Many authors have defined about leadership in various ways. But this article focuses about the ways and means by which any lay man can cultivate and inculcate this much sought after trait. It clearly differentiated between talent and skill and it concluded at the end that leadership is a skill that can be cultivated by a common man. It highlighted about the qualities needed in any leader. It laid emphasis between a manager and a leader. It has come out with novel strategies and secrets and tools and techniques by which an ordinary person can become an extraordinary person. This article is highly useful for CEOs and aspiring leaders in the corporate world.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”, John Quincy Adam.
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?
“Research on leadership indicates that 50 – 75 per cent of organizations are currently managed by people sorely lacking in leadership competence. They are hired or promoted based on technical competence, business knowledge and politics not on leadership skill”. Before explaining in detail about leadership it is worthwhile to identify whether it is a skill or a talent. If it is a talent then leadership is an inborn quality as talents are innate by nature. If it is a skill, then it can be acquired by voracious reading, learning, continuous practice, by training and by experience. If it is a talent then the leaders are born if it is a skill then the leaders are made.
Leadership is more of an action rather than by preaching. Leadership is the ability to lead from the front despite many successive setbacks with a passion and with a conviction of a great vision. It is also taking a sense of responsibility, setting as a role model with qualities like courage, commitment and conviction. Leadership is also a way of calling ‘we’ not ‘I’ because no leader is successful as an individual. Whenever there is a success the leader ascribes it to his team behind and in case of a failure, he owns the sole responsibility. There are many dimensions and definitions to the concept of leadership. In this context, it is pertinent and relevant to classify the types of leadership.
Traditionally there are three types of leadership - Dictatorial or Autocratic leadership, Democratic or Participative leadership and Delegative or Free reign leadership. In the case of the autocratic leadership, the leader takes decisions of his own based on his gut feeling and intuition and orders the execution of his instructions. And the followers have to accept and execute whether they like the same or not. There are no consultations or discussions with subordinates in this style. And in the case of any debacle he is held solely responsible for his actions and instructions. That is the reason it is also called as dictatorial style and it is unique in military organizations.
In democratic leadership, the leader consults with his subordinates on various occasions and takes them into confidence. A consensus is generated after weighing the pros and cons of the matter. Entire team is held responsible either for success or failure of the decision making. Since many key heads are involved in decision making it is called as democratic type of leadership.
Thirdly, in the delegative style of leadership, the decision making is delegated by the leader to his subordinates. The second in command takes the decision and executes. Even if there is any failure, the leader is held responsible as he delegated the decision making power to his lieutenant. It is also known as free reign leadership. All leaders make use of all the three styles and types as per the situation. It is not prudent to declare that a specific style is wrong.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD LEADER:
First and foremost quality of any leader is to have passion to lead the people and the passion to serve the people. Passion is nothing but a burning desire to contribute his best for the people without expecting any returns. Only when he is passionate he can ignite passion amongst his followers.
He should have a vision and a common goal or objective for which people should have interest to come forward to realize the goals and objectives. Only when the vision is strong then the mission can be strong. He knows ‘where to go’ and he directs his followers continuously by showing ‘how to go’.
He should be a self-motivator and only self motivators become self starters. He should be filled with strong convictions and should be highly motivated so that he can maintain higher levels of energy amongst his followers.
Zig Zigler Zig said, 97 per cent people live in comfort zone and only 3 per cent of the people live in effective zone. The leaders always live in the effective zone and they get excited by being always in effective zone. They love to face challenges continuously. They continue shifting from one orbit to another at ease.
Leaders always look for excellence not for perfection. They always look at the things positively and are firm optimists.
They experiment a lot and make many mistakes and learn a lot from the same and for them every big fall is a big rise. They rise like phoenix. Robert Francis Kennedy rightly quoted, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.
They are excellent networkers and thrive on network. Even if they fall they rise because of their strong network. And the network helps either because he has helped them in the past with altruism or because their network is fascinated with his altruistic and leadership style.
They are men of integrity and strong character. They are very firm in their commitments and convictions. They have higher tolerance levels and have a positive bent of mind towards other people’s sentiments and cultures.
They maintain stoic silence and display mental and emotional stability even in extreme provocations or failures. They are excellent listeners and listen to different people with different dimensions and yet maintain independent thinking in arriving at solutions.
