While the terms “leadership” and “influence” sound like good management speak and make for good use within business book titles, these words have true meaning within business and are extremely interrelated. So, what really is a leader? Is it someone who starts a business of their own? Is it someone who has lots of people working for them? Is it someone who doles out commands from behind a desk? Well, we all likely know people or maybe even worked for people that think these very qualities are what defines what a leader is. But to be sure … none of these things in and of themselves makes a leader. For me, I don’t think a true definition of a “leader” can be given that does not include the word “influence.” Why do I say this? Well, to me a leader is a person who influences others to line up behind a common vision/goal. They command the respect of others and, in fact, downright inspire others to follow them — across burning coals if that is what it takes. A leader is a person who understands what she/he is good at and what she/he is not good at. They know how to surround themselves with others who fill the voids they possess within their own capabilities or character. As Anna Farmery says, this means that the leader often has to step outside of her/his “comfort zone”.

Leaders also solicit the input of others yet don’t alienate those whose input is rejected — as those individuals recognize and understand that the rejection was likely for the purpose of a greater cause. And the leader is able to bring all this to bear on an objective — the fulfillment of a mission.

Wally Bock at Three Star Leaders also links the element of influence with “performance”. As leaders our circle of influence widens in line with our capacity to perform. Think of how this is now playing out in the highly visible world of politics.

As we are entrenched in the U.S. presidential campaign season, these qualities are brought to the forefront of my mind. The candidates who possess these qualities are the ones who will likely win the hearts and minds of the U.S. populace. But, by the same token, these qualities are not reserved for those that will lead nations, but apply with equal importance to those that lead companies, regions, divisions, teams, etc. A leader, at whatever level, must possess these very same qualities in order to be most effective.

Nina nets it out: Share your thoughts about leaders, leadership qualities and great leaders from your own experiences (be they from your business environment, educational experience or within your personal life). It is such sharing and exploration of these elements that pushes our thinking about being better leaders ourselves and allows today’s leaders to learn even better leadership qualities, styles and approaches.