What is leadership

By: Leif Babin,

Leadership is a hard thing to define. To illustrate the difficulty, in the ranking of Google’s most searched leadership terms or phrases, the highest ranked search belongs to: “What’s a leadership?” You might think that was a typo—that it should read “what is leadership?” But it’s not. More than 27,000 people per month searched for “What’s a leadership.”  Almost double the 14,800 per month that searched for “what is leadership?” Leadership is such a nebulous term, that most people don’t even understand how to ask the question, much less define it.

What is the Definition of Leadership?  

What does leadership mean? Merriam-Webster dictionary defines leadership as: “the office or position of a leader, the capacity to lead, or the act or an instance of leading.” I don’t find that definition to be much help in enabling us to understand “what is leadership?” or even “what’s a leadership?”

Who is a Leader?  

Many people define leadership by the positional title, rank or authority given to them in the hierarchy of an organization. But at Echelon Front, we believe that anyone can be a leader. Our CEO, Jocko Willink, defines a leader as this: “If you interact with other humans in any capacity, you are leader. And you have to influence them to work together to accomplish a goal.” You don’t have to be the senior person in charge of the team. You don’t have to have a title or rank in your organization. Everyone is a leader. You must lead yourself. And you must lead others in order to be successful at anything. Aside from, “What is leadership,” the next question you might be wondering is:

Why is Leadership Important?

The biggest lesson that we learned in combat is that leadership is the most important thing. Back to the question: why is leadership important? It is the critical factor that determines whether a team succeeds or fails. By leadership, we don’t just mean the senior person in charge, but the mid-level manager, to the frontline leader, right down to the single individual contributor, who isn’t in charge of anybody else—only themselves and their small piece of the mission. That leadership at every level of the team is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails. We have seen it on that battlefield, and we’ve seen it in the business world: when things are going catastrophically wrong, the right leadership decision can turn the tide and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Conversely, when everything seems to be going right and victory all but assured, the wrong leadership decision can lead to catastrophe and epic failure.  Knowing the answer to the question, “What is leadership,” isn’t enough; you also have to understand why it matters and then how to gauge whether or not you’re succeeding.

How is Leadership Measured?  

The only meaningful measure of success for leadership is whether the team succeeds or fails. It is not enough to work hard and try your best. There are leadership strategies and tactics that you can employ to build effective relationships, create buy-in from your team, your peers, and your senior leaders, and effectively accomplish your mission. What is leadership? Leadership is taking Extreme Ownership of everything in your world—everything that impacts your mission. When you cast blame or make excuses, the problems don’t get solved. But when you take ownership of the problems, you can implement solutions to get those problems fixed. It isn’t magic. The strategies and tactics we teach at Echelon Front work. The leadership skills we teach are not complex, deep theories are learned in a classroom. They are simple, practical, and actionable. But they are not easy. It requires putting your ego in check and conducting an honest self-assessment of where you can do better.

Leadership is the Solution 

So, what is leadership? Leadership is the solution to all your problems.  At Echelon Front, we get the chance to work with leaders at every level, from companies and organizations large and small, from across a broad spectrum of industries—businesses, healthcare providers, first responders, military, education and non-profit.  We help them analyze their frustrations, challenges and friction points and come up with solutions to get those problems solved. What many people don’t realize until careful examination is that all of their problems are leadership problems. On the professional side: the micromanaging boss, a team that won’t take ownership, a peer or department that won’t provide the necessary support, a missed opportunity for promotion . On the personal side: work life balance that is far out of whack, disagreement with a spouse, or kids that shun guidance and refuse to listen. Why is leadership important? All of these problems are, fundamentally, leadership problems. And the good news is that leadership is the solution to every problem. Every single problem.

Leadership is a Skill

How do we solve these leadership challenges? Luckily, leadership is not something you are born with: leadership is a skill. Like any other skill, you have to learn it, practice it and develop it. Some may be born with particular qualities that initially give them an edge over their peers or enable them to develop more quickly into an effective leader. Like playing football, basketball or jamming on the guitar, no one is born with these skills. Some people are born taller than others, or with natural agility, greater finger dexterity, and a musical ear. But even so, in order to develop into a great football player, basketball player or an exceptional guitarist, you have to develop the skills—through years of practice, repetition, coaching, and mentorship. Leadership is the same way. What is leadership? Leadership is a skill that must be learned, developed, and enhanced through years of practice, repetition, coaching, and development. This is what we do at Echelon Front through our in-person training events, leadership seminars, and workshops, as well as through our online leadership learning platform, Extreme Ownership Academy.

Now You Know What is Leadership and Why is Leadership Important 

You now understand what is leadership and why it is hard to define. Hopefully, you even understand why “what’s a leadership” is the most searched phrase.  When people don’t know how to even frame the question, the answer is not an obvious or easy one.  At this point, you understand the answer to the question, “Why is leadership important?” Because leadership is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails. You now understand that everyone is a leader, regardless of their rank or position, and you recognize that leadership is a skill that must be developed. But that knowledge means nothing if you don’t take action to improve your leadership skills. You can’t become a great leader just by reading an article, or sitting through a workshop, or reading one book. It takes daily effort. You have to do the work. Consistent daily discipline is the path to victory. Extreme Ownership is the guide down that path. If you find yourself reading this article, you are not alone. At Echelon Front, we’ve helped thousands of men and women just like you. If you’re tired of struggling with a lack of confidence in your leadership skills, then you are at the right place. The key to progress is action. Here’s what I want you to do now: Click this link and visit Extreme Ownership Academy , our online resource for leadership development for people just like you who want to better understand why is leadership important and the answer to, “What is leadership.”

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