Many people have written on what it means to be a leader. Almost everyone identifies influence as the primary characteristic. By definition, this means that leadership and position are two different things. You can have a title, and a position of power, but this does not mean that you are a leader. Even people without these things can exert influence and thus leadership.
Leaders must be deliberate and intentional if they are to be successful. These five qualities can guide us as we grow in our ability to lead.
But leadership is more than influence. It certainly includes influence, but it is more. I believe it includes at least five characteristics. When I speak on this topic, I call these “the five marks of authentic leadership”:
- Authentic leaders have insight. Sometimes we refer to this as vision, but that usually has exclusive reference to the future. While leaders must have vision, they need more. They need wisdom and discernment. (Click here to tweet that.)
They need to be able to look at complex situations, gain clarity, and determine a course of action. In the Bible, “[The] men of Issachar … understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chronicles 12:32). This is what I mean by insight.
- Authentic leaders demonstrate initiative. They go first. They don’t sit on the sidelines. They don’t ask others to do what they are unwilling to do themselves. Instead, they lead by example. Lt. Col. Hal Moore is a great example of this. Famously depicted by Mel Gibson in the movie, We Were Soldiers, Lt. Moore told his troops, before leaving for Vietnam,