What is the best definition of Leadership? I grew up in the 1950-s and 1060’s as a “baby boomer.” As I was growing up, my idea or definition of what leadership was consisted of a combination of role models gleaned from dozens of biographies, including those of political and military leaders, captains of industry, robber barons, and sports coaches.
I read with real interest biographies and autobiographies of the “titans of industry,” with their amazing “rags-to-riches” tycoons of the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Carnegie, DuPont, Edison, Ford, Goodyear, Huntington, Morgan, Stanford, Vanderbilt, as well as those of moguls of the middle 20th century like Watson (IBM) and Sloan (General Motors).
I eagerly read the political biographies of Winston Churchill, Jefferson Davis, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, George Washington, and Woodrow Wilson. I also devoured biographies of military leaders such as the larger than life US Generals: George Patton and Douglas MacArthur.
I as an Eagle Scout, was especially take with the biography of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the British General, who distinguished himself in the South African Boer Wars, who turned down the honor to be the Commandant of the British Military Academy to focus on founding and building the World Boy Scouting movement.
I studied the current leaders in news magazines, books, and witnessed as a new breed of business leader emerged on television, including the Bass Brothers, Henry Ford II, Howard Hughes, Lee Iacocca, J. Willard Marriott, H. Ross Perot, and Sam Walton.
I enjoyed watching great actors, such as Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, George C. Scott, Jimmy Stewart who brought to life the characters of Moses, Michelangelo, Douglas MacArthur, George Patton, and fictional characters like “Mr. Smith” or “George Bailey.” I observed the success and admired coaches like, John Wooden and Vince Lombardi. They coached well, build successful teams, but were true leaders and builders of young men, because they encouraged their players to become upstanding total persons and true team players, not just outstanding individual basketball or football players.
All of the biographies, magazine articles, movie portrayals, and television coverage of leaders helped to shape my mental model and my definition exactly what is leadership. The stories of successful leaders who overcame adversity provided me with an insight as just how these leaders coped with the setbacks, the trauma of life, then succeeding in spite of adversity, obstacles, or challenges.
President John Kennedy’s life and his famous book (1956) provided profiles of courageous leaders. This book and the other biographies gave me a real insight into courage to succeed, no matter what the adversity and to become a strong leader. These stories may have subconsciously influenced my interest in Horatio Alger-type stories.
The biographies, my personal experience of over 30 years of senior leadership experience, and my doctoral studies in leadership, led me to the selection of my topic focused on Leadership and Adversity. My reading studies provided insights into a refining of my definition of leadership, as well as to the lives of leaders who overcame obstacles or dealt with adversity. These early influences laid the foundation for my admiration of those leaders who had succeeded despite having to overcome obstacles, tragedy, or adversity.
Leadership is more than just a word, it is the act of leading. True enlightened “Leadership” is guiding, leading by the right example, demonstrating genuine and deep caring for those they lead, team building, and have a clear vision of the task to be accomplished.
To provide an insight of my definition of leadership and the impact of overcoming adversity, I will supplement my personal views and leadership definition with a short literature review on leadership and the classic definitions.
I will also review the overcoming adversity literature review as the underpinning and foundation for an examination of the possible relationship between overcoming adversity or overcoming obstacles in the shaping and development of prominent leaders.
Leadership and How It Is Identified by scholars and the world
There is no one actual or accurate definitive definition of leadership. Rost (1991) presented the idea of “defining leadership,” yet noted that there is still no real agreement about what leadership is (p. 6).
The word, Lead, as a verb, comes from the Old English word leden or loedan. Some have attributed various meanings to the word “lead” such as “to make go,” to “show the way”, or “to guide.”
The noted and well-respected university scholar, academic researcher and phenomenologist van Manen’s (1991) offer a closer practical definition stating that “leading means going first, and in going first you can trust me, for I have tested the ice” (p. 38). Cronin (1980) offered a simple and succinct definition, when said that Leadership can be defined as the “capacity to make things happen that would not have otherwise happened” (p. 372).
Leadership implies that some leads, guides, directs, or orders someone else to do something that they might not otherwise do. Leadership has many types: Situational Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Servant-Leadership, Principal Centered Leadership, Command-Control Leadership, and many more types. Each type has a distinct and different definition, so one definition of leadership does not fit all type.
Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D.
Chief Enlightenment Officer
The Leadership Success Institute
Howard Edward Haller, Ph.D., is an accomplished serial entrepreneur, successful serial intrapreneur, seasoned senior corporate executive, university professor, university board trustee, former university board president, academic scholar, an award winning published author, screenwriter (Member, WGAw), and Professional Speaker (Member of NSA) delivering Keynote Speeches and Seminars on Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Intrapreneurship, Servant-Leadership, Leadership and Adversity, and Innovation.
The sixteen prominent leaders who overcame adversity interviewed included: Dr. Tony Bonanzino, Jack Canfield, William Draper III, Mark Victor Hansen, U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, Monzer Hourani, U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, J. Terrence Lanni, Dr. John Malone, Angelo Mozilo, Larry Pino, Dr. Nido Qubein, U.S. Army Major General Sid Shachnow (Ret.), Dr. John Sperling, Dr. Blenda Wilson, and Zig Ziglar.
Five well respected leadership scholars reviewed Dr. Hallers research findings: Dr. Ken Blanchard, Professor Jim Kouzes, Dr. John Kotter, Dr. Paul Stoltz, and Dr. Meg Wheatley.
Dr. Haller is the Chief Enlightenment Officer of The Leadership Success Institute and Founder/CEO of the Entrepreneurial Success Boot Camp. He is an Award-Winning Published Author, Entrepreneurship Mentor, and Intrapreneurship Coach. Professor Haller is active as a serial entrepreneur.
Dr. Haller is the author of two books: “Leadership and Adversity” 2008 & Intrapreneurship Secrets” 2009, both published by VDM Verlag Dr Muller AG & CoKG.
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