The Work of Leadership Development


In my experience leadership is an abused word.

Everyone wants to be a leader, but very few people have a true understanding of what that word entails.  

In my view leaders, and the ability to lead, are developed through intentional growth.

The ability to lead is not bestowed on you by a job title, nor is it conferred on someone when they receive a degree.  The development of a leader results from a living process of refinement.

It takes a lot of effort to develop fundamental leadership qualities, and many people aren’t willing to put in the work to do so.

I came of age, both personally and professionally, as a member of the U.S. Army.  A renowned institution that prides itself on its capacity to develop leaders.  For 10 years I was mentored by some of the brightest, most driven minds in the leadership arena.

I tried my best to be a good student.

One of the most common aspects of life in the military is the constant stress that’s placed on its junior leaders to grow.  It’s not enough to exist and do your job, the pursuit of excellence is unrelenting.  I think my approach to life after the military reflects that quality.

In the pursuit of excellence, I have continually worked to develop my leadership ability.  I read, write, and pursue opportunities outside of my professional environment to sharpen my leadership skills.

Recently I was exploring the difference between leaders and managers in the business world.

As I surveyed the web to find insight on the subject, I stumbled on a great article from Forbes.  The article provides an overview of the definition of leadership; as the word is defined by the greatest minds in business today.

According to the author, here are some definitions of leadership that exist in business:

“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”-Peter Drucker

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”-Warren Bennis

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”-Bill Gates

I tend to prefer the U.S. Army’s definition of leadership:

“Leadership is influencing people—by providing purpose, direction, and motivation—while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization” (FM 22-100 Army Leadership, 1999).

I find this definition to be sufficiently complex, yet elegant enough for communication and application.

Reasonable minds look at the definition of leadership the military provides and find that to lead requires far more than having charisma, the ability to raise your voice, or perfection of one’s technical ability.

It requires development of the total person, relationships, and a fundamental understanding of how an organization operates.

In short it takes work.





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