What Is Leadership?












Moral courage








Table 1.2
How leaders inspire people

Qualitative study of several thousand business and government executives [18]

What values do you look for and admire in your superiors?


88 %

Forward looking

75 %


68 %


63 %


49 %


41 %

Kail identified six leadership characteristics that define modern leaders: courage, integrity, humility, selflessness, empathy and collaboration [4]. He believes these elements provide the platform for character and that it is character – not accomplishment – which defines a modern leader. Interestingly – especially given the military background of the author – he impresses upon us that courage is related to attachment to moral principles rather than to the capacity to absorb risk in dangerous situations. He defines integrity as the most critical attribute that builds trust and connects leader to follower. He believes humility promotes traits which emphasize respect, loyalty and trust, vital elements in a modern team environment. Selflessness is based on serving others and developing the followers to their full capacity, and it allows the leader to focus on the mission and those who can accomplish it. Selflessness allows the leader to exercise authority on behalf of the needs and goals of the team, rather than his/her own needs. Finally, empathy is the ability to relate to another’s needs, to understand his/her ways of thinking and feeling, and to serve by imagining ourselves in their shoes. It is an important “connector” between leaders and followers.

1.2.3 Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

Emotional intelligence has been defined as a “personal attribute that facilitates social and professional relationships” by Goleman [5]. As was the case with leadership, some have thought that emotional intelligence is something that one is born with. It is now clear that this is something that, to some extent, can be learned and practiced by everyone willing to do so, although it may come more easily to one individual than another. According to Goleman and Mayer there are five stages in the development of emotional intelligence, each representing a step higher in the process:

  • Stage 1 – Self-Awareness : Knowledge of self implies the development of an ability to determine how we each react emotionally to the circumstances of life, work, pleasure, etc. It is the identification of “the things that make us tick.”

  • Stage 2 – Self-Regulation: Self-regulation refers to the development of the capacity to regulate the expression of emotion. In other words, once we have learned what generates an emotional response in ourselves, this second stage focuses on the ability to regulate that expression so that it is at least not evident (and can cause distress) to others.

  • Stage 3 – Motivation: Motivation is the capacity to regulate the generation of the emotion itself and, once we have identified what causes these emotions to occur, to be able to develop internal methods that allow us to modulate that emotion. The ideal is to reach a level when we do not have to modulate the expression but we simply feel less emotional stress.

  • Stage 4 – Empathy: Empathy relates to the ability to detect what others think and feel; once the individual is able to know him or herself and regulate both the generation and the expression of most emotions, the individual needs to be able to detect what others think or feel in order to exercise leadership. This is a key component of the bridge between the leader and the follower.

  • Stage 5 – Social Skill: This stage focuses on the ability to influence the feelings of others. Now that we know what others are thinking or feeling at a given time under a certain set of circumstances, our ability to influence those feelings determines to some extent the success of the leader. Thus one can think of leadership as an activity motivating people to do something because they want to or believe in it. This is the ultimate exercise of leadership: influencing others to the extent they are convinced that a certain thing must be done or a specific action should be taken (and can exercise their own influence on peers and other followers as well).

1.2.4 What Do Leaders Do?

Leaders exercise leadership by creating a vision, articulating a purpose, generating and sustaining trust, and motivating individuals to take action.


Creating the vision – The creation of a successful vision must be associated with meaning and significance; it must be anchored in the leader’s values and guided by his or her moral compass. When developing the vision, leaders must use their imagination; they must question all aspects of an issue. For example, the fact that something is working well does not mean it will work well forever, and in fact even if it works well now, one may be able to improve it. In other words, leaders need to “free” their imagination to be able to create a new environment, system, device – they must be bold. For example, Colin Powell said, “You don’t know what you can get away with until you try” [6]. He encourages us to follow the principle of “it is easier to get forgiveness than permission” and tells us that “good leaders don’t wait for official blessing to try things out. Indeed, if one asks enough people for permission one will inevitably come up against someone who believes his or her job is to say ‘no’” [6]. It is also important during the development of the vision to be able to gauge and understand the needs of the followers. While vision may sometimes, by its very nature, ignore some of the immediate gratification of the followers, it is important to always look for ways to relate the benefits of the mission to the followers. The mission is then much more likely to succeed.



Articulating the purpose – Once the vision has been created, the leader must be able to articulate and to “sell” the purpose to the followers. The key to that effort is the way in which the purpose is expressed coupled with the determination to achieve the goals. It is important that one offers strong points of view that focus everyone on the shared vision, delivers clear expectations to the followers, and demonstrates the need to act with determination to achieve. In the words of Colin Powell, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier” [7]. The ripple effect of a leader’s positive words inspires an optimistic response; in the same way, cynicism and pessimism engender a parallel negative response. Leaders who whine and blame engender those same behaviors among their colleagues. In expressing the purpose a leader should do it in a fashion that conveys, “we can change things here, we can achieve awesome goals, we can be the best.”



Generating and sustaining trust – The best way to generate trust is to be a role-model; in other words to ‘walk the walk’ and to have consistency between words and actions. It is important that the followers believe the leader is as engaged as they are and that the leader follows his or her own advice and does the same as what he/she asks of the followers. Trust is generated by listening closely to the followers, communicating candidly with them, and acting with reliability and consistency. While building trust, leaders must encourage openness, disagreement, and even controversial points of view while expressing confidence in the followers in keeping with the concept of the “wisdom of crowd” [8]. The more the leader listens, the more the leader will learn about the needs and expectations of the followers and increase the chance of generating valuable ideas. The process by which trust is generated is slow, progressive and fragile. Good leaders pay intense attention to it. Sustaining trust requires constancy, transparency and role modeling, all the time and every time. By contrast, it only takes a few minutes, a single expression or one act that is perceived as not worthy of trust to destroy the trust that has been generated.



Action – Leaders must translate the purpose of the vision into action. They must induce sufficient trust among the followers to inspire them to take action. There will be times when, despite having put substantial effort into the development of the vision (even when that vision was properly articulated to a group of followers that trust the leader), the resulting action falls short of expected. Good leaders recognize that “failure” is part of life and eventually become more comfortable with it. Good leaders will analyze the cause of the failure, study the hurdles that impaired the achievement of the mission in detail, and move forward. These leaders recognize that there is often more to learn from “failure” than from “success” and that openness to those lessons is crucial. Sometimes it is the complexity of the task; sometimes it is the circumstances or the environment. The only way not to fail is not to try. As …….St Marie said “the harbor is the safest place for a boat but boats were not made to stay in harbors.” Leaders must remember that “you miss 100 % of the shots you do not take” as Wayne Gretzky said. As much as optimism and positivity are important in creating vision and building trust, these traits are even more important in sustaining trust and moving forward in the face of “failure.” Leaders are “pragmatic dreamers” or “practical idealists”. Leadership is about developing a vision, articulating it with passion, generating trust, and moving the followers to action.


1.2.5 How Do Leaders Do It

A leader is best when people barely know he or she exists. When his or her work is done or the aim fulfilled, people will say: We did it ourselves. – Lao Tzu

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May 26, 2018 | Posted by in GENERAL SURGERY | Comments Off on What Is Leadership?

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