Having worked with leaders for the past twenty-five years, we have found that they define the essence of leadership in ten different ways.

The differences between each definition can be seen as a reflection of the individual leader’s style, personality, experience and context. Leaders all do the same things, more or less; but the way they lead will vary. Each leader will be a particular type.

As you read this list it is likely that you will feel more comfortable with some definitions more than others. Leaders argue that the essence of (their) leadership is one of the following:

  1. Helping people believe in a better tomorrow.
  2. Setting the destination, devising the strategy to get there and allocating the resources to make it happen.
  3. Thinking strategically and simplifying strategy so everyone in the organization can understand it.
  4. Creating an environment of success, removing obstacles, driving results.
  5. Guiding the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal.
  6. Influencing people by providing purpose, direction and motivation whilst operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.
  7. Ensuring that people have everything they need to achieve the mission of the organisation.
  8. Combining legitimacy, personality and management skills to make others want to follow your direction.
  9. Helping people to reach their full potential.
  10. Persuading people to willingly go somewhere they wouldn’t go if left to themselves.


The key point is, these ten points are not a menu of options from which to pick and choose according to personal taste. They are a recipe for success. The ideal leader will need to exemplify each of the ten definitions at different times and in different situations.

You will be a competent leader if you achieve 3 out of 10; a good leader with 5; an excellent leader with 7; and an extraordinary leader with 10.

If you want to improve the quality and range of your own leadership, or that of the leaders in your team, or embed leadership principles and practice in your organisation, or make the transition from manager to leader, talk to me.

Birds flying, demonstrating the leadership recipe