Somewhere along the line you learned what leadership is or isn’t. Put simply…..
The role of a leader is to create followers;
The task of a leader is to bring about constructive change; and
The responsibility of a leader is to bring about the change in a way that is responsive to the true and long-term needs of all stakeholders.
There are many ways to define leadership just as the word leadership means different things to different people. Simplistically, leadership is the art of getting people to do things they have either never thought possible or didn’t want to do. Effective leadership means influencing people to get things done to a standard and quality above their norm, and doing it willingly.
Peter Drucker, in his book “The Leader of the Future” sums up leadership as follows:
“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
In his book Twenty-One Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John Maxwell sums up his definition of leadership as “influence – nothing more, nothing less.” Maxwell believes everything rises and falls on leadership. In an organization, leadership is the action of committing employees to contribute their best to the purpose of the organization.
Warren Bennis’ definition of leadership is focused much more on the individual capability of the leader: “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”
Regardless of how different people define leadership, great leaders are visionaries who move others to action.
Leadership is complex
Leaders find a way of focusing and motivating a group of people to enable them to achieve both individual goals and the goals of an organization. Leaders know how to bring people together so that they function collaboratively. Leaders also know how to motivate others to perform at their optimum by working through emotions and acting as an emotional compass.
They find effective ways to understand and improve the way they handle both their own emotions and the emotions of their followers. When leaders drive emotions positively, they bring out the best in their followers. They ignite people’s passion, inspire the best in them, and create resonance.
Leaders also know how to balance an individual team member’s needs and goals with that of a team. Without leadership, it is difficult to mold a group of individuals into a team.
Combining all these definitions, you can see leadership is a complex activity involving:
- A process of influence
- People who are both leaders and followers
- Integrity, trust, commitment and communication
- A range of possible outcomes not only the achievement of goals, but also the commitment of individuals to achieve goals
- The enhancement of group cohesion and the reinforcement of change
Chaos or stagnation
Leadership and management are two very distinct systems of operation. Sometimes both functions overlap. What that means is, leadership and management are like both sides of a coin, each side has its own specific functions and characteristics; yet both are critical to success.
The roles of leadership and management are often blurred.
There is a distinct difference between being a leader and a manager. As a leader, you are responsible for the future direction of an organization and the processes that produce economic results. Equally you are also responsible for your people and the environment in which they work. To be an effective leader, it is important to identify where people and processes meet.
When organizations have a balance of both leadership and management, they are well equipped to adapt to change and meet challenges along the way. Many organization’s lack one or the other. When leadership exists without management, the organization is subject to chaos.
Growth at any cost is indicative of leadership without management. It’s a function of ready, fire aim! When management exists without leadership, an organization doesn’t adapt and grow.
Organizations overstaffed with managers and few leaders lack enough leadership to help them deal with constant change resulting in stagnation.
Leadership is not a title
Owning a business does not automatically make you a leader or manager.
You might own or manage a business it doesn’t automatically make you a leader or a manager, at best it makes you a boss. In this case people who are new to business ownership or management frequently think their ‘appointed position’ or ownership of a business entitles them to be the leader and that all they should do is to “tell their subordinates to do something”, and they will respond accordingly. This is not necessarily the case. In fact, the smarter the subordinate, the less likely they will blindly follow orders from you even if you are the boss.
Over time, business owners and managers become more effective by developing the requisite leadership skills by learning how to be a leader. Firstly, you must earn your subordinates’ respect and trust in order to exercise significant authority and influence over them. Then you need to demonstrate to your subordinates that you have credibility. Credibility is achieved through your actions, competence, and the ability to get things done. Once you have earned the right to lead, subordinates will follow.
Effective leaders also recognize that what they know is very little in comparison to what they still need to learn.
To be more proficient in pursuing and achieving objectives, you should be open to new ideas, insights, and revelations that can lead to better ways to accomplishing goals. This continuous learning process can be exercised through engaging yourself in a constant dialogue with peers, advisors, consultants, team members, suppliers, customers and competitors.
Leading others is not simply a matter of style, or following some ‘how-to’ guides or recipes. Ineffectiveness of leaders seldom results from a lack of know-how, nor is it typically due to inadequate managerial skills. Leadership is not just about creating a great vision. It is about creating conditions under which all your followers can perform independently and effectively toward a common objective.
