What is leadership?
Dictionary.com defines leadership as “the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group.” But if leadership is so clearly defined, why are there countless books, courses, and presentations on the meaning of leadership?
When it comes to leaders and the meaning of leadership, there is perhaps no greater expert than the person who Forbes Magazine coined the “CEO of CEOs” — Jack Welch. Jack is one of the world’s most respected and celebrated business leaders of all time. Under his leadership as chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001, the company’s value rose 4,000%.
Jack famously stated:
Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.
This is why Jack created the Jack Welch Management Institute. The top-ranked online MBA program teaches Jack’s winning and time-tested philosophy on leadership development, people management, and more. So with all of Jack’s rich learnings in hand, we asked some JWMI graduates what leadership means to them. Here are their responses.
JWMI Alumni Share What Leadership Means to Them:
Before this program, I would have said, “leadership is getting others to do what you need to get done despite what they want or are inclined to do to accomplish a team task.” While this is still a part of my current definition, I also understand it is more about what you can do to help your people accomplish what they need to do.
I view my job as a leader as to hire the best people, give them the best training and guidance, and then get out of their way–removing any obstacles or roadblocks they may find that hinder their ability to perform their job. I also need to ensure they are fulfilled and building their careers if they desire to grow in their career. I will guide on what I need the team or individual to accomplish without dictating how to do it. Provide “leader’s intent” and let them, as the subject matter expert find the best way to make it happen. They will usually get it done more elegantly than I would have, as they are closer to the process and know the issues better than I do. I am available for support or to remove barriers if required, so they don’t feel abandoned if they encounter problems.
I have found that helping people get promoted and be happy in their careers was a great way to motivate people. I have consistently ensured my people were able to get promoted even when it hurt my team’s productivity. No one is irreplaceable, and our job as leaders is to ensure we build our teams so that people can afford to take vacations and not feel like they need to stay connected. This means creating backups, so there is no “single point of failure” in your process. This means that when someone has a chance to get promoted or needs to relocate or find another job, I support them and help them as much as possible and am not holding them back from pursuing these opportunities.
Leadership means never asking anyone to do anything you are unwilling to do yourself. Always be curious and be humble to learn to better yourself and influence people around you. Set high standards and continue finding ways to push yourself to meet and exceed those standards.
Three years ago, I became a team leader. I didn’t know what a team leader should do or should not do. And I didn’t know the difference between a leader and an individual contributor. I thought my success depended directly on the number of team members that reported to me. Now, I understand that leadership is not about the number of players on the team. It’s about leveraging my personal values and showing followers the direction, motivating their passions, aligning their minds, rewarding them, and continuously winning! I have and will invest my energy in continuous improvement in leadership. It pays off for me, my company, and most importantly, my team members.
Leadership means growing others around you and supporting them by accomplishing shared goals. It means ensuring you have the right people in the right place at the right time and often leading by example. Collectively, it’s a bond of trust others have in you to do the right thing in the best interest of them and the task at hand!
Read more in this series: What “Leadership” Means to JWMI Alumni.
Leaders… inspire people with clear visions of how things can be done better.
Ready to lead? Request more information on the different leadership programs at the Jack Welch Management Institute.