Have you ever thought about the meaning of the word, “leader”? Given that there is practically a cult-like fervor around the topic of leadership, I am sure you have thought about the meaning, or at least heard many definitions. I once heard that there are thousands of definitions of “leader.” A quick internet search revealed a claim that there are 200 definitions. Honestly, I have better things to do than track down the actual number of definitions. Suffice to say, there are a lot. Maybe that is why there seems to be such a dearth of good leadership – no one really knows what it is. I’m reminded of the saying, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.” Hopefully, by exposing the assumptions that we make when we say the word, “leader,” we can gain a better definition and understanding of just what it is we are talking about.
While studying the topic of leadership as a graduate student at Gonzaga University I pondered the assumptions that are made when we hear the word, “leader.” I settled on three assumptions that we make when we use the word, “leader:” Leaders are going to a destination, they are “in front,” and there are followers.
This week I offer you the idea that “Leader” implies a destination.
When someone aspires to be a leader there is an implication that there is a destination. A future reality that is only attained through a process of change. A process that goes from Point A to Point B. The destination may be physical, aspirational, emotional, quantitative, or qualitative. What matters is that the destination is “not yet.”
So, do you know where you are going? If you want to lead but don’t have a destination, especially a clear destination, it is going to be rough going. To help you determine your destination, try this other question, what is your VISION? What is the deepest desire of your heart?
When I am coaching leaders I like to ask, “What does your idealized future look like?” Another way to conceive of this is through your mission. Your mission is what you do. If you do your mission well, what is the result? This is why it is so important to have clear values: why/how you do what you do, mission: what you do, and vision: the idealized future when you effectively complete your mission.
Finding your vision doesn’t have to be mysterious or a majestic, tortuous, experience. It can be as simple as filling in the blank in this sentence:
IF EVERYTHING GOES ACCORDING TO PLAN, __________________ IS THE RESULT.
Go ahead and fill that in for your personal life, your team, and your career. Doing that alone will help you to lead better as you lead yourself and others.
Congratulations! You now have fulfilled one of the assumptions of the word “Leader.”
That leads us to this question and the second assumption: Are you able to communicate the destination to others?
We will unpack that next week.