You have probably read different books about leadership, but have you ever found one that actually details what leadership is all about? What is leadership? This is such a simple question, yet both expert consultants and lay people alike cannot seem to agree on one definitive meaning.
Before you start learning the concept of leadership, you need to know what it is not.
Leadership Does Not Have Anything To With One’s Seniority Or Position In The Corporate Ladder
Many people believe that the leaders in the company are the executives in the top positions.
They are not necessarily leaders, just senior executives.
You do not automatically become a leader once you reach a certain pay grade in the company.
Titles Do Not Affect Leadership
Similar to the previous point, that you earned a C-level position in the company, does not necessarily make you a leader.
You do not need to have a title to be considered a leader.
For instance, you can become a leader in your church, temple, or mosque.
You can be a leader in your small neighborhood, you can also be the leader of your family.
You can be all of these things and you do not necessarily need a title attached to your name.
Your Personal Attributes Have Nothing To Do With Being A Leader
When you hear the word ‘leader’, you most likely imagine an assertive, charismatic individual with a take-charge attitude.
But this is just one of the leadership qualities.
Some of the great leaders that usually come to mind include Joan of Arc, Mother Teresa, General Patton, George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., and other historic personalities.
Effective leadership is not just an adjective.
You do not need charisma to become a leader, and those who do have charisma do not necessarily always want to be a leader.
Management Is Different From Leadership
These two things are not synonymous to each other, but most people believe that they are.
For instance, if you have fifteen people working under you, and you have other responsibilities, then you need to be a good manager.
You need to know how to plan, monitor, coordinate, hire people, let go of people, and many other managerial tasks.
However, you are not really leading anyone just by doing these tasks.
Managers manage the operations, leaders lead the team.
So, What Exactly Is Leadership?
Now that you know what leaders are not, you can start learning who a leader is.
According to most dictionaries, leadership is a process of social influence.
A leader knows how to maximize the efforts put out by the people in his/her team to achieve their common goal.
Based on this definition, you can safely assume that leadership;
- Comes from one’s social influence, and not from his position of authority or power.
- Requires the cooperation of other people, acknowledging that they are not just there to directly report to you.
- Does not require one to have certain personality traits, attributes, or titles.
- Has many styles so you can take several different paths to get to your desired style of leadership.
- Comes with a goal: You do not simply influence others to work without a clear outcome.
- Uses the team’s skills as a whole to reach the set goal.
Technically speaking, a leader is someone who can use his or her social influence to organize and direct the efforts of others.
A leader will not say, “Hey everyone line up and start marching towards the top of that hill and ensure you get to the top, no pressure.”
Instead, he or she says, “Let’s find out how fast WE can get to the top of that mountain together.
If anyone can get to the summit ahead of me, the first round of drinks is on me!”
Business Leaders And Their Bottom Lines
In the world of business, the importance of leadership skills correlates to positive performance.
This is why most definitions of leadership take this detail into account.
Although leadership is not always about earning a huge profit, in business, good leaders are those who manage to increase their respective companies’ bottom lines.
If the board of directors of a certain company finds that one of their people in a leadership role did not meet his profit quota for the year as set by the board of directors, there is a huge chance that he might get terminated from the job.
‘Management’ and ‘leadership’ tend to be used interchangeably in the business world, but they are two different things altogether.
Most companies refer to their management structure as its ‘leadership, meaning that they see their managers as leaders of the different teams within the company.
However, leadership needs character traits that go beyond managerial duties.
Leaders are, in general, more people-oriented. Leaders are more like visionaries than actual ‘doers’.
They know how to effectively listen to their followers and they know how to motivate people.
They also have empathy and can innately connect with others.
These strengths of a leader are highly critical if you want to become one.
If you are building a team of people to complete a project for your company, you need to keep in mind that logic alone is not enough to build high-performing teams, gain positive customer relationships, and ensure that the project delivers what is needed of it.
You will also need a bit of creativity and empathy.
Also, you will need to take some risks and have a clear vision.
Most importantly, to make an efficient team, you need to know how to connect with others on a personal level.
This is not to say that managers are not useful.
They are great at what they do and they can accomplish the things that they set out to do.
In fact, in many companies, if not all, you will need almost as many managers as you do leaders.
Oftentimes, you will run into tight deadlines, which means you will not have enough time and resources to brainstorm for strategies.
You will need to get things done in a timely and methodical manner, and this is where managers can help.
In short, the biggest difference between managers and leaders is that the former wants to get things done efficiently without particularly paying attention to the group’s vision.
Whereas the latter wants to gain an understanding of the problem and listen to what the people involved have to say.
After that, then provide their own vision to achieve a solution that is much better than the status quo.
Are Leaders Born Or Made?
It is true that some people seem to be born with leadership skills, or at least endowed with more abilities as compared to others.
But you can actually learn or improve some of your particular skills to become a leader yourself.
However, the question remains, ‘how can one be a good leader?’
If history is any indication, there are plenty of people who had no previous leadership experience but managed to step up in times of crisis and led their followers towards success.
Even though they were not natural-born leaders, these people had the skills and traits that made them great leaders when the need arose.
What this means is that anyone who has even an inkling of being a good leader can actually become a great one.
Characteristics of a Leader
Honesty And Integrity
According to Dwight D. Eisenhower, integrity is the supreme quality of a leader.
