How Do You Define Leadership?
By: Randy Wolken, President & CEO
How do you define leadership? I define it as a “sacred trust” that I have been gifted with. I know it probably sounds old-fashioned. Maybe it was my upbringing. Maybe it was my time at West Point and in the Army. But, mostly I think it comes from the successful leaders I have had the privilege of learning from and serving with. To me, the two words “sacred” and “trust” are critical to leadership.
Sacred can mean different things to different people. In this context, I mean that it is a mystery and inspires awe. It means we know we don’t do it on our own – we need “help” from the Other – however we define it – and do it with others. When we practice leadership it should have impacts that are beyond our own self-interests. It should have consequence, meaning, and a form of grace involved. The best leaders I have served with had a sense of confidence – and humility. They knew many answers – but were even better at questions. They had a presence that spoke to their belief that we could do just about anything – if we did it for the right reasons and did it together.
Second, trust was the currency of their leadership. You trusted them – implicitly. Not that they would always get it right, but that they would try their best to get it right. There is both firmness and gentleness – firm about their resolve and gentle in their process. They are primarily learners on the journey with their teams. Not above or removed – but with their team on the journey. Building trust was their way of doing this – one act of contribution and kindness at a time. They are legacy leaders – leaving what they found much better than when they assumed leadership responsibilities. To do this, they need to build genuine trust.
So, how do you define leadership? What words do you use to describe it? What are the characteristics that mean the most to you? It’s a good practice to contemplate these questions – and to share them. At first, it may be with a trusted mentor or colleague. Then, try sharing it with those you lead or are on a team with.