What is leadership?

Here’s the thing about leadership that a lot of people either don’t understand or refuse to believe: Everyone can be a leader. There is no single answer to “What is leadership?” because it isn’t something you’re either born with or without, but a powerful skill that can be developed over time. Great leaders don’t follow a single path or personality type. In fact, you’ve probably taken on leadership roles in your life that you didn’t realize at the time. So what makes a good leader, really? And how can you sharpen those skills and put them to work for you in your career and your life?

Leadership is the ability to inspire a team to achieve a certain goal. It’s usually discussed in the context of business, but leadership is also how you, as an individual, choose to lead your life. The definition of leadership is to influence, inspire and help others become their best selves, building their skills and achieving goals along the way. You don’t have to be a CEO, manager or even a team lead to be a leader. Leadership is a set of skills – and a certain psychology – that anyone can master. 

Leadership is not a zero-sum equation. When one person harnesses their powers to lead, it strengthens the leadership opportunities of others, rather than diminishing them. That’s because the ultimate definition of leadership is empowering others to become effective leaders as well. That’s why many iconic leaders have incredible mentors they cite for their success. As one person begins to embrace their role as a leader, they inevitably connect with others who have already mastered the art of leadership.

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The importance of leadership

In short, the importance of leadership lies in the ability to get things done. Leadership allows you to communicate a clear vision and then unite your team around that vision. Companies with great leaders are creative, innovative and agile. They also have positive company cultures with a sense of purpose and passion. Ultimately, effective leadership improves your company’s bottom line, resulting in less turnover and a mindset of continuous improvement.

But the importance of leadership also shows in other aspects of life. It’s a set of skills you can take with you into relationships and on your path to personal improvement. And you can start learning them today.

Leadership is a set of skills you can learn

A common misconception about leadership is that it’s something you’re born with – that the world’s greatest leaders were born with some innate magical quality that allows them to lead better than others. But that’s not true.

So, what is leadership? Leadership isn’t a position that you’re appointed to – it’s a skill and a tool you can continually cultivate and use to create lasting change. Leadership is also not something you’re born with or without – it’s a creative muscle you can strengthen and develop over time. Whether you’re a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a college student attempting to manage a pile of homework, leadership is about creating and sustaining positive, lasting change in your life and the lives of the people around you. 

Developing incredible leadership skills takes commitment. Setting goals is vital, and practice makes perfect. Work your leadership muscle every day and you’ll find your influence growing. An idea is only an idea, one that will ultimately die, unless you can become a person of influence – a person who can influence and lead your team toward that idea’s fruition.

What makes a good leader?

An outstanding leader is there to guide, support, and serve her team.

In developing a grasp of true leadership meaning, you must ask yourself not only what is leadership, but also, what is great leadership? Great leadership – quality leadership – is servant leadership. Servant leadership refers to someone who wants to influence others to serve the greater good. They don’t just want to get from Point A to Point B, and they’re not searching for an outcome that only benefits themselves; a great leader always has the big picture in mind. They’re searching for ways to not just help themselves, but to help other people and the community at large. They’re figuring out ways to influence their community and culture in such a way that everyone who’s part of it benefits. Serving the greater good is their driving force, also known as their purpose.

The best leaders in the world all have a distinct purpose in mind before they take action. Purpose makes us resilient and strong. Without that purpose, you’re much more susceptible to failure, prolonged ruts and depression. That’s because purpose is what sustains us when things get tough – and things will always get tough. 

When you want to develop effective leadership skills, turn toward the purpose that drives you. Your purpose is the juice that will drive you to keep going when you face the obstacles and challenges that are so inevitable of any worthwhile journey. It’s what will pick you up and uplift others around you whenever setbacks present themselves. It’s your energy. It’s Kryptonite for defeat and discouragement, and it’s what will give you focus and direction amid the chaos. In other words, your purpose is the North Star of leadership.

Discover your inner leader

There are all sorts of different leaders in this world with myriad goals they’re aiming for, but there are a distinct set of learned qualities and styles that unify the best leaders. They are committed to using time, dedication, consistency and a distinct purpose to achieve their goals. You, too, can cultivate these skills and become one of the greats. By mastering your own set of leadership skills, you can not only fuel yourself closer to your purpose, but also encourage those around you to harness their own skills.

Tony Robbins has worked with some of the top names in business and sports – and he knows the importance of leadership. Below, you’ll find a number of resources that will help you to strengthen and refine your leadership abilities.

