Most dictionaries define “leader” as someone at the head or top of group of people or a movement—they define it in role or positional terms. This definition includes Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Ghandi, Winston Churchill and Adolf Hitler, as well as Mussolini and Stalin. All of these people where leaders, but the “qualities” they brought to their leadership and what they stood for were completely different. They all qualified as leaders from the perspective of their roles, but I cannot help classifying them in my own mind in a hierarchical order of priority that reflects the levels of consciousness they operated from, and the degree to which their values beliefs and actions were driven by love or fear.
I prefer to define a leader as someone who has a way of being that enables them to handle any situation they have to face from a place of calm, and in a way that benefits the greater good: someone who can take charge in a crisis situation; someone who can connect with the common man; someone who can build high performing systems and processes that make things work; someone that empowers people to become all they can become; someone you can trust who creates an inspirational vision; someone with empathy who cooperates with others in strategic alliances for mutual benefit; and someone with the wisdom, compassion, and foresight to build a sustainable future for humanity.
Above all, I would like to define a leader as someone who has the courage to face their fears; challenge the way things are; persevere when things get tough; risk everything for the cause they believe in; and do all these things without any regard for personal gain: someone driven by the need to create a new and better future for everyone.
With such a definition I could be a leader of myself; a leader of others; a leader of an organisation; or a leader in society. It would not matter if I had followers or not. You don’t need followers to be a leader; you just need to be able to face and overcome your fears. First and foremost, you must be able to lead yourself before you can lead others.