Defining Leadership

Leadership is like an elephant. It’s big. You can look at it from many vantage points. As you look at it, you see many different aspects of leadership. This is why there are so many definitions of leadership. While the essence of all leadership is the use of power and authority, there are additional ways to understand leadership.

Here are several of the definitions and descriptions that help me understand leadership.

ONE: You’ve already heard the definition by Max DePree, CEO of the Herman Miller Furniture Company and author of several great books: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the leader is a servant.”

TWO: Here is a another favorite by president Woodrow Wilson: “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”

THREE: Leadership guru Warren Bennis says: “To an extent, leadership is like beauty: It’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.” Bennis did go on to define leadership like this: “Leadership is doing the right things the right way.” Bennis wrote a classic book on leadership called On Becoming a Leader. Even though it is a bit old, it is still quite good.

FOUR: Here’s one from Mary Parker Follett: “Whoever connects me with the hidden springs of all life, whoever increases the sense of life in me . . . is my leader.”

FIVE: And finally, here is an explicitly Christian framing of leadership by Bobb Biehl: “Leadership is knowing what to do next, knowing why it’s important, and knowing how to bring the appropriate resources to bear on the needs at hand. Christian leadership is knowing what God wants done next, knowing why He wants it done and knowing how to bring the resources He would bring to bear on the needs at hand.”

What do you like about these definitions?

Do you have another definition you would add to the mix?

Whatever your definition, today, may you make a difference in the lives of the people you love.

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Brian



Brian Rice

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