Leadership Defined – Part 3

Today I will be exploring the final aspect of the definition of a leader. As we have seen over the past couple articles, having a comprehensive definition of leadership is a multifaceted, layered process that includes a variety of perspectives.

My hope is to allow you to see an aspect of leadership that you may have not focused on before to allow you to be an even more effective leader. Every aspect of the definition can be cultivated and developed over time. But as we have seen, any aspect of the definition could also be the reason for not seeing the results that you desire to see for those you lead or your organization.

Enjoy this final aspect of the definition, and find a way to apply it to your leadership style today!

th-1Leaders cause followers to willingly and enthusiastically expend spiritual, emotional, and physical energy. When a follower not only believes in the “prophetic vision” of the organization, but they are also aligned with their strengths and gifts to help towards that goal, they will willingly expend their time, energy, and effort to accomplish the goal. Kouzes and Posner (2007) state that the leader must “envision the future by imagining and believing in an exciting highly attractive future for the organization.” (Kouzes, Posner, 2007). Great leaders are able to imagine a future that doesn’t exist yet, but can share and inspire others that the dream is possible if only they would by in and help. This lines up with Winston and Patterson’s definition that leaders cause followers to willingly and enthusiastically work to accomplish goals.

President John F. Kennedy is a perfect example of communicating a goal that caused followers to expend energy to accomplish a common goal. On Thursday, May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy in a speech before a Joint Session of Congress announced an ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. President Kennedy made the announcement while feeling the pressure to have the United States catch up to and overtake the Soviet Union in the “space race.”

What many people fail to remember about why this announcement is so remarkable is the fact that the technology required to accomplish the goal wasn’t even invented yet. President Kennedy set a goal that was so ambitious and inspiring, that it required scientists, engineers, and researchers to think in ways they have never thought of before to create the technology to accomplish the goal set by the President (Townsend, 2015). The fact that the technology hadn’t been invented didn’t deter the President from setting such an ambitious goal, and it didn’t stop the engineers, scientists, and researchers from working to accomplish it.

That’s the power of stretch goals. Stretch goals require you to think outside the box to accomplish a goal that it requires you to think creatively about how to accomplish it even though you have never done it before. Stretch goals are not limited by what you know, or have experienced in the past. The only limitation to a stretch goal is your capacity to dream.

Long-term Stretch Goal. Dr. Cloud shares a profound analogy, “You cannot grow a plant by dipping it into the dirt once a year. It takes an ongoing connection to build a root system.” (Cloud, et. al, 2013, p. 84). That reflects the importance of being intentional in creating meaningful bonds within teams. Dissonant leaders will struggle with showing empathy and creating bonds and synergy with their teams because they tend to operate on more of the authoritative side of leadership. The two types of dissonant leaders described by Goleman, Boyatis, and McKee (2013) are pacesetting and commanding. Though there are times where that style of leadership is needed, their approach tends to remain emotionally distant from their team, and does not truly reflect my style of leadership, nor does it reflect the integrated definition of leadership.

According to Goleman, Boyatis, and McKee (2013), resonant leaders are more likely to show empathy and create relational bonds. This is the type of leader I desire to be. The four styles of resonant leaders identified by Goleman, Boyatis, and McKee (2013) are visionaries, coaches, affiliators, and democratic leaders (Goleman, et. al, 2013, pg. 53). I immediately identified with the visionary style of leadership. My style tends to use my influence to inspire hope within my team that together we can change and accomplish our common goal.

Though I am task-oriented, I have to work on balancing my focus on accomplishing the task, with motivating the people around me to accomplish it. Most times, challenges in life and family are the biggest hurdle for people to be able to focus and engage with tasks at work.

My experience has been that the more I know about the personal experiences of my team, the more we can manage the expectations of what can be accomplished, and avoid frustration and missed deadlines.



Cloud, H (2013). Boundaries for Leaders: Results, Relationships, and Being Ridiculously in Charge.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2013). Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

Northouse, P., (2015). Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice.

Townsend, J., (2009), Leadership Beyond Reason: How Great Leaders Succeed by Harnessing the Power of Their Values, Feelings, and Intuition.

Townsend, J., (2015), Stretch Goals Guidelines, Townsend Institute

Winston, B. E. & Patterson, K. (2006). An integrative definition of leadership. International Journal of Leadership Studies. 1(2), 6-66.

The Leadership Challenge, summarized by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from The Leadership Challenge, Fourth Edition by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. Copyright © 2007 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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