Leaders have vision; they are not just in it for themselves, they set a common goal and give direction to their followers. People are most willing to follow those who know what they are doing. In difficult positions, leadership flows to the person who knows what to do in each situation. That person isn’t always the appointed leader, manager or business owner.
Definition of a boss
A boss is in charge, especially in the work environment. They can also be the dominant partner in a business relationship or the dominant member of a group who tends to make give instructions and make decisions. It doesn’t necessarily make them an effective leader or manager.
The difference between a leader and a manager
Leaders and managers are not the same yet the same person can perform both functions. Let’s compare the two.
- Leaders provide the direction by developing the organizational vision and communicating it to the employees and inspiring them to achieve it
- Managers follow established policies and procedures and directions set down by leaders
- Leaders get their authority from their followers not from a title or position
- Managers get their authority and power by their title and position
- Leaders focus on directing the function of management
- Managers focus on planning, organizing, directing others and controlling the environment
- Leaders focus on people; listening, building relationships, teamwork, inspiring, motivating and persuading others
- Manager’s deal with the technical and day-to-day operational dimension in an organization Managers lay down the structure and delegate’s authority and responsibility
- Leaders build capacity and capacity in their team. They evaluate individuals as having potential and align them towards achieving the organization’s vision
- Managers keep people accountable by measuring and evaluating their performance and providing feedback
- Leaders operate in a proactive space
- Managers operate in a more reactive space
Leadership and management must meet in the middle. Some traits are common to both.
Skills needed to be an effective leader
There are five key components to being an effective leader. You need to:
- Set the direction of your organization by being a visionary
- Develop your people skills so that you can lead your people
- Have robust plans, systems and processes to operate the business
- Communicate well with all your stakeholders
- Keep people accountable along the way
In summary, you need to have a desire to lead with integrity and be committed to your vision, purpose and values.
Desire to lead
Without the desire to lead, you will not be willing to do what it takes to lead others. Not all business owners actually run their own business. If they don’t have a desire to lead, they usually put in a manager in charge who does have that desire. Not all managers are comfortable or have the skill set to run a business. With coaching, mentoring and a burning desire to lead, managers can learn to step up to the plate provided they are willing to learn.
Commitment to vision and values
If you started a business from scratch, you are the first leader of your organization. In your mind you would have had a vision for the future of your business even if it wasn’t written down. You knew what your purpose was and directly or indirectly you established a set of values from which to operate.
As your business grows, you employ others hopefully others that share your vision, purpose and values. If you are not committed to your vision purpose and values, then you cannot expect your employees and customers to follow you.
It’s the same with a person who runs or manages a business, they too must be committed to the vision, purpose and values and achievement of organizational goals. If you cannot expect others to follow.
Integrity can be defined as simply being true to your word. If you think about a boss you didn’t like, most likely they weren’t true to their word. They did not live up to their promises, they took credit for work others did, they did not live and breathe the values of an organization, they were gossips or treated people with a lack of respect. In other words, ‘they lacked integrity.’ Would you follow a leader like this? Most likely not and neither do others. To have integrity, you must be sincere, consistent and act in a way that lives and breathe your values.
- Being authentic
- Accepting responsibility
- Being honest about your limitations
- Telling the truth
- Treating employees equally
- Following through on your promises
- Keep employee information private
- Don’t criticize condemn or complain
- Give credit where its due
- Care about the development of your employees
- Keep the communication lines open
- Resolve conflict fairly and quickly
In a nutshell
You need to have a desire to lead with integrity and be committed to your vision, purpose and values to be an effective leader
In a Nutshell
- All leadership and no management creates chaos
- All management and no leadership creates stagnation
- Leadership is not a title – it must be earned
- Being a boss doesn’t make you a leader
- Leaders think in the future – managers think in the present
- Leadership and management share some traits but must meet in the middle
The five key skills of leadership are:
- Setting the direction by being visionary
- Developing people skills to lead people
- Create robust plans, systems and processes to operate the business
- Well developed communication skills
- Keeping people accountable