Effective leadership is essential in just about any organization. It’s a tool for what some people have a natural talent, but it’s also an ability that can be cultivated. It’s important to be careful whom you follow know who people follow to become that sort of person.
What makes a great leader
If you think about people that you consider great leaders, there’s a good chance that they made history by doing something great and that they demonstrated characteristics noble qualities, for example vision, tenacity, courage, the ability to inspire and motivate others, perseverance, creativity and innovation, and game changing problem-solving.
The practice of leadership is becoming increasingly important in our ultra-competitive marketplace as effective leaders can have a dramatic impact on a wide range of critically important organizational performance variables. Leadership can impact innovation and creativity, change and transformation, productivity and efficiency, employee turnover, workforce motivation and job satisfaction just to name a few key components of business success.
Good leaders tend to bring out the best in all of us and they typically make good things happen and sorry to say poor and ineffective leaders tend to make our work lives problematic or maybe even horrible when things are already challenging enough. In fact they can make it tough to get out of bed come to work and keep a positive attitude and actually get our work done now.
What a is a leader
A leader is someone who influences others towards the achievement of goals and desired outcomes, or an individual who causes others to do things they might not otherwise do, or someone who makes things happen and gets results with and through people. At its core effective leadership is always based on the interaction of two critically important factors: a leaders competency and a leader’s character.
Ideally a leader is someone who has the talent and character to influence others in productive and positive ways, although one does not have to look too far into history or the newspapers to find plenty of leaders who use their talents for destructive and even evil purposes. Leadership is all about connecting with people and doing the things that are followers need from us so that they can be successful.
Competency and character in effective leadership
A leader is competent when he or she possesses the requisite skills and talents necessary to successfully lead people to achieve desired results in a given situation or, stated somewhat differently, the leader knows what he or she is doing. If you’ve ever worked for an incompetent or bungling boss you know that things can get pretty crazy when the wrong person is in charge.
Leaders have character when they possess the moral and ethical underpinnings necessary to do the right thing and lead people in a principled fashion. When leaders have character means that their people can count on them to do the right thing. A boss who lacks character and a strong moral compass can make a work environment into a very very disturbing distressing and distrustful place.
When taken together competency and character create what I have come to call a leaders trustworthiness and when people trust their leader good things happen when a leader’s competency and character in place they can have a powerful impact on the leader’s followers causing him to be motivated supportive and even loyal to their boss and organization.
Six key leadership theories
1. The trait leadership school – Early efforts to understand leadership success focused on the leader’s personal traits and characteristics. This was called the great person theory of leadership and the belief was that if people possess certain traits they would be more likely to be successful in a leadership role.
Research has shown that traits such as a desire to lead others, intelligence and job relevant knowledge, honesty and integrity, creativity, ambition and drive, optimism and self-confidence, as well as flexibility are all linked to leadership success. So, if we are serious about being a successful leader you will need to develop the necessary talent skills and persona required of us for any given leadership position we hold.
2. The behavioral leadership school – focuses on two key dimensions of leader behavior: the leaders concern for task and concern for people. I don’t know how many of you have ever worked for a boss who is completely task oriented what is safe to say that they spent a lot of time setting aggressive goals planning and organizing activities delegating work, supervising progress and measuring performance.
This leadership school makes a very strong case that leaders can and must also demonstrate a real concern for people. People oriented leaders work to create a warm and social rapport with employees, they respect the feelings of others and they demonstrate trust in their people. They emphasize ongoing employee involvement and participation and they demonstrate sensitivity to the needs of others.
Every leader must balance their concern for the task of getting results with a genuine concern for their employees, in other words these activities are not mutually exclusive. In fact they complement each other quite nicely.
3. The contingency or situational leadership school – Is actually a collection of numerous leadership theories all of which make it very clear that there is no one best approach to being an effective leader. In this theoretical camp an effective leader is one who takes into account the circumstances under which they are asked to lead and then develops an appropriate leadership style to meet the demands of that given situation.
Research in the school has identified a number of critically important factors that can impact a leaders ability to have a positive impact on a group of followers. Such factors can include the leaders working relationships with group members, the nature of the task to be performed and whether or not the followers actually need the leader to get their work done.
In addition the leaders position power to reward and punish the skill and motivation of the followers and the nature of the overall work environment are all specific factors that can impact a leaders ability to influence a group.
