What Is A Leader?

A Game of chess with a pawn on it's own

A Game of chess with a pawn on it's own, by: Michael Mongon

I have reported to and been in the role that had the mantle of leader. The mantle is expected with many titles. You expect a manager of people and C-suite titles to be people who are good leaders. Unfortunately, it is not always the case, some simply give directions.

Leadership isn't a position. it's a mindset. Leadership is a responsibility, and a commitment to serve and inspire. There are titles like ‘servant leader’ that I find myself using often in my career as it’s the leadership style I try to embody, but a leader should serve those around them by coaching, and inspiring. A good leader finds ways to illuminate the path forward for others showing them the path and how they are a part of lighting the path for others too. A leader requires collaborative empathy in every action.

Each of these things (and probably more that aren’t listed) are something a leader should focus on as they build stronger relationships with their colleagues:


A great leader I had the privilege of working with taught me a valuable lesson about coaching. We were at a conference looking to learn and potentially some SAAS services. I introduced him as my ‘boss.’ It was later on the flight home that he leaned over and quietly said to me, “Don’t introduce me as your ‘boss’ in the future.”

He went on to explain, we are all colleagues. We all work on different things and together build a better project. The lesson was partially he didn’t like being referred to as the boss. He wanted to encourage collaboration. More than that, he wanted to make sure the connections I made at the conference were things I would hang on to and not just be his.

What I learned as well was how he did this. He gave me this coaching in private, at a good moment. He didn’t wait until we were at work the next day, too much time would have passed to remember the situation well. He did it quietly to save any potential embarrassment. Then he went on to explain it to make sure I understood what he meant. It was all qualities of great coaching we can strive to embody.


I was once told me come each day like a colleague had just lost their dog. I do hope no one has to go through this. Dogs should be immortal, they are caveman's best friend. This is an extreme example that will of course not happen every day, so why go that far?

You go that far because it does happen, and colleagues do need grace when they are struggling. Even if it’s something you cannot fully understand, empathy is needed in many situations. It can help you connect with those around you understanding diverse perspectives.

At work, work still needs to get done, and empathy isn’t just about dealing with grief. Empathy can often be used to get the tough to explain idea in front of everyone. Everyone is an expert at something and digging into those unique perspectives is how you create something great. You find them through nurturing empathy and looking for that fostered innovation.


A commitment to the product and team is needed. This sometimes comes across as setting the vision or direction the product is going while other times it's seen as taking a little extra time to help train a colleague. Both of these things are about growth.

I know, some CEO just read this and said, see, you have to love your job and work 90 hours like I tell everyone I do. Who am I kidding, no CEO is reading my blog.

What this means is that a good leader commits to what they are doing. Some days are better or worse than others (refer back to empathy above to understand why). Dorry said it best, ‘just keep swimming’ and moving forward.


You hear a lot about leaders needing to be confident and lack fear. That can be helpful, but both things can blind a person to reality. A good leader needs to be honest with the information they have and share that knowledge as often as they can.

This is the most important and hardest concept for most leaders to grasp even though it is the simplest. It’s hard because it means if it’s bad news it’s a difficult conversation. It’s difficult for a good leader because they should be empathetic to the bad news. Even when the news is good it can be hard to be a good leader because at work success of a project usually means more projects ahead.

Honesty builds trust. Trust is the thing that can break faster than anything, and takes a long time to build back. A leader needs trust, and while they can demand it, it will take time to earn. Through honesty, they can keep the trust and continue to build it.


The most crucial aspect of leadership is its ripple effect. A true leader inspires others to become leaders themselves, cultivating a legacy of mentorship and empowerment that extends far beyond their tenure. Share the knowledge you’ve gained across your proverbial campfires, adding and iterating on what you’ve collectively learned. Once a leader, the work is never over, but it is more rewarding.