Leadership Terms

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Aha Moment a moment of sudden insight, inspiration, recognition, comprehension or realization.


Blamestorming – A meeting of colleagues at work, gathered to decide who is to blame for a mistake or error. Typically a method of collectively finding one to blame for a mistake no one is willing to confess to.

Board of Directors – A group of individuals, typically elected by the stockholders of a corporation who are responsible for appointing the chief executive staff officers and monitoring their performance.

Breach of Promise – The breaking of a promise which may have been either documented or undocumented.

Brainstorming – a procedure that encourages group members to verbally offer any spontaneous ideas that immediately comes to mind. These ideas are written on a blackboard or easel and no negative comments or gestures are allowed. Other members of the group are encouraged to build and expand upon the ideas. Brainstorming is considered helpful in stimulating creativity and reducing inhibition in problem solving. It also reduces the domination of the group by certain individuals since contributions are expected to be brief and spontaneous.

Business – An organizational enterprise established to provide a product or service in a profitable manner. It is usually a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation.

Business Ethics – A standard of ideals and values used to conduct business activities including conduct toward employees, suppliers and customers.


Career Coach – An individual who guides another in planning and managing their career, especially executives and managers.

CEO (chief executive officer)
– A senior executive of an organization, typically appointed by the board of directors, who has the ultimate responsibility to attain the corporate goals of the enterprise.

Charisma – Possession of individual traits and skills such as articulate speech, flair, self-confidence, and strong convictions that promote a vision which strongly connects with followers. Though considered an asset for leaders, charisma is not a requirement for effective leadership. Charisma can be used as a powerful tool to motivate or inspire others. However, the potential for misuse and the manipulation of others also exists.

Chairman of the Board – Usually considered the highest ranking officer in a corporation. The chairman is the one who presides over meetings of the board of directors.

Cloud Computing Storing regularly used computer data through the Internet on multiple servers that can be routinely accessed.


Code of Ethics – A statement of the standards of conduct which are expected to be valued and demonstrated by members of the organization or professional society.

Committee – A group of individuals, often appointed, who are assigned to meet for a designated purpose. It is often given a defined role to explore opportunities, or solve problems. A committee can be a powerful tool to solve organizational problems because of the combination of the diverse background and talent of its members.

Complex System – An highly structured organization that has many semi-independent and interlocking components or subsystems. This results in many simultaneous variables, activities and feedback loops taking place at the same time. Because of the intricacy and interaction of complex systems, there are many subsystems seeking to coordinate multiple activities and this offers the potential for more things to go wrong. In a complex system, it is not uncommon for subsystems to have goals that differ or even compete with the goals of the overall system.

Conference – A meeting of a group of individuals assembled to discuss a planned agenda of mutual interest.

Consultant – An organization or individual hired by another organization to provide professional advice or services in a specific area of expertise.

Contingency Plan – A strategy or alternative plan prepared to counteract an unexpected, but possible situation.

Cook the Books – Describes an illegal and unethical effort by the executive(s) of an organization to misrepresent a company’s actual financial position by falsifying reports and accounting records.

Core Competencies – The central skills and value-creating capabilities perceived as strengths within an organization. This typically involves a combination of application skills and technical knowledge that offers a strong competitive advantage. It is the responsibility of management to recognize and identify the organizations core competencies and develop a strategy around them.

Credibility – The quality of trustworthiness and capability exhibited by a leader that goes beyond the possession of power or authority. It typically results in greater compliance and respect from peers and followers. Credibility is enhanced by responsible behavior, dedication and open communication. Credibility is eroded by dishonesty and inappropriate behavior.

Crowdsourcing – obtaining ideas, content or needed services by seeking contributions from a crowd, and especially from the online community rather than from traditional suppliers or employees.

