Leadership – 3rd In A Series

Ed BurghardOne of the things I am amazed by is the complexity of leadership as a subject. A Google search on the term brings roughly 105 million references. Leadership is a well discussed, but often poorly understood concept.

I am also amazed by how elusive leadership is even after all the research and books written attempting to describe it. You only have to look at our current government to wonder where the great leaders of our nation are. The current partisan behavior and inability to grapple with the tough economic and moral issues of our time is discouraging. I often say politicians have taken control away from the statesmen in the politics of our nation.

Great leaders set visions worth pursuing. They not only dream big, but they help you see the future.

Our nation’s founding fathers were great leaders and they established a vision of enabling the pursuit of the American Dream. It is the desire to fulfill that vision which compels me to reframe the conversation in economic development from job creation to helping people more fully live the American Dream.

The following are my notes from a lecture I attended back in 1993 that discussed what leadership is and is not. While the talk was a decade ago, I think the principles are highly relevant today. I hope my notes encourage you to think about your own leadership mastery and help you identify potential opportunities for self-improvement.

The term leadership is often misused in conversation. It is often used to describe a broad range of performance traits, many of which are tangential to true leadership. To better understand the skills you need to master in order to be an effective leader, it is important to be more specific in defining the term.

This blog post is the 3rd in a series on the subject of leadership.  The following links will take you to the other posts.

1st in a series

2nd in a series


What Leadership Is

Leadership is the ability to establish a direction and motivate people to move in that direction. It is more than a particular operating style. It is the ability to deliver results consistently and over time.

Superior knowledge of a subject is typically the foundation of good leadership. A true leader knows the subject better than anybody else. There is no substitute for knowledge: no style, no process, no people skills can tale its place.

By definition, you can’t be a leader without a vision. You need to translate your expert knowledge into a direction of where to go.

A vision is necessary, but not sufficient to being a good leader. You need to be able to communicate your vision in a way that enrolls people in your plans. They need to share your commitment and have confidence their contributions will be recognized and rewarded.

The most successful leaders leverage existing work systems to make their visions happen. As a general rule, they don’t waste time “bucking the system”. They understand and appreciate the efficiencies and value of making the system work for them. However, when the system becomes an insurmountable roadblock, they challenge it and make the system better.

The best leaders demonstrate high levels of intuition and courage. They take decisions. They collect and analyze data and then make a decision based on what they learned and what their “gut” is telling them. The best leaders do not succumb to analysis paralysis.

What Leadership Is Not

Leadership is not a style. It is not as simple at have the head seat at a table and issuing orders to be followed. With leadership, the style is less important than the results. There are many styles that can deliver outstanding results.

Also, leadership is not about executing consensus or making impulsive decisions or reacting to what you think Management wants.


The above is not intended to be a comprehensive description of a leader. The list simply represents notes I took from a lecture or training course. But, I hope the concepts have the power to make you reflect on the subject, and maybe do a little introspection regarding your leadership mastery.

From the list, was there any thought that struck you as an “Ah Ha”? Did you disagree with any? Which thoughts in the above list do you feel are the most important?

Please leave a comment with your point-of-view.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

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For additional information on the ADCI click HERE.


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