The concept of leadership can be so broad, and the definition so narrow, that trying to identify yourself as an effective leader can be confusing at best and impossible at worst. After all, how can you lead effectively if you have no idea what “being a leader” means?

A dictionary definition of leadership is far too narrow, “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.” Yet, this one from Bill Gates, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others,” is more than a bit vague. Instead, maybe we should ask ourselves, “What do great leaders do?” and “What is the role of a leader?” or “How does a leader inspire others?”

I think we need to get back to basics here. Leaders inspire others. They provide direction – toward a reachable, identifiable goal. A leader challenges others to perform, while motivating them to seek excellence – the best within themselves. As defined by Forbes contributor Kevin Kruse, in his article What is Leadership, a leader does not simply organize the efforts of others, but instead works to maximize the efforts of others.

I firmly believe, based on my own training and experience, that most of leadership is innate rather than acquired, and most of your effectiveness as a leader comes from “knowing thy self”.

According to Warren Bennis, the great leadership teacher, self-awareness is the most important leadership skill. “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult,” he said. He added, “Leaders know the importance of having someone in their lives who will unfailingly and fearlessly tell them the truth.”

Who is helping you identify your blind spot about yourself? What do you keep doing that turns people off, but you just don’t seem to get how you are impacting others? To be a better leader, forget the tricks and models and books and seminars – get straight feedback from others you trust, and commit to changing the One Thing that decreases your influence on others.