The words “leader” and “leadership” used to be widely accepted terms used to describe a person(s) formally working at the top of any type of organization. Nowadays, these words are frequently used more broadly to include those individuals who contribute to the process of moving things forward at any level in any business setting.
Leader is a “role” not a job, and you can be plucked from a pile, groomed, bubble-up naturally, force-fed into it or, quite literally, be the last one standing. Leadership is brought into “play” when one is influencing, guiding, and impacting others. Leadership can be top-down, bottom-up, or sideways, and no matter the scope or style, great leadership exists on small, medium, and large scales.
I like to think of it this way, leadership is like ice cream, and the specific business, industry or circumstances are the flavors. It is impossible to use chocolate chip and make it work when pistachio swirl is required, unless you only care about the fact that you used “leadership ice cream” and not about the outcome or how it tastes. Now you know why poor leadership leaves such a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
The mixing of flavors (or leadership styles/skills) is a creative endeavor because it has to be. The quest of all leaders, doing the right thing – at the right time – time after time – is not a science; it’s the repetitive capture of quicksilver. An enlightened/contemporary approach demands different leadership tactics for ever-changing circumstances and roles. You can be a lead cook, server or busser (out in-front-modeling the job in a stellar fashion), but that is different than a General Manager, battlefield leader or neighborhood political leader.
Leadership (at any level) is simply a role like “good-cop/bad-cop” or “keeper-of-the-flame.” It can be definitive or derivative, but still just one of many roles that are played out within any human enterprise.
For me, the beginning, middle and end of leadership is simply the business of flag flying. I’m using “flag flying” as a metaphor for the “things” you represent/provide when one is “in the role” of “being” a leader. I use the example of flag flying because most people can “see” that throughout history, individuals and groups have followed flags, pledged to flags and died for flags.
It has been my experience (in business) that many underestimate the power of “how they are” – which in most cases is equally important to “what they do.” When leaders fly “flags” with clearly depicted “stars & stripes” of past success (competence, elevation & completion and/or consciousness, character & conditions) as representatives of future success, they simply fly higher and are more magnetic than the norm.