There are plenty of books and great quotes about leadership, but what does “leadership” really mean? To begin any discussion of leadership, the best place to start is with a definition. You know when you are in the presence of a great leader and when you’re not, and most of us can list a bunch of admirable leadership qualities, but most of us struggle to define the term. Of course, the desire to “define” leadership is so that we can “become” a better leader. We think, perhaps rightly, that if it is definable, it can be replicated.

The following definition can be found in the dictionary[1]…


[lee-der-ship] noun
1. the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group: Synonyms: administration, management, directorship, control, governorship, stewardship, hegemony.
2. ability to lead: Synonyms: authoritativeness, influence, command, effectiveness; sway, clout.
3. an act or instance of leading; guidance; direction:
4. the leaders of a group:

Ah…, not very helpful when you’re trying to figure out HOW to lead, is it?  Reading through The 100 Best Quotes on Leadership[2], you will find dozens of different “definitions” from a wide variety of authors.  But how do you take that and discover your own leadership style, through trial and error?  Not the best approach.

The most practical definition of leadership we have found is this quote from General Dwight D. Eisenhower, which we paraphrase here:

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else
to do something you want done
because they want to do it.”

This quote resonates well with our business clients, allowing them to practice and become better leaders.

Why is this the most practical definition of leadership and why does it resonate so well with our clients?  Because it focuses on the following major concepts:

  •  It is people-centered.  It is about getting “others” to get things done by tapping into their natural way of being, with a focus on their strengths, which compels them to act, and not simply being ordered, coerced, or otherwise forced to act.  It is about those you lead wanting to get things done and wanting to get things done because they want to, not just because you demand it or because they fear what will happen if they don’t.
  • It is about results.  It is about success.  It focuses on the requirement of getting things done, achieving a goal, or getting from “here to there.”  In business, leadership is always about getting something done and moving the business forward.
  • It can be learned.  There is an art to leadership, or more simply, it means it can be learned.  There may be those born to leadership by title, bearing, or even (at least in part) their unique gifts, however, everyone CAN learn the art of leadership.
  • It separates Leadership from Management: This definition naturally contrasts leadership (being about people) from management (being about things) while still focusing on the need to accomplish an objective.  It centers on the need to have those you lead want to follow because most managers eventually come to understand, mostly through experience, that “forcing” others to act simply because you are the boss rarely works in the long-term and is almost always counter-productive to good, positive, long lasting working relationships.

This definition is clear, easy to understand and yet very powerful and profound in its simplicity.  It sets the framework for understanding how to be extraordinary in leadership, and most important, that one can learn to be an extraordinary leader.

To find out more about extraordinary leadership and how you too can be an extraordinary leader, visit us at

About the Author: Wayne Ottum is a nationally known author, speaker, and consultant and is the President and founder of Ottum Enterprises, LLC.  With nearly 40 years of experience in the fields of personal, professional and business development, Wayne is dedicated to creating extraordinary leaders and businesses through his Lead from Strength™ methodology.  He is the author of Live from Strength and the soon to be released Lead from Strength.

[1] From