– An organizations transmitted beliefs and assumptions about the organizational environment and the employees place within it. These shared beliefs serve to provide role expectations to guide employee behavior and assist them in responding to the work environment. The culture helps to reduce uncertainty, anxiety, and confusion. This results in “learned responses” to survival in both the internal and external environment. Skilled leaders recognize the deeply entrenched influence of culture within an organization and may attempt to alter the culture in various ways.

– Using the Internet or related technologies to hurt other people, in a deliberate, hostile, and repeated manner.

Doing personal activities during working hours and using an employer’s email and internet facilities to do so.


Diversity – The result of an increased variety of employees in the workplace who are diverse in racial, ethnic, religious or gender composition. Many employers now recognize that this changing composition of the work-force is inevitable and that diverse experiences, backgrounds and attitudes can strengthen an organization. Diversity in the work-force can also provide greater opportunity for the organization to expand its customer base within a modern multiethnic marketplace. Diversity has also proven to be a source of potential conflict in organizations that have not encouraged respect for individual differences and tolerance.


Ecosystems – Organizational perspective borrowed from the scientific understanding of biological systems. Within the organization, an ecosystem is a group of interdependent, interrelated and interacting elements or subsystems that together form the complete whole. As an example, the marketing department is a subsystem that interacts and is interrelated to other subsystems such as the accounting department. The ecosystems approach recognizes that events or activities that affect one part of the system may affect other systems within the ecosystem. See systems thinking, and complex systems.

Enlightened Leadership – A concept promoted by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug to create effective organizational change. They define Enlightened Leadership as “the willingness and ability to draw the vision from their people and inspire and empower those people to do what it takes to bring the vision into reality. Indeed, Enlightened Leaders nurture and encourage their people to be open, creative, and innovative and find what it takes to achieve their shared objectives.” This type of leadership gets the “members of the organization to accept ownership for that vision as their own, thus developing the commitment to carry it through to completion.”Quotations taken from Enlightened Leadership, by Ed Oakley and Doug Krug(1994). Simon & Schuster Inc.

Ethics – The study of standards of conduct and morality. Descriptive of the conduct one may expect to be practiced with an organization or group.

Exit Strategy – A pre-planned strategy of extricating or exiting oneself from a situation at a given time.


Feedback – The return of information about the results or status of a process within the organization.

Figurehead – A seemingly important person or prominent individual who lacks real authority or responsibility while being controlled by others.

Followership – Defines those who offer their personal commitment to a cause and acknowledge the central leader(s) as a source for guidance, motivation and authority.


Goal Oriented – A personal trait or management style that is motivated by the establishment of goals and formulating detailed plans to attain them.

Grapevine – A rumor mill, or the unofficial lines of communication within an organization.

Groupthink – Tendency of decision makers to join together around a policy or person without questioning basic assumptions. An emotional bond of conformity can cause the group to filter out rational information that may question a policy or decision. Groupthink can also cause a group of decision-makers to rationalize a poor decision after-the-fact. Many poor decisions and faulty strategic planning are a result of groupthink.


Hearsay – Something one may hear but cannot confirm is actually true.

Hidden Agenda – The objectives of a group or individual that are not readily apparent but often become exposed in the process of time.

Hierarchical – A structural order or process that begins from a single point of importance and branches through various levels to lesser orders of status. Each lower level typically reports to the level above it all the way back to the central authority.


Integrity – The personal quality of being honest and maintaining high moral standards.




Leadership – The active ability to articulate a vision, to embrace the values of that vision, and nurture an environment where followers can reach the organizations goals and their own personal goals.

Locus of Control – An orientation ascribed to managerial effectiveness typically evaluated by personality scale testing. Most individuals are measured as either “internals” or “externals”. Those with a strong internal locus of control believe most events that occur in their lives are determined by their own actions rather than by chance. In contrast, those with a strong external locus of control believe most events occur by chance or circumstance and conclude they have little control over fate or to change their lives. Those with an internal orientation tend to accept more responsibility for their actions and for organizational performance. Research indicates that those with a strong internal locus of control are also more flexible, innovative, and adaptive and take more initiative in solving problems.


