Leadership is, of course, subjective. But its foundation stems from one thing: the ability of an individual to establish a following among other individuals or teams.
Every leader has his or her own style and strategy. Further, their leadership styles and methods will vary because they are influenced by multiple factors — the modern challenges all business leaders face today (digitalization, changing regulatory and financial markets, recruiting and retaining talent) coupled with predicaments specific to their company, company size and the industry in which the business is based.
Recently, Business News Daily asked current leaders and founders to explain what leadership means to them.
1. The pursuit of bettering your environment
"There is no one-size-fits-all approach, answer key or formula to leadership. Leadership should be the humble, authentic expression of your unique personality in pursuit of bettering whatever environment you are in." – Katie Christy, founder, Activate Your Talent
2. Knowing your team and yourself well
"To me, leadership is about playing to strengths and addressing weaknesses in the most productive and efficient way possible. It's about knowing your team and yourself, and doing your best job to set both up for success." – Samantha Cohen, co-founder, Neon Bandits
3. Giving people the tools to succeed
"Leadership is serving the people that work for you by giving them the tools they need to succeed. Your workers should be looking forward to the customer and not backwards, over their shoulders, at you. It also means genuine praise for what goes well and leading by taking responsibility early and immediately if things go bad." – Jordan French, founding CMO, BeeHex, Inc. 3D Food Printing
4. Open, authentic and positive influence
"Leadership comes from influence, and influence can come from anyone at any level and in any role. Being open and authentic, helping to lift others up and working toward a common mission, build influence. True leadership comes when those around you are influenced by your life in a positive way." – Kurt Uhlir, CEO and co-founder Sideqik
5. Clarity, confidence and courage
"A leader is someone who has the clarity to know the right things to do, the confidence to know when she's wrong, and the courage to do the right things even when they're hard." – Darcy Eikenberg, founder, RedCapeRevolution.com
6. Building consensus and common goals
"Leadership styles differ, but at the core, good leaders make the people they are leading accomplish more than they otherwise would. The most effective leaders do this not through fear, intimidation or title, but rather by building consensus around a common goal." – Tom Madine, CEO and president, Worldwide Express
7. Being the solution to problems
"Leadership is the ability to see a problem and be the solution. So many people are willing to talk about problems or can even empathize, but not many can see the problem or challenge and rise to it. It takes a leader to truly see a problem as a challenge and want to drive toward it." – Andrea Walker-Leidy, owner, Walker Publicity Consulting
8. Helping others achieve the impossible
"Leadership is the ability to help people achieve things they don't think are possible. Leaders are coaches with a passion for developing people, not players; they get satisfaction from achieving objects through others. Leaders inspire people through a shared vision and create an environment where people feel valued and fulfilled." – Randy Stocklin, co-founder and CEO, One Click Ventures
9. Building the next generation of leaders
"A leader is someone who builds their team, mentors them and then advocates for them. A leader develops the talent around them to be more successful than he or she is — or to borrow from a mentor of mine, 'a leader trains his or her assassins.'" – J. Kelly Hoey, author, "Build Your Dream Network" (TarcherPerigree, 2017)
10. Building followership
"Being a leader means building followership. Your primary responsibility is how you can inspire those around you to support a larger agenda under your direction and vision. You have to prioritize communications and [the] development of others. Your job is no longer about what you can accomplish, but what your entire team can achieve. Good leaders focus on 'we' not 'me.'" – Kristi Hedges, leadership coach and author, "The Inspiration Code" (AMACOM, 2017)
11. Actively listening
"In my experience, leadership is about three things: to listen, to inspire and to empower. Over the years, I've tried to learn to do a much better job of listening actively — making sure I really understand the other person's point of view, learning from them, and using that basis of trust and collaboration to inspire and empower." – Larry Garfield, president, Garfield Group
Additional reporting by Brittney Morgan (Helmrich). Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.