What is Leadership? What is a leader? What separates a successful “leader” from a “manager”? These questions are asked by many, from students to business owners. The questions are not simple, therefore there are no unambiguous answers to them. If the secret of “leadership” were simple, then millions of people would “very simply” become outstanding leaders.
Modern Realities And True Leaders
The word “leadership” is present in the list of values of most modern companies. The unambiguous understanding and acceptance of this value by every employee of the company is an indispensable condition for successful work and development in any effective team.
However, in management theory and practice, the term “leadership” itself has a very large number of definitions and interpretations, which in no way contributes to an unambiguous understanding.
So What Is Leadership?
Most definitions of leadership are also based on the designation of the abilities and qualities that distinguish the leader from the group. One of the classic management definitions of leadership, by Martin Chemers and widely used in MBA programs, also appeals to individual capabilities:
“Leadership is a process of social influence in which an individual can attract help and gain the support of others to achieve a common goal.”
What personal qualities and character traits should an individual possess in order to meet the definition of “leader”? Is it possible to “educate” a leader? Is it possible to develop leadership qualities, or are leaders born? Scientists have been looking for answers to these questions for centuries. In the 20th century, the problem of leadership attracted the attention of sociologists, social psychologists, theorists and management practitioners.
Leadership as a set of certain mental qualities has been studied and described by numerous authors, including Jennings, McGregor, Vroom and others. Within the framework of the theory of traits, a group of concepts has developed that describe the personality of a leader and its characteristics. Nowadays, these concepts in the field of requirements for the leader and the listing of leadership qualities are widely used in management and in the training of management specialists in the framework of MBA programs.
Key Personality Traits of True Leader
Most research shows that possessing certain personality traits alone does not guarantee leadership success, but it has been proven that effective leaders differ from other people in certain key characteristics. The key personality traits of a leader include the following qualities (Kirkpatrick & Locke):
- “Drive” is a broad term that includes ambition, focus on results, energy, tenacity (grip, firmness of will), initiative.
- Personal and social leadership motivation.
- Honesty and directness.
- Self-confidence and emotional stability.
- Cognitive ability (ability to learn).
- Business knowledge.
There is much less scientific and practical evidence that other traits such as charisma, creativity, flexibility, have a significant impact on leadership success. Successful leaders may have charisma, but in the eyes of modern scholars, this trait can be extremely important mainly for political leaders. Effective leaders can also be more creative than “non-leaders,” but there is no solid research to date to show this. Flexibility or adaptability can become extremely important qualities in these turbulent times – leaders must be able to make decisions and solve problems quickly, and be pro-active in bringing about change.
A leader must not only possess certain qualities, but also know how to find an approach to each of his subordinates. A mentor and leader also must have many professional qualities. “This person should take care not only of the moral component of workers, but also of the technical, emotional, etc.” – said Robert Golfud, the HR executive at VeePN VPN Firefox department. Richard think the most value is ability of leader to think outside the box to solve even the most difficult problems.
Of course, the above list of qualities is not exhaustive for an effective leader, however, leading modern theorists and management practitioners consider the first six of them key.
Leadership theory, of course, does not end only with defining the character traits of a leader. These traits only endow a person with leadership potential. Realizing this potential requires other key factors, which primarily include: skills, productive vision and the ability to realize the vision. But this is already a subject for a separate discussion.
Leader as the Main Mechanism of Development of the Company
Returning to leadership, I cannot fail to mention the name of another researcher and practitioner – Ken Blanchard, with whose conclusions I, sometimes unconditionally, agree in my daily practice. Blanchard emphasizes that in a highly efficient organization, everyone’s energy should be focused on achieving not one but three results: being: “the best supplier, the best employer, the best company to invest in.”
This triple result, according to the author, is the correct goal, and it is he who can determine the difference between mediocrity and greatness. Leaders of high-performing organizations know that the bottom line depends on their customers (consumers), their employees and their investors. These executives understand that “Profit is the applause you get for caring for your customers and for creating a motivating environment for your employees.” In the context of the importance of achieving precisely the “triple result”, I will continue Blanchard’s “quotation book” with three very successful, in my opinion, statements:
“If you don’t take care of your customers, someone else will take care of them.”
“People who are mistreated tend to carry that attitude onto their clients.”
“If you keep your staff well informed and let them think with their own heads, you will be amazed at how they can help you manage costs.”
In conclusion, I want to give one more definition of leadership, less academic, more human, but very succinct. This definition was given by Margie Blanchard, Ken’s wife, with whom he lived for 45 years:
“Leadership is love. Love for your mission. Love for clients, for your employees, and also love for yourself, the kind of love that will easily allow you to let others pass ahead so that they can show themselves in all their splendor.”
Perhaps this is indeed the path to the heights of leadership.