Management by Exception – A management concept that focuses on those actions or events that deviate from the acceptable standards. If personnel are performing as expected, no action is taken. Managers intervene only when employees fail to meet performance requirements.

Management by Objective – A management process where workers and supervisors jointly establish goals and occasionally meet to evaluate progress and achievement levels.

Middle Management – A management level comprised of those who hold administrative positions between top management and lower management levels.

Mismanagement – a failure to responsibly fulfill administrative duties either through neglect or malice. It can define a broad range of actions from poor performance to misappropriation of funds.

Mission Statement – A written proclamation that describes the purpose of the organization and outlines the types of activities to be performed for constituents and customers. It should also mention what unique value or services the organization offers as a byproduct of its work. Mission statements typically contain at least three components. First, a statement of the overall purpose or mission of the company. Secondly, a statement that indicates the values that employees are expected maintain and commit to in the decision-making process. Third, articulation of the major goals the management believes is essential to attain the mission. These goals should be consistent with the philosophical values that employees are expected to maintain.

Morale – The mental state or spirit of confidence possessed by a person or group in relation to a positive mental attitude.

Moral Obligation – The commitment to honor a value or principle because it is simply the right thing to do rather than because of a legal mandate.

Motivation – The inner emotional and mental drive that leads one to act in a certain way.


Nepotism – Preferred treatment of family relatives in their appointment to important positions within a department or organization regardless of talent or competence.


Organization – Association of individuals who join together for a specific purpose such as a social club, charity or business.

Organizational Structure – The plan in which offices, responsibilities and lines of authority are arranged and organized within a group or organization.

– To think about (something) for too long or for too much.


Peter Principle – A maxim first coined by Dr. Lawrence J. Peter that states “every employee tends to rise to his/her level of incompetence”.

Power – An individuals capacity to influence the behavior and attitudes of others. This usually also results in the ability to influence events, decisions and material possessions. Power can be used in productive or destructive ways. There are often many different types of power extant within an organization.

Principle-Centered Leadership – A leadership theory espoused by author Stephen Covey. Based on a principle that “self-validating natural laws” provide a compass or “true north” for leaders. Covey defines Principal-centered leadership as “based on the reality that we cannot violate these natural laws with impunity. Whether or not we believe in them, they have proven effective throughout centuries of human history. Individuals are more effective and organizations more empowered when they are guided and governed by these proven principles. Principle-centered leaders are those who understand and accept the principles by building them “into the center of their lives, into the center of their relationships with others, into the center of their agreements and contracts, into their management processes, and into their mission statements.” Quotations taken from Principle-Centered Leadership by Stephen R. Covey (1992). Simon & Schuster Inc.



Reframing – Perspective to analyze and examine various frames or windows of organizational environment. Each frame holds the potential of presenting its own image of reality and can help the leader to develop greater appreciation and deeper understanding of organizations. Endorsed as a four-frame model by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal. They present the diverse perspectives of the structural, human resource, political and symbolic frames and use the following analogy. “Galileo discovered this when he devised the first telescope. Each lens that he added contributed to a more accurate image of the heavens. Successful managers take advantage of the same truth. They reframe until they understand the situation at hand.” Quotations taken from Reframing Organizations, by Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal (1997). Jossey-Bass Publishers

Reorganization – A change in the organizational structure of a business by revising responsibility or lines of authority in an effort to improve performance.


Soft Skills – personal qualities that enable someone to interact harmoniously and effectively with other people.

