That Thing Called Leadership

An important role turned into a buzzword. Everyone is a guru, a master, a sifu of Leadership. A myriad of courses, books, conferences, masterclasses on leadership are available with no real blueprint of what truly defines leadership. An industry without a concrete science, so young and most likely in infancy – who can truly deduce leadership when everyone can be and is a leader?

I have been told that,

Leadership is courage
Leadership is passion
Leadership is serving
Leadership is influence
Leadership is taken
Leadership is heart…

There is so much discourse, theories and case studies to suggest the idea of,

(i) what is leadership,

(ii) how to be in leadership and

(iii) why be in leadership,

…and all of which leads to a whirlwind of debate that never really lands. There are papers, conferences and multiple talks on leaders debating about other leaders – whose truth stands true?


What is leadership?

From experience, I’d say leadership is you showing up 100% in what you have committed to do and how you make it work. Leadership is a collection of experiences of hits and misses, of getting lost and found, again and again. There can never be a blueprint for there can never be a context, phenomenon, space or situation that repeats itself in totality. There are no clear-cut stages to undergo; no linear steps that we can rinse and repeat in leadership. Nothing about leadership is set in stone. It’s just choices, decisions and taking actions – then learning from it.

Now that we have arrived at leadership being neither black or white, nor grey in nature — in discussing leadership, and understanding that it is the individual that makes leadership work, hence there is a dire need to also explore and pay attention, without selection that history (and in the present) has shown that

Leadership is also tyranny
Leadership is also iron fist
Leadership is also violent
Leadership is also lies
Leadership is also treachery
Leadership is also thievery
Leadership is also coercion

I don’t think that leadership as it is highlighted should be lopsided. For us to be holistic and truly explore what makes a leader, we need to see it from every perspective, don’t you think? Leadership should not be viewed as either good or bad, so, case studies must acknowledge that even the leaders we claim to be the most evil were and are leaders that command, revolutionize and realize movements. Leadership is what it is – and yet, everybody is looking to discovering what makes it great?

Is leadership really about the BEING standing for what needs to be done for the outcome desired? Does leadership occur when one person is able to stand in the heat, be stabbed in the back and stand tall with bloody trails in his/her path? Must all leadership be a zero to hero showcase? Do good storytelling and strategic media play, play a major role in the creation of the superhero leader? Do we only admire and honor those who are framed by the media, awarded by the socialites while others who work equally hard are trampled with sand kicked into their eyes over a single mistake?

In reflection, what type of leadership do you subscribe to and what criteria did you tick off to follow the leader?

This article was written with the intention of stating that leadership is both pure and dirty. It is both right and wrong. It is neither here nor there. It just is and it exists in both losses and wins. The study of leadership is not about answering the question “How to be a Good to Great Leader” but instead, I feel the question is simply “Why lead?”. What is it that you want done?

I have been mentored and coached and I feel that I will never learn what it means to lead from a book, a lecture or a masterclass. These are all supplements and complementary to hone my skillsets, but only when I have begun to take ownership to my actions.

How many leaders have you seen own up? I’d say, too many would show up when right (and applauded for it) then cower when wrong with fingers pointing to blame others (and protected for it).

It is said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Not because we plan to create evil, but in planning to do good is to commit to doing good to completion, regardless of the hardships and pain that we may face to taste the sweet fruit of victory in the joy of serving. If leadership is your game, what indeed are you willing to do, how far will you go to serve, and how courageous are you willing to stumble and fall to help others WIN? 

What is leadership? I say…well, that’s up to you to decide.


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