From the Salvation Army bells that ring to the commercials that might make you gag or make your heart sing, during the days between November 15 to January 2 so many events would make even most oblivious, think about things. Whether it is the mention of the true meaning of Christmas or the Facebook posts that blast those who simplify the term with an X, much discussion is had about an individual’s real reason for the season. There is even a more heartfelt viewpoint espoused about the concepts of giving, forgiving, and gifting. And just as the question is asked of why only this time of year, there is value in applying this concept to much more than the season and much more often than this time of year. What about the true meaning of friendship; of family; and of course as is our customary focus: leadership? As you continue to think as we wind down the year, might you add a bit of thought to the true meaning of leadership in and among all the Christmas cheer? Let’s see if we can figure it out together.
The definition of leadership is shown on Dictionary.com is “1. The position or function of a leader”. Additional entries to further define leadership include the ability to lead and an act or instance of leading. Thus, to find the true meaning, it seems we must dig a bit deeper. If you were to look up the definition of leader, you might find a good giggle at the simplicity found first: a person or thing that leads. The definition then goes on to share “A guiding or directing head” with many more specific applications relevant to music, journalism, and apparently fishing. The definition gives us perhaps the basics, but in truth, falls a bit short of the connotation or true meaning.
If we expand the definition to include your position, this changes things. Clearly, the leader is the one to whom you look for leadership. Does that always mean your boss, your manager or senior leadership team? Or could this also be the person to whom you seek out advice whose possible only ambition is to deliver the best mail delivery, not once a day, but twice? Your position provides you with leadership perspective. Much as the true meaning of Christmas has much to do with your belief and your experience, how you view leadership will depend on who has led you and how good a job you believe they did or still do. It is important to note, though not new to most, that a title of leader does not a leader make. In fact, a quick view of Business News Daily will show not one definition, but THIRTY ways to define the concept of leader, not a one of which have anything to do with title.
In classes, books, and keynotes, I have often said “Anyone can be a leader if they have these three things: Skills, Practice and Desire”. Perhaps this is at the crux of the true meaning of leadership. What skills do you practice and is your desire to lead better? No leader is perfect all the time and leads in a calamity free environment non-stop. But what is your intent even when you misstep? Can we look at leadership as both a vision and an ability? Can we see the position of leader as both an individual, and some sense of knowing or caring? The caring conveys interest (born of desire) to lead those who’ve sought out or been assigned to that individual’s leadership guidance where they need to go and grow. What is your intention? Is it to maintain your position? Is it to adhere merely to the definition? Or is it to enhance the lives of those you lead?
The true meaning of leadership, much like the true meaning of Christmas, is about perspective. It is about what it means to and for you. Your belief may be vehemently defensible and may even include an element of faith. Your belief may include a few ghosts of Christmas or leadership past and may prompt your actions to change when made aware of their presence. Your belief may be more logical or have more of an emotion or two. The point is that the true meaning of leadership is personal and very much up to you. While you think of the many things for which to be grateful this year, the many meanings we are asked to contemplate this season, and the many ways in which we all see the world and somehow manage to coexist, perhaps spend a moment or two to consider, what kind of leadership has meaning for you and what kind of leadership traits would suit you and your beliefs best.