My Definition of Leadership

The subject and content of Leadership has been a passion of mine my whole life. My interest in the topic started in my early childhood after two or three teachers and coaches, in close succession, said to me that I exhibited the qualities and talents of a “natural born leader.” I remember thinking to myself “What does being a leader mean?” and why do they say that about me?” “What do they see in me that they don’t see in others?,” I asked myself. Adding to my inquiry was the question, “Why are they compelled to foster these leadership talents and qualities in me by calling them to my attention?” My interest in leadership began in an effort to answer some of these basic questions. I began reading books on the subject and researching the various definitions of leadership. I soon began to realize that there are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders. In a recent web search I conducted on leadership, 10,000 titles on the topic were returned. There is a broad and vast body of thought and written content on the subject.

The first leaders that I followed we people like Margaret Thatcher, Gloria Steinem and Olga Korbut. All were women who broke barriers in politics, activism and sport by showing their “chutzpah” and their grit. They had something to say and something to prove. They dared. They moved. They changed things for all of us. They literally forged new ways of thinking and being. They caught my attention. More than anything, their leadership gave me hope when I felt hidden and constrained and alone. Their leadership gave me the courage to sound out my own voice and to walk a path that was my own at a time when I really needed some light and direction in my life. They taught me to act according to my own strength and to do so even amidst the everyday pressure to conform and to follow someone else’s lead. Perhaps this courage is what these first guides gave me. Maybe this is what they noticed in me early on.

I grew up in a large family. I am the 6th of seven children and the youngest of four daughters. I certainly didn’t begin my life’s journey feeling like a leader of anything. I didn’t even feel noticed most of childhood. I have learned that many leaders have used this feeling of invisibility and powerlessness to take action and work tirelessly toward change. Leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa are three examples I can think of where the sense of invisibility and powerlessness became driving forces in the passionate pursuit of meaningful change. Mother Theresa vehemently guarded her sense of invisibility as a means to maintain humility and integrity in her work to help others.

From a very humble beginning, I have led a life and career of many firsts. I can say I was the youngest or the first in many experiences in my life from starting a local girl’s sports charity, to receiving a technology degree to gaining one of the largest working capital loans for a woman in business at a point in time. My fervor and dedication to leadership continues as much for me today as it did back then.

As the owner of Strong Point Strategy, a niche management consulting company that focuses on helping its client implement and execute Leadership Development and Organizational Innovation, I have spent the last 17 years of my career, working to nurture the seed of leadership in others.

I have learned that in order to advise people and companies on Leadership and Leadership Development, it is important to share my very clear definition of what Leadership is and more importantly, what it’s not; in my view. I realize that my voice and definition of leadership needs to stand out from the sounds of 10,000 other voices, to be heard. The definitions of Leadership are as unique as the people who use them. One of my personal favorites is that of Theodore Roosevelt…our beloved former president. His definition of leadership embodies, in my opinion, the struggle, the emotions, and the honor associated with the pursuit of leadership.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those timid souls who know neither victory or defeat.”Theodore Roosevelt, American President

My definition of Leadership has been born out of my own struggles to act, to achieve, and to add meaning to my life, to my work, to my family and to my coworkers and friends. The battles I have fought to add depth and power to any of my efforts have shaped my definition of leadership. Here it is:

“Leadership is the aggregate strength derived from the use of deep reservoirs of personal awareness, skill and professional best practices. These best practices and methodologies are then uniquely applied to a set of challenges that call out individual authenticity and set new precedents in professional capacity and personal effectiveness to support the common good.“Sharon McCollick, Strong Point Strategy

So let me break down my Leadership definition into its composite parts and provide you with the commentary that more deeply supports the words.

Leadership is the aggregate strength derived from the use of deep reservoirs of:

    Personal Awareness
    Professional Best Practices

I believe Leadership is a very personal thing. It seems obvious that you cannot lead if you are following…and you are following…in its very basic form…if you are not using your true, unique talents and abilities. Your own true, unique self is a person whom you have worked hard to become acutely aware. For leaders to lead themselves and others, they must possess a deep knowledge of themselves. This knowledge includes things like personality styles, learning styles, work methods, communication styles and preferences and core skills, abilities and strengths and weaknesses. You can learn as much as about yourself through self discovery (trying a million different things to understand what you like/ dislike etc) as you can by learning and trying others’ personal and professional best practices. People write down and teach what works for them to produce positive outcomes in business all day long. Read books, go to seminars, try to implement these best practices and you will advance and improve your own self knowledge and leadership effectiveness.

These best practices and methodologies are then uniquely applied to a set of challenges that call out individual authenticity

I believe if you are leading…it has to be YOU who are leading. It cannot be some version of what you think other people expect from you …or want from you ….or need you to do for them. Leadership takes boldness and raw courage. You have to have the internal fortitude and strength of character to bring forth your unique vision, thoughts and plans with an authenticity that only you can provide.

…and set new precedents in professional capacity and personal effectiveness and

When you do this, you begin to create new realities…and well…lead ☺. Whether the initial outcome of your vision and plans…and your leadership… is positive or not…you are, in fact, leading. To support the common good.

As long as you lead with an intention to support the common good…all will benefit. Leadership does have a very distinct dark side and stories are legion of leaders who have contributed to the collective demise of groups of people and whole nations, in fact.

If the results of your first visions and plans are not positive, but your intentions are…people will follow and support you and your vision until that common good becomes reality. This is my definition of Leadership.

Sharon McCollick of Strong Point Strategy, LLC

Strong Point Strategy, LLC is a full service consulting company that offers business management and leadership consulting services to its clients with a specific plan to help them advance and grow.