How do you define a leader?
Starting with Google
Typing "What is a leader" into Google returns a dictionary entry, a list of leadership books and articles from the top business magazines (Inc, Forbes, Entrepreneur) in the first page of results.
When you saw that question you may have thought it would be easier to answer by saying what a leader is not. We could define a leader by using the dictionary. Or describing qualities of great leaders we've experienced in our lifetime. Or perhaps listing your own traits and personality.
There is no one definition of a leader. Depending on the situation and environment, a leader can be defined many ways. Here are a few definitions I have come across just in the past 6 months:
Brene Brown - Dare to Lead - A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and who has the courage to develop that potential.
Daniel Pink - When - A leader is someone above and apart from the group itself to set the pace, maintain the standards and focus the collective mind.
Kimberly Davis - Brave Leadership - A leader is willing to connect and be vulnerable in order to influence others.
Personally, I like the definition that focuses on finding potential and empowering others. Some of the best leaders I've worked with have found a way to highlight and encourage those who they managed. Often times as a leader, I step back and say "I could do xyz, but then could I teach someone to do xyz and empower them in the future?"
Impact of your leadership story
Everyone has their own leadership story. Different managers, leaders and influencers have impacted your leadership style. Your work experiences and failures have impacted your leadership style. Even your volunteer work has impacted your leadership style. At a recent leadership symposium I attended, we took the time to write down the people, jobs, events, ideas, successes and failures that have impacted our leadership story. It was a great way to highlight for myself the small steps I have taken as I have grown as a leader.
Doesn’t matter what your title.
Being a leader doesn't mean you need to have manager, or director, or vice president in your title. Anyone can be a leader within their unit or on a specific project. I have been in meetings where I was the "lowest" in the company hierarchy but yet was leading the effort on a particular initiative. In that situation, my manager empowered me to speak for the initiative and make real-time decisions on how to move forward.
I come back to the starting question - how would you define a leader?