What Leadership Is Not


For many people leadership is a big nebulous word, one that can mean many different things to different people and across all cultures.

The concept of leadership can even be a little frightening. And there are plenty of leaders who would never describe themselves using that word. They would tell you that they’re just doing what needs to be done.

When it comes to leadership there is no magic formula or single way of doing things.

Every leader is unique, although there are some common threads.

In some ways leadership is easier to define by talking about what it isn’t:

Leadership is not about you. It’s about your followers, your employees, your team. The best leaders devote almost all their energy to inspiring and empowering others. Taking care of their people is a big part of being a leader.

Leadership is not about power. Leadership naturally comes with power, but to lead people with character and engender trust isn’t compatible with being primarily concerned with acquiring and using power. The most powerful leaders are those who earn trust and stay trustworthy.

Leadership is not about telling and controlling. Leadership will always involve some degree of telling people what needs to get done. But the best way to make that happen is by helping others figure out what needs to be done on their own. It’s about guiding, mentoring and coaching, not telling, controlling and micromanaging.

Leadership is not about doing everything yourself. The best leaders know they can’t meet their goals alone—they need the right people doing the right things. Leadership means delegating to the right people to get the job done right.

Leadership is not about doing all the communicating. Great leaders are almost always great communicators, but more importantly they’re great listeners. They don’t interrupt or talk over others, they listen more than they speak and they know that the most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.

Leadership is not about always feeling confident. Like everyone else, leaders don’t always have their confidence—they have uncertainty and doubts as we all do. Some people think of that as something to hide or bluff their way through, but leaders are strongest when they demonstrate transparency and vulnerability—traits that equal truth and courage. They may not be comfortable, but they’re certainly not weakness.

Leadership is not about having all the answers. We may be comforted by the idea that a leader knows everything, but the truest leaders bring people together to find the answers through collaboration.

Leadership is not about demeaning others. You don’t have to look very far to find someone in authority talking down to people who work hard, disrespecting people who make mistakes, or even bringing racism and other biases to their interactions with others. That behavior is never acceptable; it is unworthy of anyone who wants to be known as a leader. Leadership will always be focused on treating others with respect and reverence. Leaders don’t alienate; they encourage.

Leadership is not about taking credit. Successful leaders know nothing is achieved on its own; things happen when a group of people come together to make something work. Leaders should take a little more than their share of the blame when things go wrong, and a little less than their share of the credit when things go well.

Leadership is not about deflecting personal responsibility. Leadership doesn’t deflect accountability—if anything, it increases it. If it is to be it is up to me. The moment you take responsibility is the moment you have stepped into your leadership.

Lead From Within: There are many things that leadership isn’t and many things that leadership is. It’s up to us to become the kind of leader who chooses well.


N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Nabil M

    23. Feb, 2016

    * Leadership: Leadership meant delegating the right people to get the job done right. (Lolly Daskal).

    Leadership is also meant administrative capacity with a successful efficiency, which manages the right people doing the right things. This will be a successful leader. ( from my point of view ) .

    Delegating the right people doing the right things. It is not enough, if you do not have a leader of the successful efficiency in the management of these people. Because ، the leader is the head of the administration. (from my point of view ) .

    Also :

    Self-control: If you are not successful in control of yourself, you will not be successful in leading the people. (from my point of view ) .

    Perhaps, I was not able to successful translation into English. And this may affect the correct understanding.

    In any case :

    Thanks to all

    Reply to this comment
  2. Nabil M

    23. Feb, 2016

    For many people leadership is a big nebulous word, one that can mean many different things to different people and across all cultures.

    When it comes to leadership there is no magic formula or single way of doing things.( Lolly Daskal ) .

    You could find the right formula: High-quality leadership is ability which include to everyone , and Walk down the road to success.( from my point of view ) .

    Reply to this comment
  3. Nabil M

    23. Feb, 2016

    Valuable benefits.
    Thank you , Lolly Daskal

    Reply to this comment
  4. Susan Mary Malone

    23. Feb, 2016

    I always love your wisdom, Lolly. And I was struck while reading this that I could substitute being an Author for Leader in every single one of these. Writing GREAT books is not about any of those things either.
    Thanks for this!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Dr Phira Chuon

    27. Feb, 2016

    leadership= courage in times when things are in dissary and no one are not willing to be taking the risk and responsibility
    leadership= is strength when things fail and your group rely’s on you for answers and you do not have them but willing to accept the failures
    leadership=means to be able to comfort your peers and show kindness and compassion when times are tuff
    by Dr phira chuon
    CEO essence trading

    Reply to this comment
  6. MK

    27. Feb, 2016

    Super Stuff as always.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Gabriel Njonjo

    28. Feb, 2016

    I’ve wrongly interpreted who a leader is. Thank you for opening my eyes on the pitfalls of wrong definition of leadership. Thanks for the lesson

    Reply to this comment
  8. Akpan Emmanuel

    28. Feb, 2016

    Like serious i like your wisdom and the efforts you are putting to help leader.. Pls be my mentor I want to become a leadership consultant. I need your coaching and on how to start up mine

    Reply to this comment
  9. John Paul

    28. Feb, 2016

    This is so right Lolly. May I be bold to add just another. Leadership is not about entitlement. Although so many people up the food chain in organizations think it is a right bestowed to them it couldn’t be anything further from the truth. Leadership is about service. “Whosoever will be greatest among you, let him be servant of all.”

    Reply to this comment
  10. Rana

    29. Feb, 2016

    Great words of wisdom Lolly, we know most of it but to squeeze it out like this calls for compliments

    Reply to this comment
  11. Steve Cunningham

    29. Feb, 2016

    Hi Lolly – great post!

    It took me a long time to understand that you don’t have to have all the answers, and that you don’t always have to feel confident.

    Quick question – how do you deal with the times when you don’t feel confident about the way forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Joseph

    04. Mar, 2016

    This Is So Right , To me a Good Leader , Like U Said , Puts Others First and Is a loyal to all Whom Have Needs , Whom is Constant ly Searching for Positive Ways to Improve Quality Of life for All . Thanks Lolly , Your The.Best .

    Reply to this comment
  13. Enda Eames

    29. May, 2016

    The leadership challenge today is to find your ‘higher self’ in the midst of all the turmoil, hyper-change and short-term pressure. Leadership is much more than how well we perform cogitative functions (IQ), or the strength of our materialistic scorecard – that was 20th Century thinking. Today, it’s about augmenting this baseline IQ with greater Emotional Intelligence and Spiritual Intelligence. EQ emphasizes greater empathy and collaboration, while SQ is about a person’s predisposition toward higher-self behavior such as compassion, selflessness, humility, and the relaxing of ego-self impulses that are usually the cause of destruction, marginalization and stress.

    Reply to this comment
  14. bhawani prasad dahal

    25. Apr, 2017

    Great article. Nicely articulated about what is not leadership with qualities

    Reply to this comment
  15. Vanessa Sylvester

    31. Oct, 2017

    You are spot on when it comes to defining leadership. The models of leadership that we observe nowadays are an affront to what leadership really is.

    Reply to this comment
  16. SOURAV

    30. Jul, 2019

    nice article i really like it

    Reply to this comment
  17. Sk. Ariful Alam

    16. Sep, 2019

    Great article. wise words of the concept of the leadership.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Scarlet

    15. Apr, 2020

    Yes! So often people think leadership is telling others what to do but true leadership is so much more!

    Reply to this comment

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