Leadership could be considered a lot of things. We know leadership is not management. If someone has ever mismanaged us, we know it doesn’t feel like leadership. And then there is that person who thinks they are a leader, but those they attempt to lead don’t experience them as one.

So, what is leadership really? We know leadership is not force. Force can’t be leadership, right?

At some level, everything we do is because of leadership or lack thereof. Countless programs claim to teach it. Companies all around the globe focus on it and declare its importance. For example, a simple Amazon search nets over 60,000 resources on leadership. With all the resources on leadership so readily available and accessible — and with as much focus everyone has on it — you would think everyone would be a powerful, effective leader. And yet, how many powerful, effective leaders do you know? Who stands out for you? Are you that leader for others in your life?

Have you thought about how others experience you as a leader? If so, how does one access being a leader, specifically an effective one?

Let’s first look at your relationship with leadership. Do you experience yourself as a leader? How do you define leadership? Do you show up for yourself as a leader, and do you demonstrate leadership effectively? When you are being a leader, is it your natural expression, or are you attempting to be someone else, inauthentic to who you really are?

What happens when you experience leadership that is effectively being exercised in a particular set of circumstances or a specific domain in your life? Can you identify how it influences how you see something, how you are willing to see something, or even how you behave?

For many of these questions to be examined in a useful way, let’s consider a specialized definition of the term: leadership is to create a future that fulfills, or attempts to fulfill, the needs of all the relevant parties.

What we know about our lives is that we have a past, a present, and a future we can identify. For leadership to be effective, a new future must be determined that the leader desires to come into existence. In other words, without leadership, the future will be a default one, one that would happen anyway had leadership not been exercised.

This is often spoken of as a vision. A vision for the future. The more precise the vision, the more likely it can be created. As the definition continues, that vision must fulfill or attempt to fulfill  the needs of all the relevant parties. Every great leader knows this. As a leader, one must discover and be responsible for those needs. Any desired, created future that comes at a cost to those being led will result in a lack of leadership.

With this definition in mind, we are all creators. Some of what we create is useful, and some of what we create is not useful. But we all participate in creation. We are not only creators, but we have created. Take a step back and look at your life, relationships, and even the circumstances you are in right now. You have had something to do with it; in most cases, you have had everything to do with what was created. This is an excellent principle for a person to come to understand.

Suppose you know that you have participated in the process of creating your life, your relationships, and the circumstances you are in. In that case, you can see that you can create them differently in the future. But you must start now, right here, in the present.

Every moment, every day, our lives are filled with opportunities to lead and to be led. In some cases, we are very aware of this. In many cases, we are unaware of this altogether. The next time you find yourself being critical of another leader, another person, or yourself, slow down and take responsibility for what you have or have not contributed and the specific circumstances. And more importantly, what decisions can you make right now that would contribute to creating a future consistent with a clear, desired, and defined outcome? Let those decisions help you become the kind of person who utilizes leadership as a solution.

You, being a leader and exercising leadership effectively as your natural self-expression, is the solution to any possible future you desire. Try it on and discover the future you can create as a leader.

Written by

Brandon Craig

Thought Leader at ONTOCORE; Author of the Create Powerful Course