Leadership can’t be defined as a characteristic of an individual since it is an emergent property of the relationship between individuals. In short, leadership has to do with a ‘We’ and not with a ‘Me’. Analogously, neither hydrogen nor oxygen has the characteristic of wetness, yet water is wet. There can be no leadership with (just) one individual! This likely could explain why so many academic researchers have failed to reliably model or predict effective leadership by the traits or characteristics of a leader.
This however does not mean, in regards to leadership, that as individuals we haven’t a responsibility for our personal development (as a human being). It simply means that leadership extends beyond the finite egoic ‘Me’.
Hence the development of leadership is at base an issue of transcendence that requires progressing beyond an egoic conception of self. It is a progression toward an understanding of our ‘I-We’ nature, toward an integral sense of self. That is, while you and I are different individual ‘I’s’ we are not separate ‘Me’s’. This ‘I’ that I am and the ‘I’ that you are are deeply connected. And by acknowledging and acting on this connection we become a ‘We’.
When this happens we experience a greater fullness to our life. I am sure we all have had this experience. While some call it team spirit, it is really human spirit.
Recognizing our ‘I-We’ nature puts us in touch with the individual and collective aspects of being human and to the simultaneous responsibility we have as a result. We understand that life in society is not simply a collection of independent individuals bumping into each other as each strives to have it all for ‘Me’. While our economic system would have us believe this for the sake of maximizing our desire to consume we are not mere cogs in this machinery.
We are not simply instrumental to each other’s needs. That fact is that we need each other for more than the satisfaction of our material desires. We have a very deep (inter)penetrating responsibility to each other’s unfolding, and therefore each of us is incomplete without each other. As noted by Amitai Etzioni “the I’s need We to be” (The Moral Dimension). Accordingly, leadership can only emerge when we forsake ‘Me’ and simultaneously act consistent with our ‘I-We’ nature. Progress is not possible otherwise!