How to be
an Outstanding Leader

How to be an outstanding leader.

Not all leaders are necessarily good leaders. Few are truly great leaders. What sets the great apart from the bad? Learn the fundamental skills of an outstanding, inspiring leader.

What’s Your
Leadership Style

What's your leadership style?

Leadership comes in different shapes and styles, each with its own strengths. Learn what these are and see which one is best suited to you and the outcome you’d like to inspire towards.

How to be a better manager

what makes a good leade
Management and leadership aren’t the same thing, but they do share common goals: inspiring others to do more and be better. Discover how to incorporate great leadership into your management.

Leadership Academy

Do you want to learn what makes a good leader? At this life-changing event, you’ll master the skills, strategies and tools used by Tony himself to inspire others to empowerment and fulfillment.

The Qualities
of a Great Leader

Outstanding leaders share common traits and qualities. By studying the best and emulating their actions, we can fast track our own leadership mastery and inspire positive, lasting change.

Seven core qualities of true leaders

Seven core qualities of true leaders

In this podcast, Sam Walker, who has spent his career studying how unconventional leaders inspire, achieve and build massively successful teams, shares the essential skills and knowledge you need to join the ranks of the greatest leaders.

Seven master steps to create lasting change

Seven master steps to create lasting change

Tony’s Seven Master Steps to Create Lasting Change aren’t just for gaining confidence, building your leadership skills and learning how to influence others. They’ll positively affect every aspect of your life. Katie and Lynn learned these invaluable tips at Leadership Academy – an event they found so beneficial, they attended two years in a row. Learn more about why this is their favorite Tony Robbins event, and how you can use the knowledge you’ll discover at Leadership Academy in your own life.

Public speaking tips

Discover how you can overcome your fears and effectively speak to massive audiences as a true leader. Apply these public speaking tips and learn how to confidently command a room.

Leadership programs

a team practicing leadership

Whether you want to work on your own leadership skills or cultivate leaders within your organization, leadership development programs will help you get there.

Teaching leadership
teaching others leadership

Great leaders know that their true goal is to create the next generation of leaders. Once you’ve conquered leadership, the next step is to learn how to teach others to follow in your footsteps.

Core leadership concepts
How can I develop my leadership potential?

To become an effective leader, you must be willing to work on yourself as well as others. Developing your own potential will allow you to communicate better, positively influence others and ultimately create lasting change. Tony Robbins’ Seven Qualities of Leadership teach us that there are seven areas of our lives we must master in order to be a great leader: energy, emotions, time, relationships, purpose, finances and our ability to celebrate victories. Learn more about these seven principles and how you can use them to develop your potential.

How can I develop my leadership potential?


How do I influence people?

We took a high-level view of the characteristics of a great leader above. Let’s dig a little deeper now. Every great athlete has a coach and, fortunately for us, there are so many inspirational leaders that we don’t have to look far to pick up the core of the features, or qualities, of influence and leadership.

So what makes a good leader and how can we apply these traits to our own lives? Let’s take a look at Tony’s essential qualities of leadership.

How do I communicate like a leader?

When answering the question, “What is leadership?” effective communication is always at the top of the list. You don’t have to be a great orator like Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King Jr. to be a great leader. There are plenty of leaders who are considered legendary, but didn’t start out as great communicators – Warren Buffett, Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln among them. They learned how to not only “wow” large audiences but also to connect with others on an individual level – and the keys may not be what you think.

How can I develop leadership values?

Leaders come in all genders, ages and personalities. They can be introverts or extroverts. Old or young. That’s because what they have in common runs deeper than demographics. It’s their values that drive them and that sustain them through the ups and downs of being a leader. Values are the fundamental beliefs that drive us and our decisions, and there are certain values that are especially common among great leaders. If you want to master leadership, you must answer the question: What are your values? Do you hold any of the 18 values on this list?   

How do I make difficult emotional decisions?

If there’s one thing a leader needs to be able to do it’s the ability to make tough decisions. It comes with the territory of mastering uncertainty, of being able to lead others where they are too timid to explore on their own. This isn’t to deny the difficulty of the task and the undeniable stress that comes with it. So how do we make the decisions we need to and keep ourselves sane?

Decision-making starts from the heart and the brain. It has everything to do with our energy and our emotional state, which are completely in your control. Learn the principles of heart breathing.



How can I create a compelling future?

