Glossary of Leadership Definitions

affirmative action
A hiring policy that requires employers to analyze the work force for under-representation of protected classes. It involves recruiting minorities and members of protected classes, changing management attitudes or prejudices towards them, removing discriminatory employment practices, and giving preferred treatment to protected classes. See Diversity.
After Action Reviews
An assessment conducted after a project or major activity that allows employees and leaders to discover (learn) what happened and why. It may be thought of as a professional discussion of an event that enables employees to understand why things happened during the progression of the process and to learn from that experience.
The process of conducting In Process Reviews (IPRs) and After Action Reviews (AARs). IPRs help to determine initial expectations, ascertain strengths and weakness of both employees and the organization, and identify key issues and organizations whose willing support is needed to accomplish the mission. AARs determine how well the goals are being accomplished, usually by identifying areas to sustain and improve.


Characteristics, qualities, or properties that define a person or leader. Attributes of the leader fall into three categories: mental, physical, and emotional.


authoritarian leadership
A style of leadership in which the leader tells the employees what needs to be done and how to perform it without getting their advice or ideas.


Assumptions and convictions that a person holds to be true regarding people, concepts, or things.


The process of measuring the organization's products, services, cost, procedures, etc. against competitors or other organizations that display a "best in class" record.


An activity focused on sustaining and renewing the organization. It involves actions that indicate commitment to the achievement of group or organizational goals: timely and effective discharge of operational and organizational duties and obligations; working effectively with others; compliance with and active support of organizational goals, rules, and policies.


A technique for teams that is used to generate ideas on a subject. Each person on the team is asked to think creatively and write down as many ideas as possible. After the writing session, the ideas are discussed by the team.


The capability of a worker, system, or organization to produce output per time period. It can be classified as budgeted, dedicated, demonstrated, productive, protective, rated, safety, or theoretical.


The sum total of an individual's personality traits and the link between a person's values and her behavior.


The short-term phenomenon created by the current junior or senior leaders. Organizational climate is a system of the perception of people about the organization and its leaders, directly attributed to the leadership and management style of the leaders, based on the skills, knowledge and attitude and priorities of the leaders. The personality and behavior of the leaders creates a climate that influences everyone in the organization. Differs from culture in that climate can be readily changed, whereas culture cannot be easily changed.


Comprises the ability to express oneself effectively in individual and group situations, either orally or in writing. It involves a sender transmitting an idea to a receiver.
command and control
Command is the forming and imparting of visions; while control is ensuring that resources go where they are supposed to go.

Competency is behavior-based and describes the individual’s characteristics and personality. Competencies can also be learned, but due to their behavior-based nature, it is not possible simply to teach or measure them.


conflict of interest
Any business activity, personal or company related, that interferes with the company's goals or that entails unethical or illegal actions.


Any element or factor that prevents a person from reaching a higher lever of performance with respect to her goal.


corrective action
The implementation of solutions, such as confrontation counseling, resulting in the reduction or elimination of an identified problem.


Talking with a person in a way that helps that person solve a problem or helps to create conditions that will cause the person to improve his or her behavior, character, or values. Providing basic, technical, and sometimes professional assistance to employees in order to help them with personal and work-related problems.


The virtue that enables us to conquer fear, danger, or adversity, no matter what the context happens to be (physical or moral). Courage includes the notion of taking responsibility for decisions and actions. Additionally, the idea involves the ability to perform critical self-assessment, to confront new ideas, and to change.


The long-term complex phenomenon that can be affected by strategic leaders. Culture represents the shared expectations and self-image of the organization. The mature values that create "tradition", the play out of "climate" or "the feel of the organization" over time, and the deep, unwritten code that frames "how we do things around here" contribute to the culture. Organizational culture is a system of shared values, assumptions, beliefs, and norms that unite the members of the organization. Individual leaders cannot easily create or change culture. Differs from climate in that climate can be readily changed, whereas culture cannot be easily changed.


