs. But they don’t just hand off tasks and walk away.

They provide the tools, guidance, and support needed for success. This approach helps team members feel supported and valued.

Feedback is another key tool for these leaders. They give constructive feedback that helps people improve. They also encourage team members to share their ideas and opinions. This two-way communication makes the team stronger and more innovative.

Empowerment also means encouraging risk-taking. Leaders let their team try new things, even if it means making mistakes.

They see errors as chances to learn, not just failures. This attitude helps create a culture where people feel safe to experiment and learn.

Leaders who focus on empowerment help build teams that are confident, capable, and committed. These teams are more likely to take initiative and work together towards their goals. 

3. Leadership as Service

Servant leadership is about putting the team’s needs first. It’s like being the support crew rather than the star of the show. Leaders who follow this style ask, “How can I help?” instead of giving orders from above.

They focus on making sure their team has what it needs to succeed. This could be resources, support, or encouragement. This approach helps build a team that feels valued and supported.

A key part of servant leadership is listening well. Leaders pay close attention to what their team says, and even to what they don’t say. Understanding the team’s needs and concerns helps build trust and loyalty.

Servant leaders also encourage their team to grow. They know their team’s strengths and weaknesses and help them improve.

Leading by example is another important aspect. When leaders show the behavior they want to see, they set a powerful example for the team. This includes showing respect, admitting mistakes, and being open to feedback.

Servant leadership is not just about the short term. It’s about making decisions that are good for the team and the organization in the long run.

Leaders who use this style not only meet their goals but also earn the respect and loyalty of their team. 

4. Leadership as Decision-Making

Leadership often comes down to making decisions. Good leaders are like captains of a ship who must decide which way to steer, especially when the sea is rough.

They gather all the information they can, think about the options, and then make the best choice they can for the team and the mission. This process isn’t just about picking what to do next. It’s about understanding the impact of each choice and being ready to stand by it.

A big part of decision-making is knowing when to bring others into the process. Great leaders ask their teams for input. This doesn’t mean they can’t make tough calls on their own, but they know that listening to different perspectives can lead to better decisions.

Once a decision is made, a leader’s job isn’t over. They need to communicate their choice clearly and explain why they made it.

This helps everyone understand and get behind the decision, even if they don’t fully agree with it. Leaders also have to be ready to adjust their plans if things change. Being flexible and open to new information is a sign of strength, not weakness.

5. Leadership as Change Management

Leadership as change management is about guiding people through new challenges and transformations. It’s similar to being a guide on a journey through unknown territory.

Leaders in this role help their team understand why change is happening and what it means for them. They create a clear picture of the future and a roadmap to get there.

Change often causes worry and resistance. People might fear losing their comfort or facing new demands. Leaders manage these feelings by communicating openly and frequently.

They share information about the change, why it’s needed, and how it will benefit everyone in the long run. This openness helps reduce fear and build trust.

Leaders also involve their team in the change process. They ask for input and let team members play a role in shaping the future. This involvement makes people feel valued and more open to new ways of doing things.

Supporting the team is crucial during change. Leaders provide training, resources, and encouragement. They recognize and celebrate progress, even small wins.

Leading change isn’t just about managing logistics. It’s about helping people let go of the old and embrace the new with confidence.

6. Leadership as Cultural Shaping

Leadership as cultural shaping is like being the architect of a building. Just as an architect designs a blueprint to create a specific atmosphere, leaders shape the culture of their organization.

They set the tone for how people interact, what values are prioritized, and what behaviors are encouraged or discouraged. This culture influences everything from how decisions are made to how conflicts are resolved.

Effective leaders understand the importance of fostering a positive and inclusive culture. They promote values such as respect, integrity, and collaboration. By consistently modeling these values in their behavior, leaders show others what is expected and acceptable within the organization.

This helps create a sense of belonging and shared purpose among team members.

Cultural shaping also involves aligning the organization’s culture with its goals and objectives. Leaders ensure that the culture supports the mission and vision of the organization.

For example, a company that values innovation and creativity may foster a culture that encourages risk-taking and experimentation. Leaders play a crucial role in communicating these cultural priorities and ensuring they are reflected in day-to-day operations.

And leaders recognize that cultural shaping is an ongoing process that requires active engagement and adaptation. They regularly assess the current culture, solicit feedback from team members, and make adjustments as needed.

7. Leadership as Ethical Governance

Leadership as ethical governance is about guiding an organization with integrity and accountability. Ethical leaders uphold principles and values that guide their decisions and actions.

They prioritize honesty, fairness, and transparency in all aspects of their leadership. This commitment to ethical conduct fosters trust among stakeholders and contributes to the organization’s reputation and credibility.

Ethical leaders lead by example, demonstrating integrity in their behavior and expecting the same from others. They hold themselves and their team members accountable for upholding ethical standards and addressing any violations promptly and transparently.

By establishing a culture of ethical behavior, leaders create a foundation of trust and respect within the organization.

Leaders weigh the potential impact of their actions on employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community. They are aware of the social influence of their actions too.

They strive to balance the interests of these stakeholders while adhering to ethical principles and legal requirements.

Plus, ethical leaders are proactive in addressing ethical dilemmas and promoting a culture of ethical awareness and education. They provide guidance and resources to help employees navigate ethical challenges and encourage open dialogue about ethical issues.

By fostering a culture of ethical awareness, leaders empower individuals to make ethical decisions in their daily work.

7 Definitions of Leadership

The 7 definitions of leadership underscore the multifaceted nature of effective leadership, transcending organizational boundaries.

At Growth Signals, there’s nothing we love more than geeking out on the best facilitation techniques, how to deliver content that resonates, and finding the right learning solution for the organizations we partner with. Get in touch today!


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