Good leaders always talk of positive things and make positive statements like ‘you can do it’, ‘it is possible’, ‘you will achieve big’ and so on. And they never make negative remarks like ‘it is impossible’, ‘it is doubtful’, ‘you can never improve’ etc.,
They are open to change and they know very well that change is always constant. They become the champions of change and are very effective change masters.
For them, success is not outsmarting others but setting their own goals and touching their upper limits. Once they reach their upper limits they raise the bar automatically and again touch their upper limits.
They never beat around the bush and always stay focused. Neither can they be neither distracted nor diverted from their cherished goals and objectives. They know how to hit the bulls’ eye.
They always radiate positive energy and are expert at visualizing opportunities from threats. They know how to capitalize on their strengths, how to overcome from their weaknesses, manage both the internal and external threats effectively and effectively and last but not the least they are good at spotting the opportunities.
They strongly believe in others and trust their subordinates or followers. As trust begets trust, the leader in turn is trusted by his followers.
They always look at the big picture. If a lay man thinks about the repercussions, implications and complications of a decision making just after a step. The leader thinks, imagines the same, number of stages and steps ahead based on his abilities in problem solving and also because of his experience.
All great leaders are strong at communication skills. They mesmerize their followers with their oratorical skills and abilities and they continuously ignite and excite their followers to reach their goals.
”Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”, quoted John F. Kennedy. They learn and grow continuously. They regularly update their skills and abilities. Most of the great leaders are great readers. Apart from providing motivation and inspiration books also provide great ideas.
Leaders create their own set of advisers and consult them whenever they are confronted with complicated situations. Their team of trusted advisors provides various comments and after having brainstorming discussions the right solution is arrived and the leaders adopt the same.
They find out the unexplored and unexploited areas and they build up mindset, skills set, tools set so as to excel in those areas and people follow them as they are specialist in those area. They rarely follow the road and rather they make a road for their followers and leave a mark behind. In this context, it is apt to quote, “Don’t follow where path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”.
Neither are they dominant nor submissive and are flexible and are assertive in their dealings. They respect people and love people and they do not hesitate to go extra mile to please their people.
Leaders are socially adept and have social intelligence and they know the value of people and value of relations. John C.Maxwell rightly quoted, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”.
Leaders are sound at judgment. They know the strengths and weaknesses of their subordinates and utilize them according to their skills and abilities so as to meet the desired goals and objectives. They are smart at converting ordinary people as extraordinary people.
They know how to balance their lives and good at leading balanced life. They have self discipline and do the things proactively without prompting of others. They move like a clock in a systematic and organized manner and are competent time managers.
Leaders know how to motivate their followers and they know the knack of uncorking and unlocking the hidden potential amongst the people. It is aptly said, “A leader is someone who helps others do and become more than they ever thought possible. Leadership is about unlocking potential, whether individual potential or that of a group, company, or organization. It is not about telling people what to do, but inspiring them to see what they are capable of, then, helping them get there”.
Good leaders are effective motivators and they understand the gravity of the situation and don the hat as per the situation and give their best to provide win-win situation for all without hurting anybody. They are excellent in persuasive skills, goal setting skills and soft skills.
LEADERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT:
Both are closely related although there are a few basic differences.
Peter F.Drucker said, “Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things”. It clearly demarcates the difference by saying that management deals with how efficiently the work is done and leadership deals with how effectively the work is done. Management insists on performance where as leadership talks about productivity.
While leadership focuses more on vision the management lays stress on mission. While the leaders talk of where to reach the goals, the managers talk of how to reach. The leader derives power the manager acts as per the authority. When the manager provides the direction the leader sets the pace and speed. The manager always follow the road where as it is the leader who creates road. The manager is involved in execution while the leader is involved in delegation. It is the leader who is always the high risk taker where as the manager has limited risk to take.
The manager always does the different things where as the leader does the things differently with his unconventional attitude. The manager is with in the hierarchy where as the leader is the creator of the hierarchy. Ultimately to put it in a nut shell, if the manager puts efforts in climbing the ladder and it the role of the leader to see that the ladder is on the right side of the wall. To sum it up in the words of Stephen R.Covey, “Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall”.
