Definitions of Leadership



Our Working Definition

Leadership is a reciprocal process of motivating individuals and mobilizing resources in pursuit of goals shared by members of a group, organization, or community.  As an aspect of group innovation and problem-solving behavior, leadership involves the clarification of group goals, the communication of strategies for goal achievement, the initiation of structure in interaction and expectation, and the assumption of responsibility for results.

Burns:    Leadership is the reciprocal process of mobilizing, by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political, and other resources, in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by both leaders and followers.
Stogdill:   Leadership is the initiation and maintenance of structure in inter­action and expectation.
Bons (West Point):  Leadership is the process of influencing human behavior so as to accomplish the goals prescribed by the organizationally appointed leader.
Doss:   The leadership of others can only be an exercise in reasoning.
Kellerman:   Initiating and implementing change--of any sort--is the essence of leadership.
Blackman:   Leadership is the centralization of effort in one person as an expression of the power of all.
Bernard:   Any person who is more than ordinarily efficient in carrying psycho­social stimuli to others and is thus effective in conditioning collective responses may be called a leader.
Stewart:   Leadership is the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and induce obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation.
Schent:   Leadership is the management of men by persuasion and inspiration rather than by the direct or implied threat of coercion.  It involves immediate concrete problems by applying knowledge of and sympathy with human factors.
Sherif and Sherif: Leadership is a role within the scheme of relations and is defined by reciprocal expectations between the leader and other members. The leadership role is defined, as are other roles, by stabilized expectations (norms) which, in most matters and situations of consequence to the group, are more exacting and require greater obligations and responsibility than those for other positions.
Lao Tzu:  As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise.  The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate.  When the best leader's work is done, the people say, "We did it ourselves." To lead the people, walk behind them.
Harry S. Truman: A leader is a person who gets other people to do what they don't want to do and like it.
Folk Wisdom: A leader is a person who stays one step ahead of the group to avoid getting run over.