The process of reaching logical conclusions, solving problems, analyzing factual information, and taking appropriate actions based on the conclusions.


decision matrix
A matrix used by teams to evaluate possible solutions to problems. Each solution is listed. Criteria are selected and listed on the top row to rate the possible solutions. Each possible solution is rated on a numerical scale for each criterion and the rating recorded in the corresponding grid. The ratings of all the criteria for each possible solution are added to determine each solution's score. The scores are then used to help decide which solution deserves the most attention.


Solutions Criterion 1 Criterion 2 Criterion 3
Hire new personal 3 4 2
Train the workers we have 5 4 2
Simplify the process 2 1 3
Total 10 9 7


Failure to meet a set performance standard.


delegative leadership
A style of leadership in which the leader entrusts decision-making to an employee of a group of employees. The leader is still responsible for their decisions.


Deming's 14 points
Management philosophy to help organizations increase their quality and productivity:
  1. Create constancy of purpose for improving product or service.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy.
  3. Stop dependency on inspection to achieve quality
  4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone - minimize cost by working with a single vendor.
  5. Constantly improve every process for planning, production, and service.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Adopt and institute leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas and goals for the workforce and management.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride in workmanship and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  14. Put everyone in the organization to work to accomplish the transformation.
The art of developing the competence and confidence of subordinate leaders through role modeling and training and development activities related to their current or future duties. Similar to training, except training is normally a short-term learning experience for a specific task, while development is a long-term learning experience that helps to grow the individual mentally and emotionally.


Committing to establish an environment where the full potential of all employees can be tapped by paying attention to, and taking into account their differences in work background, experience, age, gender, race, ethnic origin, physical abilities, religious belief, sexual orientation, and other perceived differences. Diversity differs from affirmative action, which is more about following laws. Diversity is a range of different people, while inclusion is making them feel welcome and being part of the group.


A measure (normally a percentage) of the actual output to the standard output expected. Efficiency measures how well someone is performing relative to expectations.


A condition whereby employees have the authority to make decisions and take action in their work areas, jobs, or tasks without prior approval. It allows the employees the responsibility normally associated with staffs. Examples are scheduling, quality, or purchasing decisions.


1. The political, strategic, or operational context within the organization. 2. The external environment is the environment outside the organization.


esprit de corps
The spirit, soul, and state of mind of an organization. It is the overall consciousness of the organization that a person identifies with and feels a part of. Esprit de corps normally refers to an entire unit or group, while morale can refer to an individual.


ethical climate
The "feel of the organization" about the activities that have ethical content or those aspects of the work environment that constitutes ethical behavior. The ethical climate is the feel about whether we do things right; or the feel of whether we behave the way we ought to behave.


The spirit (esprit d' corps), moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a community or individual.


Judging the worth, quality, or significance of people, ideas, or things.


The ability to complete individual and organizational assigned tasks according to specified standards and within certain time criteria or event criteria.


The flow of information back to the learner so that actual performance can be compared with planned performance.


five why's
A Japanese practice of asking "why" five times when confronted with a problem. By the time the fifth why is answered, they believe they have found the ultimate cause of the problem.


The ability of a system to respond quickly, in terms of range and time, to external or internal changes.


An arrangement in which employees are allowed to choose work hours as long as the standard number of work hours are met. Also, some flextime systems require that the hours fall within a certain range, e.g. 5:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M.


Monitoring of job, task, or project progress to see that operations are performed on schedule.


A state of being or state of character, that people possess by living up to the complex set of all the values that make up the public moral code. Honor includes: integrity, courage, loyalty, respect, selfless-service, and duty. Honor demands adherence to a public moral code, not protection of a reputation.


horizontal leadership
Viewing leadership as a system so that information becomes networked. Information now flows horizontally. Differs from tradition leadership in which we view information running vertically or in a hierarchical manner. Also known as flat or vertical leadership.


human nature
The common qualities of all human beings.


A focus on sustaining and renewing the development of individuals and the organization (with a time horizon from months to decades) that requires a need for experimentation and innovation with results that are difficult to quantify. Usually it entails long-term, complex outcomes.


Creating an atmosphere, in which all people feel valued, respected and have the same opportunities as others. Diversity is a range of different people, while inclusion is making them feel welcome and being part of the group.


The key feature of leadership, performed through communicating, decision-making, and motivation. A boss tells people what to do, while a leader motivates people by creating a desire within them to accomplish things on their own.


