14 Words that Define Leadership


Recently I posted a question to a LinkedIn Human Resource group, asking for people to “Define Leadership in 1 Word”.  After 1 month, we received 1,130 comments!  Yes, I read every one of them and have summarized in 14 single words the definition leadership.  However, when you put these words together, when you team them up the results are amazing.

  1. Influential
  2. Charismatic
  3. Visionary
  4. Servant
  5. Inspirational
  6. Humility
  7. Sacrificial
  8. Motivator
  9. Rebel
  10. Trustworthy
  11. Determination
  12. Passion
  13. Creativity
  14. Results

The common traits of all the above terms; they require a form of action and have more impact when put together.  Influential people appear to be viewed as the most common leader, but being charismatic and a visionary go a long way to gaining momentum when you are leading an organization, group or team.

One of my favorite responses was “Rebel“.  Sometimes a leader has to be a cowboy or rebel and put themselves outside of the norm, make sacrifices and achieve results!  Following the pack may keep you in a job, but to really inspire, you must be determined, creative and passionate!  A leader will serve and motivate others through natural displays of humility!  This will be the key to gaining the trust of others!

1,130 words, summarized in 14 terms and strung together for a definition of leadership!

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8 Responses to “14 Words that Define Leadership”
  1. Very interesting list. People are fascinated with Leadership because great leadership seems to be so elusive. It’s interesting that character is not on the list, at least not directly. I think that character is in a sense a pre-requisite to effective leadership. I believe that character fuels a lot of the other characteristics of leadership. At some point, if you don’t have enough, you lose the credibility to lead. In the worst cases, a lack of character leads to the ethics disasters. These make the news when Pastors, politicians, and CEO’s are forced to resign. Thanks for sharing.

    Chris Paulsen

  2. Pat Morgan says:

    I’m with Christian. When I saw the question, I thought about what my answer would be. Character. A person can deliver at least half of those 14 qualities and have no character whatsoever. Character is the will to do what’s right regardless of personal cost. What good is passion for evil purposes? It’s kind of an extreme example, but Hitler was a charismatic visionary influential motivator, and he got results — all without an ounce of character. And in the end, he lost out to people at the opposite end of the spectrum. Thank God for those people.

  3. Alex Putman says:

    Christian and Paul, thanks for sharing! Character is a great addition to the list. Trustworthy eludes to character, but I love Paul’s definition! Thanks for the conversation gentlemen!

  4. Keep up the good work, I like your writing.

  5. Bob Holben says:

    Alex, I think this is an excellent technique of deriving an article from a LinkedIn group survey. As a follow up, you might find it interesting to visit the group again and post the same 14 words, this time asking the group to pick the most important quality in a leader. I’d suggest inserting “character” or “integrity” into the list this time around since this characteristic went missing last time.

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