Leadership No Longer Means Leadership!

How the meaning of leadership is changing in the 21st Century

Gary A. DePaul, PhD (he/him/his)
4 min readMar 17, 2020


“To lead other well, we must help them to reach their potential…being on their side, encourage them, giving them power…

After years of reading, writing, and talking about leadership, I realized that the meaning of leadership is no longer the same thing as what we traditionally think of as leadership. It’s time to call it something else!

Traditional Leadership

From the literature, here are some characteristics traditionally associated with leadership:

  • Having followers
  • Making big decisions
  • Building a vision
  • Inspiring people to follow the strategy
  • Being in a leadership role
  • Leaving a legacy
  • The manager, supervisor, boss, or even the CEO
  • Being the hero

We even refer to top-level executives as being part of the leadership team.

Traditional Definition: Is it Leadership or Management?

Many think that the following is a good, straightforward leadership definition:

The art of getting things done through people