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What Does It Mean To Be A Leader?

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Aisling Harrison Blog, Work Life, Lifestyle...

We constantly look to leaders. Nearly every day, we seek guidance from someone else for their knowledge and confidence. A leader teaches, calms and helps others to better themselves or their circumstance.

Leadership has such strong, misconceived connotations of power and superiority, but a leader controls situations, not people. A leader guides people.


It’s a subtle everyday occurrence.

For example, when you learn to drive, you may have access to the pedals and steering wheel, but your instructor is more knowledgeable and in control of that situation.  

How about when you go on holiday? Are you making all the bookings and travel arrangements, or are you smiling sweetly with raised shoulders to your super regimented friend?

Or, something really serious, like who is in charge of cooking the Christmas dinner?

Leadership is not just corporate or political. You may not have considered the above examples as leadership at the time, but any situation where you are being taught or relying on someone you are looking to them as a leader.  


A particularly assertive, domineering and outspoken person, may create the illusion that they are a leader, but being heard is not the same as being listened to.

Someone who guides and inspires others isn’t necessarily the person with all the power. A title or authority does not automatically make someone a leader.

A significant factor in someone being established and regarded as a leader is the response from those around them, and how they earn other people’s trust, respect and loyalty.


Perception is subjective. Who one individual considers to be a leader, may not be by others.  

It’s a skill, and leadership will not be everyone’s strength. It isn’t necessarily reflective of how good someone is at a particular thing, it is their ability to influence thoughts, behaviour and performance.

However, arguably, there is no such thing as a bad leader. There are people with authority that don’t lead. They’re not a bad leader, they’re just not a leader. How can we be bad at something we’re not?

You wouldn’t say to someone, “you’re bad at wearing shoes” or “you’re bad at drinking tea”. You wear shoes or you don’t, you drink tea or you don’t, you lead or you don’t.


It’s not to say someone cannot develop leadership skills or enhance their existing talent. It’s a combination of expertise and interpersonal strategy, and these attributes naturally improve with time and experience.

Someone aspiring to be recognised as a leader needs to recognise that it isn’t about them. Leadership is about other people, and how you can help them, not how they can help you. Telling someone what to do or paying them a wage, is not leading them.

Enhancing your leadership skills begins with you enhancing someone else’s abilities, confidence and experience.

You can be the most knowledgeable and experienced person in the whole world but if you can’t share that with someone else, you’re not a leader.