What is leadership. How to become a leader

Ted Scott
Ted Scott
5 March 2024
5 min

Nelson Mandela, Jeff Bezos, Alexander the Great, Peter the Great, John Lennon, Diego Maradona, Napoleon Bonaparte. What unites these famous personalities? The answer is simple and lies on the surface. They are all successful people, whose authority and influence on others is difficult to dispute. But who is a real leader? What qualities does he possess? How does it differ from a manager? Let’s dive into the vast topic of leadership and answer the most important questions related to it.

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Who is a leader

Leadership is always about the inner world of a person. A leader is someone who influences others to achieve a common goal. If we think globally, in a historical context, we immediately think of those who were able to make serious changes in the lives of many people, who inspired others to exploits. Suffice it to remember Spartacus, who led the greatest slave revolt in ancient times. A leader is capable of taking risks, is not afraid to go against established norms and traditions, his opinion is listened to, he is ready to follow.

Generalizing, a leader is a person who has received the right to make decisions and act on behalf of a group of people. He gains his power through authority and public trust.

What qualities make a leader stand out

Sociability. Leaders easily find a common language, know how to properly convey their thoughts. It is also important to develop empathy, learn to anticipate people’s reactions. By nature, leaders can be both extroverts and introverts. For example, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama and Bill Gates consider themselves introverts.

Charisma. Charismatic people tend to be leaders. They persuade, inspire, motivate. In the eyes of others, a charismatic leader is a strong, bright figure to follow.

Responsibility. A leader is ready to take responsibility for the whole team, and in case of failure will take the blow on himself. Only a strong, mature personality can do this. A leader will not be able to lead the team if he is not confident in his actions, but on the other hand, he should not be overconfident and careless.

Expertise. To become a leader, one must have the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve a common goal. In some organizations, it is customary to appoint well-established employees to leadership positions instead of visiting managers due to their accumulated experience and expertise.

Conscientiousness and integrity. Reliability, conscientiousness, honesty are characteristic of all good people, including leaders.

Flexibility. A leader is always open to new things and is not afraid to try. He is ready to abandon outdated methods for the sake of further development and new heights.

Organizational skills. In the hands of a true leader, the team becomes united and begins to work as a single mechanism.

How to become a leader

Previously, it was believed that the phenomenon of leadership was related to physical qualities: high stature, powerful voice, great physical strength and weight. However, the concept of physical attributes has been proven to be untenable by history itself – many famous leaders were not characterized by such extraordinary physical data. Today, scientists unanimously affirm that leadership is a set of personal qualities that an individual is able to develop during his life. Only a predisposition to them is inborn.

It takes a lot of time, desire and determination to develop leadership skills. To develop them, you will have to work through many of your personality traits. It is a big, difficult job, but it will definitely pay off.

  1. Work on charisma. There are special trainings for this purpose, but acting courses are also suitable.
  2. Don’t avoid responsibility. Try to take on more serious projects and challenge yourself. Find a way to prove yourself.
  3. Listen to others. Personal opinion is good, but it’s important not to miss out on useful ideas from colleagues.
  4. Constantly learn new skills. Learning will allow you to keep up to date with trends and not get hung up on outdated methods.
  5. Master the art of public speaking. The right words, spoken confidently at the right time, are one of the keys to people’s hearts. A fiery speech is a great way to get people to follow you.
  6. Develop emotional intelligence to understand yourself and others, to be able to control others’ and your own emotions.
  7. Learn self-control. You can’t manage people if you don’t manage yourself. Start planning your day, making lists of tasks and emphasizing what is important. Evaluate whether you are using your time productively and whether you are on track.

Leadership styles

One of the most famous classifications of leadership styles was developed by Kurt Lewin in the late 1930s. Despite the fact that the classification is more than 80 years old, it is still relevant due to its simplicity and clarity.

Together with the team, Kurt Lewin identified three types of leadership – authoritarian, democratic, liberal. For this purpose, the team conducted an experiment with schoolchildren, in which they divided them into three groups. Each was led by a person who personified one of the above styles. The test subjects were engaged in manual labor and art, and Levin’s team studied the children’s reaction to the behavior of the leaders.

Authoritarian style

In an authoritarian management style, leaders clearly explain what to do and how to do it, rarely taking into account the opinion of the group, so that employees have almost no chance to show creative inclinations when solving tasks. This option is more suitable for teams where the leader is obviously the most qualified employee. Plus there is not enough time to solve problems together.

Democratic style

According to Levin, the democratic style of management is the most effective. Such leaders listen to subordinates, help them, support them in difficult situations. Other people’s opinion is important to them and is taken into account when making decisions. In democratic groups, people work less than in authoritarian groups, but with higher quality.

Liberal style

The goal of a liberal leader is to set tasks and create favorable conditions for their fulfillment. He is rather passive most of the time. He intervenes only when the team needs help. This style is useful when everyone in the group is highly qualified in some narrow area of activity. The leader is confident that the employees will be able to find the best solution, so he gives them full freedom of action – shifts responsibility to them.

Leader vs Manager

The concepts of “manager” and “leader” cannot be considered equivalent. Managerialism is more of a formal story. In this case, we are dealing with a job description, not a personal one. Managers are appointed from above, leaders are chosen from below. In order to successfully lead people, you need a whole set of competencies, including expertise, proper task setting, supervision of team members, planning of work progress and necessary indicators.

Management is often thought of as a separate profession, not without reason there are plenty of ways to train in management by gaining professional knowledge and developing ‘hard skills’.

Leadership is a more subtle matter. Working with people comes to the fore: the ability to influence, motivate and persuade them. Soft skills are more important for leadership. The impact on the group is through emotions and communication. A leader is required to be active, to maintain vitality, not to succumb to negative emotions or at least not to broadcast them in the work environment. It is clear that not every manager is a leader, and not all leaders reach the top of the career ladder, although there are cases when one person acts in both roles.

To summarize, the differences between a leader and a manager are as follows.


  • inspiring;
  • answers questions, shares knowledge;
  • trying new things, taking risks;
  • is willing to sacrifice established corporate norms and rules for a cause;
  • can act independently;
  • cares about the members of the collective.


  • makes sure everyone’s working;
  • always acts rationally;
  • strictly follows corporate rules and requires others to do so;
  • is just part of the corporate management machine;
  • creates an environment for the team to be as productive as possible.

What else is there to read

A great deal of literature has been written on the subject of leadership. Therefore, if you are planning to develop leadership skills, we recommend reading the following books.

  • How Become Leaders” by Warren Bennis. The author is considered a pioneer of modern leadership research. It is also recommended to read another work by Warren Bennis, “Who Becomes a Leader in Business”.
  • 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” by John Maxwell. The book became a real bestseller. In it, the author talks about the laws that a person must follow if he wants others to follow him.
  • Emotional Leadership. The Art of Managing People Based on Emotional Intelligence” by science journalist, psychologist Daniel Goleman.

The list can go on for a long time, but the main thing here is to start, then you’ll figure out for yourself which authors and directions you like and need more.

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