The act of leadership is influence – the goal of leadership is to add value.
We often think of leadership in the context of direction and vision. While these are important tools for a leader, they are not leadership in themselves. No matter what you are working on as a leader, you should be all about people. This is leadership. If I could do my undergrad all over again, I often think I would major in psychology or sociology so I could have learned to better understand people. I often envy the insight these folks have into what makes us tick. I think that would be valuable knowledge as a leader, not for manipulation purposes but for simple understanding.
Our goal as leaders has to be to add value to people. It is that simple. We must earn influence and add value. One of our danger zones as leaders is getting caught up in earning influence so we can get people to do what we want them to do. I believe this is an incorrect view. If our goal as a leader is simply to get people to go somewhere, I’m not sure we will be leaders for long – or at least not good ones. It seems to me that we should use the tools of leadership to enrich the development of people. That hardly means leadership isn’t about action and direction. It simply means that leadership isn’t about getting people to serve our own purpose or that of the organization alone. It has to be about adding value to them as well. Strategic planning should add value. Vision should add value. If we go about our work and leadership with the intent to add something or develop the people we lead, I think our leadership will take on new depth and effectiveness.