So many definitions of leadership – here are a few . . .

Multidimensional Qualities of Leadership, A Sampling

Definitions of Leadership

Leadership – mobilizing people to tackle tough problems.  ~  Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz, 1994, page 15

That the job of school leaders is ‘primarily about enhancing the skills of knowledge of people in the organization, creating common culture of expectations around the use of those skills and knowledge, holding the various pieces of the organization together in a productive relationship with each other, and holding individuals accountable for their contributions to the collective result. ~ Building a New Structure for School Leadership, Richard F. Elmore, 2000, page 15

The most effective school leaders are able to collaboratively create and sustain changes that continually enhance student achievement.  Failure is Not and Option: Six Principles that Guide Student Achievement in High-Performing Schools, Alan M Blankstein, 2004, page 194

Rather than define leadership either a as position of authority in social structure or as a personal set of characteristics, we may find it a great deal more useful to define leadership as activity.  ~ Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz, 1994, page 20

Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.  ~  Leadership: Theory and Practice, Peter G. Northouse, 2007, page 3

When we focus on leadership as activity – then the activity of a citizen from any walk of life mobilizing people to do something is an act leadership. A leader is someone who works to accomplish goals that meet the needs of both the leader and followers.  From this point of view leadership is more than influence.  ~  Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz, 1994,  page 22

‘Messy leadership’– the practice of reviewing data, making midcourse corrections, and focusing decision making on the greatest points of leverage – is superior to ‘neat’ leadership in which planning, processes, and procedures take precedence over achievement. The Learning Leaders: How to Focus School Improvement fopr Better Results, Douglas B. Reeves, 2006, page xi

Leadership is oriented by the task of doing adaptive work.  Influence and authority are primary factors in doing adaptive work, but they also bring constraints.  They are instruments and not ends.  Tackling tough problems – problems that often require an evolution of values – is the end of leadership; getting that work done is its essence.  ~  Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz, 1994, page 26

Leaders come in every size, shape, and disposition. They all seem to share some, if not all, of the following ingredients. The ingredients of leadership are:

  • passion,
  • integrity,
  • espousing a guiding vision,
  • a basis of trust,
  • the ability to engage others in creating shared meaning,
  • emotional intelligence, and
  • the key competence is that leaders have an adaptive capacity. ~  On Becoming A Leader: The Leadership Classic Updated and Expanded, Warren Bennis, 2003, pages xxi, xxii, 31, 32, and 33

Leaders, whatever their field, are made up as much of their experiences as their skills, like everyone else.  Unlike everyone else, they use their experience rather than being used by it.  ~ On Becoming A Leader: The Leadership Classic Updated and Expanded, Warren Bennis, 2003, pages 62

LeadershipLeadership will consist not of answers or assured visions but of taking action to clarify values.  It asks questions like: What are we missing here?  Are there values of competing groups that we suppress rather than apply to our understanding of the problem at hand?  Are there shared values that might enable us to engage competing views?  ~  Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz, 1994, page 35

Ultimately, your leadership in a culture of change will be judged as effective or ineffective not by who you are as a leader but by what leadership you produce in others.  ~  Leading in a Culture of Change, Michael Fullan, 2001, page 137

Leaders are those who stimulate and inspire group members to both achieve extraordinary outcomes, and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity.  Leaders help group members grow and develop by responding to individual members’ needs and then by aligning the objectives and the goals of the individual members, the leader, the group, and the larger organization.  Thus, potentially leading to high performance, high levels of satisfaction and strengthened commitment to the work group and organization.  ~  Transformational Leadership, Bernard Bass and Ronald Riggio, 2006, page 3

Leadership is a set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances.  Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.  ~  Leading Change, John Kotter, 1996, page 25

Leadership is not all about personality; it’s about practice.  When getting extraordinary things done in organizations, leaders engage in these Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership: Modeling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Challenging the Process, Enabling Others to Act, and Encouraging the Heart.  ~  Leadership the Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, 2002, page 13


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