A moral virtue that encompasses the sum total of a person's set of values and moral code. A breach of any of these values will damage the integrity of the individual. Integrity, comes from the same Latin root (integritas) as the word "integer," refers to a notion of completeness, wholeness, and uniqueness. Integrity also entails the consistent adherence of action to one's personal moral beliefs.


job enlargement
An increase in the number of tasks that an employee performs. It is associated with the design of jobs to reduce employee dissatisfaction by giving them a variety of tasks to perform, rather than one or two dull routines.

job enrichment
An increase in the number of tasks that an employee performs AND an increase in control, responsibility, and discretion to how the job is performed. It is associated with the design of jobs and is an extension of job enlargement.


The Japanese term for improvement. It involves both workers and managers. It was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his book Kaizen: The Key to Japan's Competitive Success in 1986. 


The process of influencing people while operating to meet organizational requirements and improving the organization through change.
leadership styles
The manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people.


An essential shift or progress of the mind where recreation is evident and enjoins activities such as re-engineering, envisioning, changing, adapting, moving into, and creating the future.


learning curve
A curve reflecting the rate of improvement in performing a new task as a learner practices and uses her newly acquired skills.


The intangible bond based on a legitimate obligation; it entails the correct ordering of our obligations and commitments. Loyalty demands commitment to the organization and is a precondition for trust, cooperation, teamwork, and camaraderie..


management by objectives (MBO)
A participative goal-setting process that enables the manager or supervisor to construct and communicate the goals of the department to each subordinate. At the same time, the subordinate is able to formulate personal goals and influence the department's goals.
A process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé).
(1) A person that serves as a target subject for a learner to emulate. (2) A representation of a process or system that show the most important variables in the system in such a way that analysis of the model leads to insights into the system.


The mental, emotional, and spiritual state of an individual. Esprit de corps normally refers to an entire unit or group, while morale can refer to an individual.


The use of wants and needs to influence how a person thinks and performs. Motivating embodies using appropriate incentives and methods in reinforcing individuals or groups as they effectively work toward task accomplishment and resolution of conflicts or disagreements. Coupled with influence, motivating actively involves empowering junior leaders and workers to achieve organizational goals and properly rewarding their efforts as they achieve the goals.


organizational behavior
The study and application of knowledge about how people, individuals, and groups act in organizations.


participative leadership
A style of leadership in which the leader involves one or more employees in determining what to do and how to do it. The leader maintains final decision making authority.


performance efficiency
A ratio (percentage) of the actual output of a person as compared to the desired or planned output.


performance rating
Observation of a person's performance to rate productivity in terms of a performance standard


performance standard
A criterion or benchmark against which actual performance is measured.


A course of action for oneself and/or others to accomplish a goal; establishing priorities and planning appropriate allocation of time and resources and proper assignment of people to achieve feasible, acceptable, and suitable objectives.


plan-do-check-action (PDCA)
Sometimes referred to as the Shewhart Cycle, for its creator - Walter A. Shewhart. A four step process for quality improvement:
  • Plan - A plan to effect improvement is developed
  • Do - The plan is carried out, first, on a small scale if possible
  • Check - The effects of the plan are observed
  • Action - The results are studied and observed to determine what was learned and what can be predicted
process improvement
Activities designed to identify and eliminate causes of poor quality, process variation, and non-value added activities.


An overall measure of the ability to produce a product or service. It is the actual output of production compared to the actual input of resources.


Conformance to the requirements of a stated product or service attribute.


The regard and recognition of the absolute dignity that every human being possesses. Respect is treating people as they should be treated. Specifically, respect is indicative of compassion and consideration of others, which includes a sensitivity to and regard for the feelings and needs of others and an awareness of the effect of one's own behavior on them. Respect also involves the notion of treating people justly.


selfless service
The proper ordering of priorities. Think of it as service before self. The welfare of the organization come before the individual. This does not mean that the individual neglects to take care of family or self. Also, it does not preclude the leader from having a healthy ego, self-esteem, or sense of ambition. It does, however, preclude selfish careerism.


