Action Wheel Leadership

Leadership Definition

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There is more than one leadership definition. Bob Terry, author of Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action, offers several definitions of leadership in his writings


Leadership Definition Woman Ladder

A Leadership Definition: The Long One

This definition of leadership transcends all the zones of the Action Wheel yet simultaneously applies fully in each one. Practice the final authenticity criterion—confirmation. Test it. Check it out. Question it. Is it true and real for your personal experience and the experience of others in this world of chaos, great change, stability, and variety?

The Long Definition of Leadership:

Leadership is wise, adept choices by persons who singularly and collectively respond to and/or anticipate stirrings, embrace the challenge and courageously and faithfully serve the welcoming promise of authenticity. ~Bob Terry

Defining leadership for yourself, your team, and your organization requires a learning commitment. We offer a complete program that begins with leadership alignment.  

Each leadership definition element:

  • Wise: Choices are wise when they integrate our reflections on experience, theory and frameworks, the testing of ideas, feedback from friends and critics, and constant learning and when they clarify and affirm our ethical and spiritual core.
  • Adept: Choices are adept when they reflect astuteness and flexibility. We make adept choices when we are centered and living at the intersection of humility and engagement; avoiding both arrogance and adaptiveness.
  • Choices: We make a true choice when we own the responsibility of decision making, with no blaming of the past, the system, or others; seeing multiple options, not just dichotomous either/or thinking.
  • Persons: singularly and collectively. We understand that individuals make a difference yet rarely does leadership center on just one person. Groups also make wise, adept choices.
  • Respond to: and/or anticipate stirrings. We listen to the voices inside and outside that tell us they are aware of inauthenticity, voices that tell us we need to shift attention and appropriate action to be authentic again. The stirrings may be loud; they may be very quiet. Leaders who wish to have anticipatory wisdom learn to hear the quiet stirrings earlier than others do.
  • Courageously: We take risks for a worthy, virtuous cause or circumstance with no guaranteed outcome.
  • Embrace the challenge: We face the uncertainties of life, confront and resist evil, live in the midst of real chaos, and admit and own the despair and fears that are palpable in everyday life.
  • Faithfully serve: We confirm, through the way we live, the abiding confidence that hope is grounded both outside and inside our personal or communal life. The challenges are real and ultimately addressable.
  • Welcoming promise of authenticity: That which is true and real inside and outside us is worthy and deserving of commitment and service. We experience the really real every day even though we do not experience it fully. The welcoming promise of authenticity is confirmed only as we trust in and live out the promise every day. It is welcoming because it stirs us, invites us, scares us, and ultimately enhances us. We live the paradox.

A Short Definition of Leadership:

"Leadership is the courage to call forth authentic action in the commons." ~Bob Terry

A Leadership Definition: The Shortest One

The leadership definition can be refined down to this essence: leadership serves the promise of authenticity.

Leadership chooses, probes and lives the promise every day, everywhere, all the time. All the other parts of the definition of leadership stand on this foundation. The spirit and wisdom of authenticity and the experience of inauthenticity engage all of us to face the possibility of our own leadership in many worldly contexts.

Leadership serves the promise of authenticity. In that service, leadership presses into the future, lives in the present and directs action into the past. As leadership, guided by authenticity, opens inquiry into life, it also opens the possibilities of solving some problems, that are, in fact, solvable. In those cases, leadership transforms into management. Leadership awaits our authentic action. In any true leadership definition, authenticity is always present.

Bob Terry quotes are from his writings and books.

Related Pages:

Action Wheel Leadership System

Leadership Versus Management

Ethics in Leadership

Characteristics of Good Leadership

Action Wheel Leadership Definition
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