The word leadership can refer to the process of leading, the idea of leading and those entities that carry out one or more acts of leading. In our day to day life, leadership can be viewed as either actual or potential.
Actual leader gives guidance or direction, as in the phrase “the emperor has provided satisfactory leadership”.
Potential leader has the ability and capacity to lead, as in the phrase “she could have exercised effective leadership”.
Leadership can have a formal aspect as in most political or business leadership or an informal one as in most friendships. The abstract term “leadership” usually implies that the entities doing the leading possess some leadership skills or competencies; while the term “leading” suggests action of leading.
Several types of entities may provide or exhibit leadership, actual or potential. Leadership emerges when an entity as “leader” contrives to receive deference from other entities who become “followers”. The process of getting deference can become competitive in that the emerging “leader” draws “followers” from the factions of the prior or alternative “leaders”.
In a democratic country, the people retain sovereignty but delegate day to day administration and leadership to elected representatives.
Competence or perceived competence provides a possible basis for selecting leadership elites from a broader pool of talent. Political lobbying may demonstrate necessary in electoral systems, but instantly demonstrated character and skill may secure leadership in smaller groups such as a service agency.
Many organizations and groups aim to identify, foster and encourage what they see as leadership potential or ability especially among younger members of society. The issues of succession planning or of legitimating a leader become important when leadership particularly individual leadership might or must change due to accident, term expiry or senescence.