Introduction: Making a Leadership Difference

Know, Do, Be

Know: Understand basic introductory leadership purposes and definitions.

Do: Diagram your own current model of the most important aspects of effective leadership.

Be: Be curious and open to developing leadership abilities.



“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

Introduction to Leadership

History has shown that a small group of people can make a difference. In fact, it’s clear that even one person can make a positive change in society through leadership.

Yet leadership is not necessarily about an individual person—it’s actually about a group of people, an organization, or a society. The purpose of leadership is not about you. It’s about something bigger than you. It’s not about creating a name for yourself or leaving a legacy. It’s about using your heart and mind to create something you care about because it will make a difference for others. If your primary motivation is to aggrandize yourself, you will most likely fail. But if you have a greater cause than yourself to which you are committed, you will likely end up making a name for yourself and leaving a legacy. Whether you want to change the world or simply make a positive difference at work, in your community, or at home, leadership can help.

Many of us assume that leadership is the purview of corporate CEOs, military generals, or heads of state. Leadership is critical in these positions, and, in fact, much of the historical study of leadership has focused on this type of leadership. Yet, leadership is much more comprehensive and isn't exclusively for those who hold impressive titles. Leadership can happen at every level within a company, community organization, and work team. In fact, it can reside within and surely has been exhibited by you at various times throughout your life.

The Fundamental Purpose of Leadership

The fundamental purpose of leadership is fairly simple: to get something good done with others that you may not be able to do alone. Many of the things you try to accomplish each day would be difficult or impossible to do by yourself. In a simple example, we can imagine that leadership began prehistorically when a caveman needed to move a rock that was heavier than he could lift by himself. Basic leadership could have been used to accomplish this simple task that was too difficult to do alone.

A more contemporary example for students would include attempting to complete a group assignment for a college class. Aspects of leadership are likely used to accomplish the team project. Even if you’d rather go it alone and start your own business, leadership still plays a critical role in business management. As an entrepreneur, for example, you almost immediately begin engaging others to help you refine your business plan and to provide capital, technology, marketing, and production expertise. Leadership again becomes a key component of your success.

Developing Others

Another important purpose of leadership is to develop others, which includes helping others develop leadership skills. As you develop knowledge, abilities, skills, and leadership acumen in others, you build the opportunity to increase the group’s effectiveness. Eventually, small groups are then able to grow into large-scale organizations, and the work itself can be completed more effectively and efficiently. Large corporations are able to function because leadership is present at many levels of the organization. This is important because there are some tasks that require many people to complete. There are some efforts that would be difficult to achieve without a great number of people involved. For example, building the pyramids in ancient Egypt took about 7,000 people. Building the Taj Mahal in India required the coordinated efforts of around 20,000 people. Interestingly, a staggering 400,000 people were involved with the myriad of tasks leading to successfully landing the first men on the moon.

Figure 1-1: Building the Taj Mahal in India required the coordinated efforts of around 20,000 people.

Effective Leadership Is Needed Everywhere

Good leadership allows you to more effectively get things done that you can't do by yourself. This is true at home, work, or in your community. It is true whether you are a front-line employee or the CEO. It applies for both simple and complex tasks and in both small and large organizations. Effective leadership is needed everywhere and at every level. And you will need leadership skills to make a difference for yourself, your family, your community, your organization, and your world.

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