What does it mean to be a leader?

Episode 40 in Part 3 of our Introduction series: Getting to know others.

Habits:  Ongoing Learning | Be Curious

Skills:  Leadership | Community

Description:  In this episode, we seek to understand what it means to be a leader? We outline a simple approach to being a leader which makes leadership available to us all, and we introduce and explain Daniel Goleman's 5 skills of leadership; self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill.


How this lesson might be applied in the classroom

This episode looks into what it takes to be a leader. We often consider leadership to be based on a position such as team captain, CEO, Politician or General. But is it possible for anyone to be a leader? 

We outline a story that describes everyday leadership and explain how small acts can go a long way to leading others. We connect the message of striving to be the best you can be with leadership, and outline Daniel Goleman's 5 emotional intelligence skills that make the best leaders:

  1. Self-awareness

  2. Self-regulation

  3. Motivation

  4. Empathy

  5. Social Skill

In discussing this episode, some questions might include:

  • After watching this episode, how would you define leadership?

  • Do you think it's possible for anyone to be a leader? Why/Why not?

  • Why do you think leadership can be as simple as giving someone a lollipop?

  • Can you think of a time where you've done something for someone else that made you a leader? What was it?

  • Which of the 5 leadership skills do you think would be hardest to master? Why?

  • Which one do you think would be easiest to master? Why?

  • What's one example of a simple action could you take to be a leader for someone else?

  • What might stop you from taking that leadership action? Why?

Some specific discussion points

Do you have examples of students who've demonstrated leadership skills like the examples given in this episode. Can you use these as examples to share with your students? How did their actions improve someone else's outcomes? As always, discussion of any literary works, historical figures, celebrities or current events featuring prominent individuals offers an opportunity to discuss how attitude impacts different people/characters? 

Questions may include:

  • Can you think of someone (a celebrity, TV, movie or book character) who doesn't have a position of power but is a leader anyway?

  • What is it about this person or character that makes them a leader?

  • Do you think this person or character believes they are a leader? Why/Why not?

  • What positive outcomes does your leader enjoy because of their leadership skills?

  • Are there any negative outcomes to their leadership?

  • Can you think of a person or character who does have a position of power but does not meet the criteria of being a leader?

  • What is it about this person or character that prevents them from being a leader?

  • What negative outcomes does your leader have to endure because of their lack of leadership skills?

  • Are there any positive outcomes to their lack of leadership?

Discussing the quote from this episode:

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." — John Quincy Adams

Possible areas of discussion may include:

  • Why do you think Adams thinks that leadership is about inspiring others?

  • Does a leadership have to meet all the criteria Adam's outlines, i.e. dream, learn, do and become? In other words, can you just help someone to dream more and still be a leader? Why/Why not?

  • Based on Adam's description of a leader, do you think you could be a leader? Why/Why not?

  • Why do you think Adam's says your actions inspire others? Can you inspire others with just your words and still be a leader? Why/Why not?

  • What actions could you take to be a leader for others in your class?

  • What might stop you from being a leader for others? Why?

Further information on this topic

If you'd like to dive a bit deeper on this topic, you might be interested in watching:


Drew Dudley – Everyday Leadership


Or you might like to read:

What Makes a Leader?
by Daniel Goleman, Harvard Business Review, 2004.

Please let us know how we could improve this episode?

We're always keen to hear how our work can be improved. If you can think of anything we can do to improve either the delivery of our content, the content itself, the exercises, or our guides to how the lesson can be applied in the classroom, please let us know.