GalapagosThere is a tremendous amount of focus on leadership in the current culture in the USA.  Many corporations have various and sundry “leadership” programs.  Frankly, I’m starting to wonder if the term “leadership” is severely overused, much like the term “cloud computing”.  I think that it has become a buzzword in our culture, and is perhaps poorly understood.

Let’s be clear.  Leadership is not about managing someone, or a group, necessarily.  It’s not about project management, and it’s not innovation either.  Leadership is about influencing others to follow our ideas and concepts.  In some ways, it’s about being the instigator and getting the other kids to jump off the proverbial bridge.  It’s about playing “follow the leader”.  It’s about being the person in the lead.  It certainly can be taught, but I’m not convinced that most corporate leadership programs achieve that aim.

While I think that there are certainly some skills that are useful for leaders, they are skills, and not leadership in and of themselves.  For instance, negotiation skills are very useful, but aren’t necessary to get people lined up behind you. Some personal characteristics are good as well.   Charisma is also useful, as is being likable.   But those don’t mean that someone is a leader, necessarily.  I know some people who are very likable, and who have great charisma, who simply are not leaders.

Looking around me, I come to the conclusion that leadership is overused, abused, and bandied about.