The ability to influence, to drive action that creates long-lasting change, is a question of creating a vision that compels. Easier said than done, right? How do we form goals, objectives and outcomes that reveal the passion in us and our team? The truth is that the power to compel and propel is within all of us, we just need to learn and practice the skills to harness that power.

If you want to influence and drive change, not just in people but also in the world around you, check out Tony’s goal-setting workshop.

How can I become an extraordinary leader?

General Stanley McChrystal is an outstanding example of effective leadership. He has been called “perhaps the finest warrior and leader of men in combat” by a former defense secretary and retired as a four-star general in 2010. Discover his philosophy that the best leadership is based on relationships, trust and empathy. This is a philosophy that will come as a surprise to many in traditional, command-and-control roles, but one that Tony Robbins knows to be efficient and effective.

an extraordinary leader

inspire action

How can I inspire action?

What is leadership without action? It isn’t worth much. Imagine a military leader whose unit doesn’t follow the plan. Or a CEO whose employees are apathetic and indifferent. Or a sports team that can’t make any plays. Tony says that “The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” Here he talks with Simon Sinek about his Ten Rules for Success that will show you how to think, act and communicate in a way that will inspire others to not only follow you, but believe in you wholeheartedly.

Want more on leadership?

Inspiring leadership in others is one of our main missions because it’s leaders like you who will help create a better world for our children.

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Why We Do What We Do

In 2007, Tony gave one of the most popular TED talks of all times. His topic: what drives and inspires human action.

Tony Robbins’ TED talk
A deeper dive with Tony

TED is a wonderful and unique source of knowledge and ideas. We share some of our favorite TED talks on leadership.

Everyday leadership with Drew Dudley
How great leaders inspire action with Simon Sinek

Ready to master effective leadership?

Great leaders are made, not born. Unlock your inner leader and develop your skills at Leadership Academy.  

Frequently Asked Questions
What is the meaning of leadership?

The answer to “What is leadership?” goes beyond delegating tasks and supervising work. Being a leader is much more than being a boss. Leaders help others reach their full potential by listening to them and supporting them with the right tools and strategies. Leaders have passion, and they live that passion every day. The energy and positivity of outstanding leadership is contagious – so it leads to amazing business outcomes, too. That’s the true importance of leadership. Learn more about the differences between being a boss and being a leader today.

What is a leadership role?

Leadership roles are often thought of as upper management titles, like supervisors, managers and executives in business or a coach in athletics. But you probably have plenty of leaders in your life who aren’t in top-level management positions. The truth is that anyone can play a leadership role in an organization – it’s about relating to others, communicating a strong vision and taking decisive action. Those are skills anyone can develop. Learn how via the Tony Robbins Leadership Academy and take command of your life.

What are the leadership models?

The overarching model that drives every leader is servant leadership: using your position to give back to others and serve a greater good. Servant leadership is the only way to find true fulfillment in your career and in life. Within that, there are many other models for leadership, including affiliative and democratic styles, which take into account the opinions of your team, and commanding or visionary models, which are more directive and reliant on inspiring others. The ultimate goal is to develop leadership skills that are so strong, you can adapt to any situation or need.

How can I improve my leadership skills?

If you want to improve your leadership skills, it helps to think of leadership in terms of influence. To be a great leader, you must focus on cultivating your ability to influence others (and yourself) to push harder, grow further and accomplish greater goals. Once you master the art of positive influence, you become a magnet for others; you become a person others turn to for guidance, insight and, yes, leadership. Find out more about becoming a master of influence and improving your leadership skills here.

As a leader, I want to make an impact on my peers. How do I do that?

The ability to make an impact on your peers is an integral part of being a great leader, so you’re on the right track by asking this question. If you want to make a lasting impact, then you must focus on honing your skills of influence to compel lasting change, which involves learning to recognize the patterns behind human behavior, figuring out how to help others identify what’s holding them back and developing the ability to apply the principles of human needs psychology. If that sounds like a lot, don’t sweat it — it’s actually a lot easier than you might think, and you can learn all about ithere.

Leaders always seem to have so much energy. How do I get the energy of a great leader?

The cool thing about truly energetic leadership is that, more often than not, it has less to do with how much sleep one gets and more to do with tapping into a vision and sense of purpose. When people feel drained and exhausted, it’s frequently because their energy is divided in a million different directions via myriad internal conflicts. If you want to tap into your energetic potential, you must identify your unifying vision — your primary purpose for being on this journey to begin with — and refer to it day after day. Once you find that, you’ll discover that there’s no limit to your energetic power. Learn more about pure energy here.