The Art of Leadership: Part One

by Bywater, PhD, Liz Tuesday, February 27, 2007
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How do we begin to understand the art of leadership and its indisputable importance in today’s world? Research, theory, and general musings on the topic can be found in abundance. In fact, if you were to do an online search of “leadership,” you’d find literally millions of entries. We tried this recently and unearthed 173,000,000 on Google alone.

We read, hear, and talk about leadership all the time. We read about the executives at the helm of corporate giants, like GE, and high profile non-profit organizations, such as the American Red Cross. We engage in heated debate about the leaders of our nation, the U.N., the local school board, and our houses of worship. The context varies but the importance of strong leadership does not.

At its essence, leadership is about inspiring others to follow. (As the proverb goes, “If you think you are leading but no one is following, you are simply taking a walk.”) Some postulate that leadership is fundamentally about influence. Others assert that it’s about creating positive change, refusing to be content with the status quo. Still others focus on the leader’s role in developing and communicating a powerful vision… and instilling in others the collective passion to see that vision fulfilled.

It’s all true. A great leader knows how to inspire and motivate those around her. She knows how to get the most out of her followers. She skillfully focuses her constituents on the fulfillment of the organization’s goals.

An exemplary leader earns the dedication and loyalty of his people. He fosters commitment and trust. His followers would, literally or figuratively, follow him straight into battle.

Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself: Whom would you willingly follow into battle? What do they do to inspire this level of trust and dedication? How can you learn from them to further develop your own skills and become a truly great leader of people?