Before we start let me be clear on the definition of a leader.

Well then again ….. maybe I can’t be clear.

I can’t be clear because leadership is an art not a science.

It’s not easy to pin down leadership characteristics. Regrettably, there is no magic formula you can follow to turn yourself into the beloved leader who knows how to push all the right buttons.

And to make matters complicated, in today’s matrix environments it isn’t always easy to tell who the leaders are and who are the followers.

Gone are the days when a Supervisor sat in his office and overlooked the floor of busy workers who followed set rules and obeyed orders. That old distinction between a leader and a follower no longer exists.


Without those clean marks of distinction it can be rough to distinguish where your responsibilities start and where another’s stop. And when leadership responsibilities are not clear, you may wonder is it your job to lead or does the responsibility belong to someone else?

Sometimes there is no straight-forward answer.

It could be the person leading a team or running a corporation. It could be a Project Manager or Head of a Department. In these situations, it’s easy to tell who is the leader. The title defines the status. But more often than not these people will jump in to assist in some way or another or they bring in others to help with big decisions or challenges.

Then what about when those who are leading a specific part of a project? Sometimes identifying a leader is easy. They lead, direct and interact with others and rely on them to help get the job done.

Who’s the leader now? Is it the Manager driving the project, the Project Manager who is leading the team or the specialist running her end of the show?

Consciously or unconsciously different people are in charge at different times and places. For one reason or another they have the responsibility to lead.


Today’s’ world is dynamic where challenges are too complex for just one person to handle. The Superman of leadership does not exist. Instead we are faced with the dichotomy of Superman and Clark Kent. On one hand we are saving the world and on the other we are heads down in our work.

In reality, we are both leaders and followers.


This flexible definition of leadership that changes from one minute to the next may not be crystal clear.

But one thing is clear when we are looking for the definition of a leader and that is we all have a boss.

Whether it is a supervisor, a manager, or a customer. Whether it is shareholders, a Board of Directors or the person who signs your timesheet, we all answer to someone.

And at one time or another we have all been the leader where we lead and direct the outcome of our tasks.

Leadership qualities are fluid.  One minute you’re the driver, the next minute you are the passenger.

It’s complex.

Or as Mongomery Burns says when he tries to scoop homer’s brain to turn him into a robot, Dammit Smithers, this is brain surgery, not rocket science.

What qualities do you wish to see in a leader? What don’t you like?