Without integrity, you cannot really attain success.
Honesty and integrity are the two most important qualities of a leader.
Just think about it; how can you expect honesty from your followers if you do not have said quality yourself?
Effective leaders are confident about themselves.
This somewhat ensures that their followers follow their directions.
If you have little or no confidence in your decisions and qualities, it is very unlikely that your followers will believe in you too.
As a leader, you need to be oozing with confidence.
You need to have some resolve and be a bit more assertive so that you can gain the respect of your team.
However, this does not mean you should be arrogant and overconfident, you should at least show enough confidence to gain the trust of your followers.
The most difficult job for leaders by far is to persuade people to follow them.
You can only persuade people to follow you if you can inspire them, and you do this by setting a good example.
Whenever people run into a rough patch in their lives, they will turn to you to see if you have the ability to put yourself in their shoes.
If you can handle stress well, people will flock towards you.
Not only should you think positive, but this positivity should also show through your actions.
You need to keep calm even when under pressure.
Commitment And Passion
If you are a leader, it is only natural for your team to look up to you for guidance.
And if you want them to give all they can towards achieving your goals, you need to show them that you are passionate about it as well.
When your team sees that you are digging in the dirt with them, and you are also getting your hands dirty working, they will want to give it their best as well.
On the other hand, if your team feels that you lack commitment, motivating them to work harder towards achieving your goal will be very difficult.
It can be difficult for your team to achieve the results that you want if you cannot clearly communicate your vision to them.
To put it simply, you will never be a good leader if you cannot even communicate with your team.
Words have the power to light a fire under people’s butts make them do the unthinkable.
If you can use your words wisely, you can make your team achieve the best results.
Aside from foresight, an effective leader should know to make the right decision at the right time.
As a leader, your decision will have a noticeable effect on your team and on the masses.
You need to think long and hard before you make a decision, and once you have made up your mind, you should stand by your decision.
According to a famous American businessman, Arnold H. Glasow, “a good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, and a little less than his share of the credit.”
This means that you are ensuring that every one of your team members is accountable for their share of the project.
If your team does a good job, then give them props for a job well done.
When you see them struggling, point out their mistakes and then help each other improve.
Making your team accountable for their actions will give them a sense of responsibility, which will make them automatically want to do their jobs better.
Delegation And Empowerment
No matter how talented or skilled you think you are, the truth is that you cannot be good at everything.
When you are burdened with a huge project, it only makes sense that you delegate the tasks to your team members.
As a leader, it is important that you only focus on your key responsibilities and leave the rest to your team.
This means you will be empowering your followers and assigning responsibilities to each of them.
However, you should avoid micromanaging your subordinates as it will only make you lose focus on your own responsibilities, allow them to work on their own.
Provide your team with the resources and support they will need, and then allow them to bear the burden of responsibility for their tasks.
Creativity And Innovation
According to Steve Jobs (you will be learning more about him later), “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.
To keep up within the fast-paced modern world, you as a leader must have a ton of creativity and know-how to innovate.
These qualities of a good leader allow you and your team to stand out from the rest.
Learn to think out of the box.
Think of other ways you can solve a problem.
You might just stumble upon a better, and much easier method.
Many failed leaders use a dictatorial style of managing their teams and have no empathy.
Because they do not have any kind of connection with their team members, these leaders cannot motivate their teams to work together towards a common goal.
If you understand the problems that your members are going through and you also feel their pain then you are on your way to becoming one of the greatest leaders.
Now, even if you have all these traits, you still need to work harder than before and gain the respect and admiration of your team.
Thereby making them more effective.
Steve Jobs – The Evolution Of A Leader
If you want an example of a person who was definitely not born to become a leader but became one anyway, you don’t need to look further than former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.
Back in the early days of the company, Jobs did not really have a good grasp of how to run Apple.
After starting the company from his garage back in 1976, the board of directors of Apple decided to fire Jobs as the CEO of the company in 1985.
Reasons being that they did not agree with the future direction that he was steering the company towards, especially since at the time Apple was struggling with a lot of competition.
However, Jobs did not let his recent layoff affect him at all.
He went on to start the now popular animation studio, Pixar.
He later started another tech company, called NeXT Computer.
After a string of successes in business, Apple rehired Jobs in 1997.
And since he came back, even after his death, the company has been responsible for devices that have changed the world, like the iPod, the iPhone, and many others.
By all accounts, Jobs was a genius and was not really what you would call a people person.
Early in his career, Steve Jobs would routinely yell at the employees and partners.
Even the vendors working with Apple at the time have been at the receiving end of his bad temper.
According to some ex-employees of NeXT, Steve Jobs was intolerant of anything that he remotely viewed as a failure.
Notably, until today, people still talk about his legendary foul-mouthed tirades.
Jobs was not the typical type of leader.
He believed in being brutally honest with everyone he met without any regard for their feelings.
He never conducted formal employee reviews, and he was sparing with his praises, even when they did a good job.
However, if any of the recent biographies about Steve Jobs is any evidence, his management style matured, and he started to rein in his negative traits.
People actually said that in his final years at Apple, Jobs developed more empathy for his employees.
He knew that people are not machines, they have limits.
When he returned to Apple, he needed to cut back the staff of the company, and he was quoted to have been concerned with the former employees and their families.
Do you now know what Leadership is?
What is your experience of being a leader?
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