– Philosophy promoted by the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership. Based on a “practical philosophy and model which supports people who choose to serve first, and then lead as a way of expanding service to individuals and institutions. Servant-leaders may or may not hold formal leadership positions. Servant-Leadership encourages collaboration, trust, foresight, listening, and the ethical use of power and empowerment.” Quotation taken from the Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership website located at www.greenleaf.org

Stewardship – Philosophy promoted by author Peter Block as an “umbrella idea which promises the means of achieving fundamental change in the way we govern our institutions. Stewardship is to hold something in trust for another.” Block defines Stewardship as “the choice to preside over the orderly distribution of power. This means giving people at the bottom and the boundaries of the organization choice over how to serve the customer, a citizen, a community. It is the willingness to be accountable for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control, of those around us. Stated simply, it is accountability without control or compliance.” Quotations taken from Stewardship by Peter Block (1996). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Strategic Planning – The organizational “blueprint” or strategy for implementation of the objectives and mission of the company. This should include a strategy on how to remain competitive and profitable. Strategic planning should also take into account changes in the external environment and reflect the highest priorities of the organization. Sound strategic planning also candidly evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and identifies its core competencies. Finally, the process should also explore promising new strategies and evaluate the possible needed investment and outcome of a new strategy.

Stakeholders – A term that includes all parties who have a stake or interest in the organizations success or failure. This includes customers, stockholders, employees and suppliers.

Systems Thinking – A philosophy that focuses on recognizing the interactions and interconnection between the various parts of a system. A systems thinking approach attempts to analyze the various parts of the system or subsystems and synthesize them into a cohesive view of the whole ecosystem. Systems’ thinking allows a leader to step back and focus on the bigger picture of organizational problems or opportunities. It also allows the capability to balance short-term and long-term perspectives since a change in one part of the subsystem will ultimately affect other parts and perhaps the entire ecosystem. Systems’ thinking also reminds the leader that we all function as a part of the system, and we are influenced by various subsystems even as we are influencing them.


Teambuilding – Effort by a leader to enhance the cooperation, identification and cohesiveness of a group. Suggested efforts include emphasizing common values and interests, initiation of rituals, symbols and ceremonies, encourage non-business social interaction, cultivate appreciation and tolerance, and establish incentives to reward mutual cooperation.

Team Management – Joint administration of a project or organization that places decision-making in the hands of individuals with different skills or specialties. Team members are typically diverse yet complement each other to achieve results.

Think Tank – An organization that is engaged in the intensive study and evaluation of projects or problems with the intent to offer advice to others.

Time Management – A plan or program for better organizing ones tasks to make better use of available time.

Transactional Leadership – A leadership theory developed by James McGregor Burns and expanded by both B. M. Bass and B. J. Avolio. It maintains that transactional leadership attempts to influence followers by contingent rewards and punishments to achieve desired work levels or performance. Originally, a second type of transactional behavior was defined as including “passive management by exception.” This behavior attempts to influence followers by providing corrective action including punishments as a response to obvious departures from acceptable work standards. Two additional behaviors have been added to transactional leadership . One includes “active management by exception” which is the constant and active monitoring of followers to insure work is at acceptable standards. Another behavior is “laissez-faire” leadership behavior that demonstrates a passive indifference toward followers or their tasks.

Transformational Leadership – A leadership theory originally developed James McGregor Burns. It maintains that transformational leadership is influential in motivating and transforming followers to be more aware of task outcomes, activate their highest order needs and to go beyond their own self-interest for the benefit of the organization. This is achieved because the transformational leader seeks to build commitment, empower and elevate followers to the greatest degree possible. Because of transformational influence, followers are motivated to do more than they originally would and feel a greater degree of respect and trust for the leader. The backbone of this theory is that the leader and followers are mutually motivated to enhance their performance by transformational leadership rather than transactional leadership.



Values – The guiding principles that state how the employees, beginning with management, intend to conduct their behavior and do business. These values will determine what kind of organization will develop and become the foundation of the organizations culture.

Vision – The articulation of the mission of the organization in such an appealing and intuitive picture that it conveys what the organization can be in the future and instills common purpose, self-esteem and a sense of membership within the organization. Traditionally, vision has come from the top management of the organization. Many leaders are beginning to see the value of creating the vision also from those who are closer to the work environment and the customer.


Webinar – an online educational presentation usually performed live on the Internet, during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments