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Definition of a Leader

True leaders are the first to see the need, envision a plan, and empower their team to action.

Have you ever heard someone give the definition of a leader by saying, “If you want to know whether you are a leader, turn around and see if anyone is following”? There is value in that observation – a leader with no followers must not be doing something right; they must be missing a key ingredient.


Or perhaps others give a definition of a leader that focus on the vision of the leader:  “You know you are a leader if your dreams are so big that they seem impossible.” Or maybe, “You know you are a leader if you long to make a difference.”  But these two also seem to be missing something important.


However, what is missing is the direction of a leader.  If you turn around and see someone following you, that may make you think that you are leading. But what if you in turn are simply following someone else? 


Having a worthy dream, even one that seems impossible, is incomplete: a leader does not merely dream, but figures out how to achieve it.  And a leader is not so interested in making a difference themselves – for they know that their efforts are limited and insignificant, unless multiplied through the efforts of others.

Walt Disney developed his love for drawing, animation, and movies, but he turned his attention toward establishing a theme park, clean and unspoiled, where both parents and children could have fun.  He purchased land for his park and began building with his team of designers and animators.  Then he called them “Imagineers” and gave them full support in designing Main Street, USA and the surrounding Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.  Through their efforts, Disneyland opened in July 1955 after one year of construction. The park attracted 3.6 million guests in its first year of operation. 

Walt Disney with two of this Imagineers looking at an animatronic puppet.
Walt Disney demonstrating the Definition of a Leader with his Imagineers

Walt Disney was a leader in the truest sense of the word.  Even now his legacy lives on with a team of thousands continuing to imagine and act upon his vision, providing fun and excitement to families throughout the world.

True leaders are the first to see the need, envision a plan, and empower their team to action.

Definition of a Leader – today’s ActionLink.  Be sure to look for more Leadership Principles from P H Tyson & Associates. For a discussion of purpose and direction, see The Missing Ingredients.

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