I've been chewing on the concept of leadership a lot lately. I think leadership is more a property of a group process than a characteristic of a person. I acknowledge that personal characteristics might make some more likely to engage in the process, or more likely to be perceived as successful once engaged in the process; nevertheless, leaders are those that engage in the process of leadership. "Am I practicing leadership?" is a more important and less ambiguous question to me than "am I the leader?"
We probably don't need a new way to think about leadership, but I'm going to offer one anyway. I borrow heavily from the writings of Joseph Rost, but with some twists that I'm sure are not entirely unique. Here it is:
Leadership is manifest when people assume responsibility for the choice to engage with others and use their influence to pursue substantive changes that enhance a shared purpose.
To the extent you intentionally choose to engage in this process of progress with good-faith effort, you are practicing leadership regardless of your assigned position, title, or role. To the extent you choose to derail this process, discourage others from engaging, or otherwise resist meaningful change in yourself or your group, you are not exhibiting leadership.
What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!