Word Association: Leadership

There are words that, when heard, can evoke mental eruptions of sights, sounds, smells, and sensations.

For instance, someone says the word "church," and a cluster of a hundred images - ranging from people to buildings to pizza parties - may rush to the forefront of your mind. The same goes for many other words too.

"Leadership" is one of those words.

What person in particular comes to your mind when that word is spoken?


If you follow the sports world, you may see Arthur Ashe, Derek Jeter, or Peyton Manning. If you operate in the business realm, you may see Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, or Andrew Carnegie. If you are active in politics, you may see Glenn Beck, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Ronald Reagan. If you are involved in church ministries, you may see Billy Graham, Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen.

The word "leadership" subsumes and carries the freight of other words like "knowledge," "skills," "qualities," "temperaments," "influence," and "power." Leadership, though it's just one word, refuses to be contained in a single box because it's comprised of more than one piece. It's a mosaic of little pieces that combine to form a larger whole. Needless to say, there's a wrapped up in this word. By itself, the mere mention of leadership has the power to enlarge someone with great expectation or deflate someone with great cynicism.

Your initial reaction to the word "leadership" is telling. It most likely results from your own interactions with various leaders during your lifetime. If you had a coach who put you down in front of your teammates, you may see leadership as nothing more than a power play in which those with authority prey on the weak without it. If you were part of a business where the boss was exposed for embezzlement, you may view leadership with an eye of suspicion. If you had a teacher who brought out the best in you and made learning enjoyable, you may view leadership as the bedrock of hope. And the list could go on and on.

We have all had, or will have, interactions with people who practiced good leadership and those who practiced bad leadership. Ironically, sometimes the same person actually exhibits both! Story upon story is relayed to us through websites, news broadcasts, magazines, books, classrooms, and conversations. Those quotes, images, and articles merge with our own experiences to either verify or challenge our presuppositions about the goodness of leadership. Whether we like it or not, those interactions have left indelible impressions on us that affect the way we currently view the subject of leadership.

Back to the person you instinctively saw in your mind's eye when you thought about leadership. That person is an indication of the type of leadership you have experienced in the past and the type of leadership you will aspire to exercise in the future. That is true because your leadership road will, to a large degree, be fashioned by your opinion of the overall effectiveness and worthiness of that person's style and/or cause.

If you deem them worthy or effective, then you will follow a similar path.
If you deem them unworthy or ineffective, then you will do all you can to go a different way.

Related Posts:
Fire Yourself: How To Gain New Perspective
Are Leaders Born or Made?


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