What is leadership? A simple definition of leadership is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal.
This definition of leadership, I think, captures the leadership essentials of inspiration and preparation. Effective leadership is based upon ideas, but won't happen unless those ideas can be communicated to others in a way that engages them.
Put even more simply, the leader is the inspiration and director of the action. He is the person in the group that possesses the combination of personality and leadership skills that makes others want to follow his direction.
In business, leadership is welded to performance. Those who are viewed as effective leaders are those who increase their company's bottom lines.
To further confuse the definition of leadership, we tend to use the terms "leadership" and "management" interchangeably, referring to a company's management structure as its leadership, or to individuals who are actually managers as the "leaders" of various management teams.
I am not saying that this is a bad thing, just pointing out that leadership involves more. To be effective, a leader certainly has to manage the resources at her disposal. But leadership also involves communicating, inspiring and supervising - just to name three more of the primary leadership skills a leader has to have to be successful.
Is a leader born or made? While there are people who seem to be naturally endowed with more leadership abilities than others, I believe that people can learn to become leaders by improving particular leadership skills.
As I say in 5 Keys to Leadership for Small Business, "Leadership is a winning combination of personal traits and the ability to think and act as a leader, a person who directs the activities of others for the good of all. Anyone can be a leader..."
For more perspectives on and definitions of leadership, see Business Quotations on Leadership.