The words leader and leadership get bandied around a lot. In fact, they are often used interchangeably. In organisations we hear people use phrases like “our leadership team.” In this regard the term leadership is referring to a group of leaders. However, leader and leadership is not the same thing. Let’s delve a little deeper to distinguish the differences.

Who is a leader?

Simply put the leader is one who leads others. Leaders exist in all walks of life, in families, in sporting teams and social groups. Within organisations leaders can have many different titles ranging from Principal to Vice-Chancellor or from Director to CEO. Ultimately, the leaders are accountable for the entire organisation, for everything, the buck stops with them.

What are some of the characteristics of being an exceptional leader? Leaders create and share their vision for the future. They lead by example. Leaders get to know their people, take care of them and inspire, motivate and encourage them into new and exciting roles and directions; especially in directions they wouldn’t have led themselves. They identify and work with their peoples’ talents and strengths. They nurture, encourage growth and provide their people with opportunities for development. They thank and acknowledge their people for their effort. They give away credit for successes and conversely, they are accountable for their failures.

You can lead from anywhere

We usually associate our leaders with the senior person or team of people in charge, typically the CEO or the executive team. However, this is a rather limited view. Leaders can emerge from anywhere within the organisation. As I wrote in a previous article “More Leaders, Less Managers,” we can lead from any position and this should be encouraged. Creating opportunities for staff, especially younger staff, supports them to step up, take the initiative and develop themself as a leader. Notably, developing leaders at all levels encourages growth and faster results, since the organisation does not rely solely on its senior leaders to decide and implement change. Professional sporting teams recognise this need. At one time, a captain and vice-captain sufficed, now elite teams have a captain, often several co-captains and a leadership team. Importantly, leading the on-field performance is not left to one or two individuals, rather all are encouraged to lead. David Teague, the senior coach of the Carlton AFL team summed this up when he said, “we want every one of our players to be leaders and to step up and execute their role.”

What is leadership?

What then distinguishes leadership from leader? As mentioned earlier, leadership is a collective noun that labels the leaders within organisations. Leadership is also an adjective that can be used to describe the actions of our leaders. In other words, leadership describes the types of action and change our leaders are implementing. For example, we might see our leaders implementing bold or creative vision and consequently we may describe this as “bold or creative leadership.” While these descriptions are valid, leadership is also widely appreciated as being concerned with the development of people. For me, leadership is about developing people to be the best they can be. In my experience this is the most valuable way to think about leadership especially from an organisational view.

If you give someone a fish…

As a leader I am responsible for developing my people to lead and to provide them with training and opportunities for growth and success. Neglecting to do this not only keeps my people and organisation small and I fail to fulfil one of my key responsibilities as a leader. When I previously worked as a scientist, I didn’t see my students as disposable assets who are here to serve my needs as a researcher. Rather, I saw them as the future and I mentored and developed them into scientists that are capable of leading a team of people and projects by themself. In supervising them this way, I reaped far more output from them and they required far less input from me. This well-known phrase perfectly sums up leadership for me: “Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.” As a leader what more could you want than to cause a team of fisher people?

What type of leader are you? Do you only care about how good you look or how well your team or organisation performs to make you look good? Do you only care about the numbers or do you take a genuine interest in the well-being and development of your people? Developing your leadership by developing your people will return great results to you and your organisation. Remember, a person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is agreed than someone who feels neglected. As the saying goes “take care of your people and the numbers will look after themself.”

Do you want to transform yourself as a leader and elevate your leadership to a new level? Contact me today for a complimentary discovery session to explore the value of 1:1 coaching.