What Does It Mean To Be A Leader?

Now, before you think that this blog post will be a self-absorbed piece on leaders and leadership let me first change the context of this question with the addition of just one word.  Dad.  What does it mean to be a leader, dad? That was the question my son Ryan threw out to me the other morning on the drive to school after I casually asked what he would like me to write a post on. I must admit it has had me stumped. Why?

The Thinker...

I am the last to toot my horn about my leadership ability. I do what I do for my businesses and civic involvement. Over the years some amount of success brands you as a ‘leader’. But are you really a leader? Am I? I honestly did not know what to write as an answer to this seemingly innocuous question posed by my son. One thing I knew for certain, though, is that he did not want a recital of the standard dictionary definition such as “a person who rules, guides, or inspires others; head“, as seen in the Collins English Dictionary.

The way I wanted to answer my son came to me as I listened to an interview with Spotify founder Daniel Ek. I thought his comments got to the heart of what it meant to be ‘a leader’, and more to the point, an ‘entrepreneurial leader’. In his interview Daniel said “when you look at the world there are so many great things out there, but there are also so many things that you can do a tad better”. Hearing that I had my ‘ah-ha’ moment. Working in the real definition I came up with the answer to the question.

A leader, particularly in the entrepreneurial context, will always by way of ruling, guiding, or inspiring, find a way to do things a ‘tad’ better.

And that is really it don’t you think? That is the core of it. Leaders must push the envelope of normal to find ways to do things just a bit better than the competition.

How can you apply this learning? Well consider that the ‘leader’ is often not the head of an organization but rather the head of another department or a supervisor in the same company. Consider that the ‘competition’ is often not another company but instead the other department head or the subordinate that wants your job. What should you do? LEAD! Find a way to make your sphere of leadership influence a ‘tad better’ as Daniel Ek said. You will be noticed and your organization will benefit. You will be, and be seen to be, a leader.

How do you define a leader? How does your definition change when you have to explain it to a 14-year-old? What do you think of my answer?

As always I welcome your comments on this post and others, and your suggestions for future posts.

photo by: law_keven

I live in the Cayman Islands and I'm married to Christina. We have two incredible children, Ryan, attending Northeastern University in Boston, MA, and Taylor, attending Trinity College School, in Port Hope, Ontario, Canada. I own several businesses in Cayman. My list of 'pasts' include past chairman of the Cayman Islands Special Economic Zone Authority, past president of the Rotary Club of Grand Cayman, and past president of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce.

Please note: I moderate comments and reserve the right to delete or edit those that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “What Does It Mean To Be A Leader?

  1. Another thought-provoking post. How about what it means to “be” a leader, particularly in the context of our children. If what people receive from us is 55% body language, 38% tone of voice and only 7% what we actually say….. How we are “being” is a hugely important part of being a leader. Being calm, angry, patient, giving, rushed, detached, focused, distracted. Our choice of being is part of what leads our children in their own choices of how to be in the world.

    See. Thought-provoking. Thank you David.