What is leadership?

At Kings House with the Governor General of Jamaica, His Excellency The Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, ON, GCMG, CD

A relationship built on trust.  Upon considering leadership, we find that it is best defined as relationship.  It is built on trust, which includes openness, competency, consistency, and shared respect.  It is also transformational since both we and those around us are changed by the relationship and interaction. The practice of leadership is a discipline but does not stand isolated from other activities.  It is balanced with management, informed by good policy and practiced through systems in organizations and communities.  It is embedded in context and history but remains forward looking. Since leadership is a discipline we must practice it.  We must be intentional, open to new learning, willing to abandon old mental models and to refocus on the essential tasks of leadership.

Leaders focus on five tasks.  In the workplace, leaders focus specifically on meaning, significance, community, direction and excitement.  Meaning helps us to see that the work of our organization is bigger than us.  Significance gives us a sense that our personal efforts really matter.  Community means that we belong and feel connected to colleagues, work groups, and the larger organization.    Direction is knowing that we are moving forward together, in what general direction and why.   Excitement, not a Disney experience, is the spark of enthusiasm and wellbeing we feel when doing our best.  Leaders, in the words of Tom Peters, “create places where people can do the best work of their lives” (Tom Peters).


David S Penner, PhD.

DSP 2015