Fed Express Corporation, the world’s largest express transportation company believes in nurturing the leadership skills of its employees. Any one aspiring to become a leader has to undergo LEAP (Leadership Evaluation and Assessment Process) test. All organizations are laying emphasis on leadership development programs and many companies are conducting workshops on Leadership in order to enhance productivity and performance in this cut throat competitive world.
HOW TO CULTIVATE LEADERSHIP QUALITIES?
• Take someone you love the most and the one who is successful and when you remember him you get ignited spontaneously as your role model and learn to behave like a leader. Of course, you make mistakes and people have reached to the level of leadership after learning a lot from their mistakes.
• Possess passion to become a leader because leadership is more of a state of mind than that of an action and again more of an action than that of theory. Participate in group activities and slowly you develop the skills. Whenever there is an opportunity to organize group activities like functions, seminars, meetings take proactive posture. Involvement is essential.
• Visualize yourself as a successful leader standing on the top of the world with so many followers around you applauding you. This visualization will motivate you to strive towards building leadership qualities.
• Read number of motivational books, biographies and autobiographies of great leaders across the world, you learn new ideas and concepts and try to put the same which were untried and unexplored.
• Have clarity of mind and approach because it is leader who should first understand the way, should go the same way thereby paving the path for his followers.
• Always cultivate and inculcate the in built attitude like what best can you give to people not what can you get from the people.
• Never shy away from shouldering responsibilities. Given the opportunity, shoulder the responsibilities and you can learn many lessons out of it.
• You need to display constant levels of energy and enthusiasm and must take initiative in all your endeavors.
• Knowing in depth about your field or areas of study will provide you the arms and ammunition like competence; confidence and courage which over a period of time make you rise from the rest. Having knowledge in your chosen area along with integrity will bring effective results as both are coupled. Failure to bring synergy between these two will prove to be a great disaster. In this context, Samuel Johnson aptly said, “Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless. And knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”.
• M.K.Gandhi became a Mahatma Gandhi only by involving himself in the freedom movement and by moving along with common people and he motivated the people to participate in the freedom movement. He won success because he practiced what he preached. He was a Karma yogi. You have to be part of the people in order to motivate, inspire and provide a right kind of direction.
• You need to display a lot of endurance because things will not go as per your plans. At times, problems crop up due to your internal forces and factors which can be manageable up to certain extent and the problems do arise due to external forces and factors and endurance is an imperative in this context.
• Develop emotional intelligence as this trait will help you get along with people and develop social adjustment. Enhance edge and this will toughen you mentally very strong. And when the going gets touch, the tough gets going. Develop perseverance and move like a marathoner because you know where you are going and why you are going.
• Conduct SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis. It is a wonderful tool and by this you can analyze your strengths and weaknesses which will help you to maximize your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses. Manage the most of your time in capitalizing your strengths and less of your time in converting your weaknesses into strengths and the least of your time in delegating the weaknesses that can not be overcome to your subordinates.
• Whenever you are wedded with success share the same and pass on to your team members and followers. No leader attained success by himself independently. Whenever success comes it comes purely because of collective efforts, team efforts and all the people involved in the movement.
• Last but not the least never misuse your authority for your personal ends or to settle your scores with your rivals. Never let down the trust and confidence of your followers. So far in the history of mankind, no followers let down their leaders but it is only a few leaders who let down their followers.
Leadership is a skill not a talent which can be acquired by reading, learning, training, continuous practice and experience. Every one should know that leaders are not born but are made due to external environment and circumstances. The road to leadership is not an easy but an uphill and an Herculean task. Anybody can become a leader but everybody can not become a leader. The leaders lead their lives with lot of struggles and sacrifices and they live larger than life even after their death because they live more in the hearts of the people rather than in the minds of the people.
More than half of all CEOs of all Fortune 500 companies had an average academic educational background. The boss of Microsoft, Mr. Bill Gates is a college drop out and also the boss of Dell Corp, Mr. Michael Dell is also a college drop out. Half of all millionaire entrepreneurs never finished their college. But what made all of them to tick as leaders? The answer is a simple 7 letter word, - PASSION. It is the first and last eligibility to attain the status of a 6 letter word – LEADER.
30th May 2008 From Nigeria, Lagos
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