self-directed work team
A small independent, self-organized, and self-controlling group in which members plan, organize, determine, and manage their duties and actions, as well as perform many other supportive functions.


seven tools of quality
Tools that help an organization understand its processes in order to improve them. Likely introduced by Kaoru Ishikawa, who in turn was influenced by W. Edwards Deming in 1950. The seven tools are:
  1. Cause and effect diagram (Ishikawa diagram) - A tool developed by Kaoru Ishikawa for analyzing process dispersion. It illustrates the main causes and sub-causes leading to an effect or symptom. It is sometimes referred to as a fishbone chart because it resembles a fish skeleton.
  2. Check sheet - A data-recording tool designed by the user to facilitate the interpretation of results.
  3. Control chart - A graphic comparison of actual performance with pre-computed control limits. The performance data consists of groups of measurements selected in sequence of production that preserves the order. It is used to detect assignable causes of variation in a process as opposed to random variation.
  4. Flowchart - A type of planning and control chart designed to show graphically the relationship between planned performance and actual performance over time. It was named after its originator, Henry L. Gantt. It follows job progress, where one horizontal line represents the time schedule and another adjacent line represents the actual performance of the project.
  5. Histogram - A graph of contiguous vertical bars representing a frequency distribution in which the groups of items are marked on the x-axis and the number of items in each class is indicated on the y-axis. The pictorial nature allows people to see patterns that are difficult to see in a table of numbers.
  6. Pareto chart - A graphical tool for ranking causes from most significant to least significant. It is based on the Pareto principle that states that a small percentage of a group accounts for the largest fraction of the impact, value, etc. That is 80% of the effects come from 20% of the possible causes.
  7. Scatter chart - A graphical technique used to analyze the relationship between two variables. Two sets of data are plotted on a graph, with the y axis used for the variable to be predicted, and the x axis used for the variable to make the prediction.
Those abilities that people develop and use with people, with ideas, and with things, hence, the division of interpersonal, cognitive, and technical skills.


An established norm in which measurements are compared and evaluated. The time allowed to perform a task, including the quality and quantity of work to be produced.


standard time
The length of time that should be required to perform a task through one complete cycle. It assumes an average worker follows prescribed procedures and allows time for rest to overcome fatigue.


The creation of a unique and valuable market position supported by a system of activities that fit together in a complementary way. It is about making choices, trade-offs, and deliberately choosing to be different.


The real or perceived demand on the mind, emotions, spirit, or body. Too much stress puts an undo amount of pressure upon us and drives us into a state of tension. Controlled stress (arousal) is good as it is what motivates us.


The ability to establish procedures for monitoring and regulating processes, tasks, or activities of employees and one's own job, taking actions to monitor the results of delegated tasks or projects.


A conceptual action for attaining a particular goal. While strategies are forward-looking, tactical is more or less present or now-orientated. It is about present performance gaps and how you are going to overcome them in order to support the strategies.


theory of constraints (TOC)
A management philosophy developed by Dr. Eliyahu M. Goldratt that is broken down into three interrelated areas - logistics, performance measurement, and logical thinking. Logistics include drum-buffer-rope scheduling, buffer management, and VAT analysis. Performance measurement includes throughput, inventory and operating expense, and the five focusing steps. Logical thinking includes identifying the root problem (current reality tree), identifying and expanding win-win solutions (evaporating cloud and future reality tree), and developing implementation plans (prerequisite tree and transition tree).


total employee involvement
An empowerment technique where employees participate in actions and decision making that were traditionally reserved for management.


total quality management (TQM)
Describes Japanese style management approaches to quality improvement. It includes the long term success of the organization through customer satisfaction and is based on participation of all members of the organization in improving process, products, service, culture, etc.


A distinguishing quality or characteristic of a person. For a trait to be developed in a person, that person must first believe in and value that trait.


Ideas about the worth or importance of things, concepts, and people.


Providing a sense of direction for the long term by articulating and defining what has previously remained implicit or unsaid. Visioning often uses images, metaphors, and models that provide a focus for new attention.


worker efficiency
A measure (usually computed as a percentage) of worker performance that compares the standard time allowed to complete a task to the actual worker time to complete it.


Next Step

Return to the main Leadership Page