How Do We Define Leadership?

Leaders define leadership in many ways. Action Wheel Leadership has a definition of leadership as well.



Define Leadership

Our company founder, Dr. Robert Terry, developed the Action Wheel leadership model as his answer to the question “what is leadership?”  The roots of the Action Wheel go back to Aristotle who sought to understand and explain the driving force behind human action.
Bob took Aristotle’s original four-dimensional model and added three additional dimensions to create the seven-dimension model he presented in Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action.






For more than 25 years this framework has been taught to literally tens of thousands of leaders all over the world and has been used in universities and colleges to frame leadership, management and organizational development concepts and programs. The Action Wheel allows leadership to define what is really going on and to choose what actions to take that would move the organization or community in an authentic direction.
Purpose of the Action Wheel: The Action Wheel is a tool that answers the question: “What is really going on?” It can be used by anyone to identify any issue. Ask:

  • Have you ever sensed something was wrong, but couldn’t figure out what?
  • Do conversations get bogged down?
  • Have you doubted you had enough information?
  • Does it seem you can’t agree on an issue or how to solve it?
  • Have you misunderstood an issue and had unexpected results?
  • Does the same issue keep coming up no matter what you do?

These are all common leadership problems. The Action Wheel can help resolve them.
The Leadership Challenge:
The challenge of leadership is to distinguish the authentic from the inauthentic aspects of action, acknowledge them, and commit to having the authentic emerge from the inauthentic. A way to define leadership in this context is: “Leadership then becomes a relationship between the leader and the led that presses to know what is really going on, to act courageously on that understanding and to live and act authentically. Bob Terry also offers both a short and long leadership definition here.
Outcomes of Using The Action Wheel:

  • Frame and define what is really really going on
  • Create a common language
  • Identify and focus attention
  • Raise caution of misinterpreting reality
  • Focus energy toward authentic action and long-term solutions
  • Align people, systems and strategy
  • Engage people and systems
  • Identify ethical challenges and dilemmas and solutions







Styles of Leadership

Types of Leadership You May Have Experienced or Practiced

It may seem that there are as many styles of leadership as there are leaders. In reality, while there are indeed many ways to lead, most leadership styles fall into one of several categories.


Styles of Leadership

Autocratic Leadership Style: is also called the Authoritarian Leadership Style. Leaders who favor this style are task oriented and score low on relationship factors.The autocratice slyle of leadership is usually hard on followers. The leader places heavy emphasis on schedules, unquestioning obedience and blame. Followers’ creativity or desire for collaboration is often seen as dissent. In worst case scenarios, autocratic leaders abuse power and use raised voices and threats to achieve their goals.










Delegative Leadership Style: is one of the types of leadership styles that can be effective in some situations, and detrimental to an organization in other situations. The delegative leadership style requires highly skilled and motivated followers or it can lead to poorly made decisions and little follow-through or leadership action.
Transactional Leadership: is one of the styles of leadership that is based on the theory that organizations work best with a clear chain of command. It is considered an authoritarian model of leadership as it presupposes that, once workers have agreed to a job, they have tacitly agreed to cede all authority another person in management. As most managers do not depend solely on one type of leadership, most leaders are not strict or absolute transactional leaders, rather they fall somewhere along a spectrum.
Transformational Leadership: is one of the most effective styles of leadership as it is designed to produce positive changes in individuals and organizations. These leaders seek to enhance motivation, increase morale, and create emotional investments in an organization through a variety of techniques. They develop connections between their workers and the collective identity of the company by challenging employees to take ownership for their work.
Democratic Leadership Style: is one of the types of leadership styles that fosters a team approach to leadership. In this leadership style, leaders and followers collaborate. Each contributes his or her skills, knowledge and experience to create a “whole” from many contributions. Democratic leaders offer guidance and lead by positive example.  Though they actively participate in the group, input from other group members is not only allowed but also valued.





Participative Leadership is very similar to the democratic leadership style.  Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Decision making and problem solving are discussed with the leadership team or group. This gets group members engaged in the process and inspires motivation and creativity. It also allows helps leaders learn to delegate, wisely, to followers who have shown the potential to participate in leadership level decisions.










Situational Leadership Theory: The theory is that successful leaders don’t depend on any one of the styles of leadership to see them through every situation. Instead, they change their tactics depending on the maturity of their employees and the given details of a particular task.
Gender and Leadership: Do leadership styles differ by gender? Is there a leadership style that is inherently feminine?






Leadership Metaphors in Public and Organizational Life

Leadership metaphors are the lenses through which we interpret the world. The Action Wheel framework identifies six critical metaphors for leadership. Each leadership metaphor represents one of the Action Wheel dimensions of leadership as developed in Dr. Robert Terry’s book Authentic Leadership: Courage In Action.

Leadership Metaphors

Each leadership metaphor is linked to one dimension of the Action Wheel and opens a windows onto a leadership reality. They identify the unknown from the known, the novel from the familiar. They link the well established with the less well understood.




A metaphor, in short, tells us something new about reality. “A tractor is a machine” is a literal statement about a direct perception. “Life is a machine” is a metaphor. The metaphor anchors a direct experience to something that goes well beyond it.
Different metaphors yield different realities, resulting in different perceptions of what is really going on. Is a business’s orienting metaphor “journey” or is it something else—say a belief that a business is an organic system? Very different ideas and actions will arise from different metaphors.


Learn more about the six metaphors for leadership:

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.