There are many theories on what leadership is. People love to give flowery language and fiery quotes that seem more motivational than instructional. Listing endless adjectives about leaderships is not defining leadership or even describing leadership. It actually shows how hard it is to say what leadership is. It’s more than just holding a position of authority. It’s more than just developing personal excellence. It’s more than just cheering people on. It is especially more than yelling at or threatening them.

But there are not too many theories on what leadership is not.

For example, let’s reject the idea that leadership is a character trait. Leaders may have common character traits. But leadership is not a separate character trait because leadership can’t exist without a person to lead. Leadership is a relationship that may attract people with certain character traits.

Let’s reject that someone can be a leader (not an authority figure) in all situations. The range of problems is too broad for one person to have all the answers all the time. Even the trite “I don’t have all the answers but I know who to go to for the answer” doesn't work in all situations because you have to know who to go to! This attitude is too close to the “cult of personality” that has caused so many disasters. A leader knows his or her limitations as to knowledge, and someone who thinks they are all-knowing is either narcissistic or delusional. Neither one makes for an effective leader.

Leadership is, at its heart, creativity and imagination. At the top level of an organization, it is seeing beyond boundaries and conventional thinking. At middle and lower levels, it is creatively and imaginatively implementing the vision articulated by the top leadership while making that implementation fit within the boundaries of the organization.

As you exercise your creativity, it becomes easier to exercise. Creativity is not limited to artists or musicians. Creative imagination led to the discovery of the DNA helix structure and it led to the development of a portable phone that can have the power of a small computer. The tragic limitation is that so many people are conditioned to think that creativity is limited to one or two areas of life. Or to people with the title of leader.

Explode your creativity! Too many people - those in positions of authority and those trying to “move up” - are conditioned to believe that ideas can only come from the top, down. This leads to many ideas being rejected because they were not offered by the “right people” or to many ideas never being offered at all. An idea stands on its own feet. Showing your creativity as often as it is needed, regardless of your level in the organization, leads to either your being recognized or your being so frustrated as to move on. Either one is a positive for you.

Seeing beyond boundaries is an important aspect of leadership for two reasons. The first is the ability to accurately identify boundaries. One of the most toxic boundaries is the “make your boss’s job easier” if misapplied. Actually, you should be making your boss’s difficult by suggesting positive changes for the organization! But setting an arbitrary boundary of “whatever the boss asks me to do” can be demeaning and harmful to your integrity. Recognizing this boundary accurately can lead you to being valuable to your boss and your organization while maintaining and emphasizing your personal integrity.

Seeing beyond boundaries is an important aspect of leadership for a second reason: seeing where the organization can go if the boundary is removed. This is the difference between that person who says “someone should do something about that” and Martin Luther King, Jr., who said “this is the boundary and this is what needs to be done about it.” Not everyone can be Martin Luther King, Jr. - but you can be, to your team, department or organization.

If you want to work your creativity, try this exercise. Take a common, very simple object - like a pencil or a shirt - and think of uses for it. You’ll get a few very rapidly, then you’ll get stuck, So put it to the side and come back to it. Don’t stop until you get 50, but don’t give yourself a time limit either.

And when you’re done, try this one. Ask 10 people for 1 word each. Any word at all. Now, write 10 related sentences, using one word in each sentence. Now - finish the story. Again, no word count length and no time limit.

Your ability to be creative, especially in a chaotic or emergency situation, will set you apart as a leader. It has the positive side effects of strengthening your integrity and advancing your growth in your personal excellence.

Author's Bio: 

STRESS JUDO COACHING helps you focus on personal excellence in a number of ways. Go to our EXPERT PAGE for 3 free and exclusive reports, explaining The Truth (your current stress management program is impotent); The Remedy (the requirements of a program that eliminates stress); and The Overview (how STRESS JUDO COACHING can transform your life). STRESS JUDO COACHING was created by Rick Carter, based on dealing with stress during 20+ years as a trial attorney and 30+ years in martial arts. You can become a black belt when it comes to fighting stress.
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