Was this article helpful?
There is no clear cut guide to being a leader. If you are leading by example, your followers will make every effort to promote, increase and implement innovative ideas, concepts and strategies.
A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves - Lao Tzu
What is Leadership?
Let’s start with the basic definition of a leader. A leader isn’t the General at the front of an army, or the teacher at the head of the class. A leader doesn’t have to be an activist or politician. A leader doesn’t necessarily have a vast education or overwhelming skills. A leader can be neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, a volunteer, a grandparent, or even a child. A leader is an individual who by their actions and deeds influences a single person or groups of people toward change. Having said that, leaders do not always lead with the best of intentions. Mother Theresa was a leader, but so was Adolf Hitler. You must determine the type of leader you want to be.
Here are some concepts to consider when trying to find your own personal definition of what a leader is?
1) Can a leader inspire change through action?
2) Can a leader inspire change through passive action?
3) Can a leader inspire change without force?
4) Can a leader lead those who do not want to follow?
5) Is a leader always a role model?
6) Does a leader allow others to participate in leadership?
7) Do you understand the intentions of those that you follow?
8) Do you understand your intentions when you are in the lead?
We all know those individuals who just seem “born” to lead. The take charge type of person that jumps in with both feet and gets the job done. Why is it some people can do this while others struggle? If there were an easy answer for that we wouldn’t be in this course. When we think of someone “born” to lead we are thinking of individuals who are in charge of active leadership; i.e.: generals, politicians, etc. We forget about the leaders of passive leadership. Social activists who work behind the scenes, volunteers who lead by example, children who raise money for charity. These individuals are leaders as well and we need broaden our definition of what leadership is.
Classic leadership relies on control and who has it, how much of it do you give to someone else, and how do you take it back if you lose it.
This style of leadership has one leader and everyone does as this individual says no ifs, ands, or buts about it. You would think to only find this style in Dictorial Governments, but it is prevalent in many businesses and organizations. Often these groups have high turnover of participants and an air of low morale.
This leadership style can be found in companies and organizations that must rely on one another to be innovative and progressive. Small companies with a minimum of staff who work together to achieve goals and results often embrace this attitude. After they become a certain size or reach their goals they usually coalesce into another form of leadership. Often these Participative leaders misunderstand leadership for management.
Laissez Faire Leadership
Many question this as being a type of leadership at all. It applies a “hands off” attitude towards leading a group’s members. Minimal amounts of time and energy are put into effectively directing the group in their goals. This type of leadership only works if you have a group of followers who are highly motivated and exceptional skills with strong interpersonal abilities. Groups who try to follow this attitude often fail due to lack of expectations for the participants.
Ohio State University and the University of Michigan made several studies in the 50’s on different styles of leadership. They determined leaders in all situations tend to have a “style” to which they adhere through the life of their leadership role. The studies could not identify a best or better style over any other.
In this style the leader evolves or emerges from the ranks of the followers to become a leader. This can work out well if the individual is prepared for the situation, but can have drastic results if they are not. Some individuals will follow whoever takes the “lead” roll, regardless of qualifications.
This leader is generally in a large organization or bureaucratic entity and leads by being able to interpret the rules and requirements of the organizational. They conduct business by the book and very rarely lead innovative change. They can be very uncomfortable when matters of the group fall outside the norm.
This leader is all about change, growth, innovation and progressive thinking. This leader looks for new ideas, concepts and policies to improve and support their organization and its participants.
Charismatic leaders are born. It is impossible to teach someone how to have Charisma. These are individuals who stop a crowd in its tracks and make people listen. This type of leader is often a transformational leader, but followers need to be careful their agenda is being followed and they are not misinterpreting the ideology of the leader by being impressed by his/her charismatic abilities.
This leader seeks to change the future for others. Followers must again understand who and why they are following this person to see if they are being lead in the proper direction. Visionary leaders can often by Charismatic of Transformational in nature.
This type of leadership is seen most often in the Armed Forces. Competiveness is the primary component. The object of this leading style is not to please the participants but to “win the game.”
This style of leadership often incorporates teams and sub-leaders to implement goals and strategies. A chain of command is essential. Some businesses have been very effective with this type of leadership style.
When working with individuals from other cultures a leader must remember that the motivational techniques for one culture may not work for another.
At a leadership conference I once attended the following question was asked. “Assume you are in a boat, with your wife/husband, your infant child and your mother. The boat overturns and you can only save one person besides yourself. Who would it be?”
The answers to these questions are often not obvious. In Western culture most would say the infant, but in other cultures it can be the mother. After all you can always find another spouse or have another child, but you only have one mother. We must remember when dealing with other cultures and attempting to lead them their cultural attitudes MUST be taken into account to get maximum results.
"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first; perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature." – Robert Greenleaf
Servant leaders work towards the best interests of their followers as well as their organization. In business this translates as appreciation for the abilities and contributions of employees and individuals as well as resources.
A leader is a dealer in hope. -Napoleon Bonaparte.
Communication is essential to an effective leader. Your followers must understand what your goals are and how you intend to achieve them.
There must be a clear and concise method for how decisions are made an implemented. The leader must follow this method unless his/her followers re notified of a change in advance of implementing it. When a leader by-passes the established method he/she undermines their own leadership abilities.
In small groups is it possible to sometimes “wing it” when leading. But generally, in business or organizations there must be a plan. Implement the plan with clear understanding of the expected results, expected behaviors of participants and a time line for completion.
A competent leader delegates responsibilities to individuals with the ability to carry them out. Be careful here. Do not delegate based on friendship, compatibility or guilt. Delegate based on what is best for your organization and who in it is best equipped to provide the optimal results.
Never assume once you have communicated your intentions and delegated responsibilities that your job is over. You must be vigilant. The importance of your project or goal must be continually communicated to your followers and participants to make sure they understand their contribution is important and valued.
There is no clear cut guide to being a leader. Often your leadership style depends on your followers, your organization and your goals. The keys to remember are, if you are leading by force of will or intimidation, your followers will be reluctant to put forth their best efforts or implement innovative ideas and techniques. If you are leading by example, your followers will make every effort to promote, increase and implement innovative ideas, concepts and strategies.
Learn more about the author, Annie Sabarte Echevarria MA....
Comment on this article
No one has posted a comment yet. Be the first!