It’s critically important that a leader diagnose and clearly understand the dynamics of the workgroup that they’re being asked to lead and the circumstances under which they’re being asked to operate. This situational awareness puts a leader in a position to appropriately adjust their leadership style and behavior to situational demands.
4 – The transformational or charismatic school of leadership – It makes a compelling case that certain leaders can have a powerful lasting impact on the followers because of the passion and the personal charisma that they possess. These leaders energize their followers by creating a compelling vision of the future and articulating a strategy to bring that vision to life.
Leaders like JFK or Steve Jobs had great enthusiasm, passion and self-confidence and the ability to drive change and be inspirational. They demonstrate a personal commitment to the mission and a willingness to take risk to make things happen, and those are just a few of the qualities that certain leaders possess the can have a powerful impact on their ability to influence others and deliver desired results.
So, great leaders use their view of the future and their personalities in positive and powerful ways to impact their people. Never underestimate the impact that a compelling vision a meaningful plan, commitment and passion can have on the people that you are in charge of leading.
5 – The results based leadership school – This embraces the approach recommended by Stephen Covey the author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Start With the End in Mind. This growing leadership school works in reverse by first identifying the desired goals and outcomes that leaders must achieve for success and then identifying the specific behaviors and practices that will enable them to move their followers in that direction.
Some people say that the school is simply a combination of the behavioral and contingency schools of leadership theory and I agree with them. This school makes it very clear regardless of the leaders level in the organization it’s their responsibility to engage in the activities that will help their people succeed. A leader is payed to deliver desired results to an enterprise and it’s incumbent on them to engage in the leadership activities that will help people perform in an optimal fashion.
6 – The psychological or emotional intelligence leadership – Recently though a growing body of research has made a very strong case that the leaders emotional intelligence is equally important if not more so to a leader’s success than the IQ. Emotional intelligence refers to people’s ability to perceive, identify, understand and successfully manage emotions in themselves and in the relationships with others.
As a leader it’s imperative that you know and understand how to work and connect with all kinds of people and then it’s important to use and understand your emotions and those of others to facilitate improved working relationships. Understanding the human and feeling side of business will be a big predictor of your ability to deliver results and be successful over your career.
Who are the best leaders
The best leaders are mission and results driven – great leaders realized that the first and foremost important job of any leader is to create focus and a clear sense of purpose for their people. This clear mission or vision mindset is used to create an overarching sense of this is who we are and this is where we are going.
Great leaders translate the mission into clear performance expectations – this helps their people and they empower them to take action. One of the hallmarks of great leaders is the practice of clarifying individual performance responsibilities and expectations. As simple as it may sound leaders received great praise and even adulation for the modest act of letting their people know exactly what is expected of them.
Best leaders make people their top priority -having the ability to balance concern for task and getting things done with great concern for people surely get the desired results quicker. It’s all about working with people not against them.
Best leaders know how to personally connect – they can with the individuals that they are responsible for leading in ways that create people power, commitment, motivation, job satisfaction and engagement.
Best leaders also build teams and foster cooperation – Great leaders are recognized for their prowess in knowing how to get other people to come together cooperate collaborate pull together join forces unite and work as a team.
Great leaders develop themselves and the people around them – * great leaders are described by study participants as possessing the requisite skills and talents to effectively meet the ongoing demands and challenges of their jobs.
The best leaders have the competency, the capability, the know-how and aptitude and skill to perform their important work with great acumen and they take their personal and professional development very seriously and also have a penchant for investing time, energy and effort in helping the people at work for them reach their full potential.
Great leaders prepare people for battle and they streamline their operations – they take the time to plan and effectively communicate those strategies to their people both to create a sense of ownership and so that everyone knows exactly what is coming. These same leaders take the time and expend the necessary energy and resources to ensure that their people are properly equipped with the tools the technology and the training that they need to be successful.
The best leaders also are known for their integrity and their transparency – great leaders are consistently described as having character, integrity, honesty truthfulness and for being ethical. The very best leaders are trustworthy in that they demonstrate principled behavior even when no one is watching in that they show that their word is always reliable and dependable.
Great leaders use their time wisely and they try to create a work life balance – they are those credited with not wasting time and with operating in a fashion that help them create and maintain a work-life balance for themselves and, importantly, doing the same for their people in spite of the fact that they were in exceptionally demanding jobs.
Great leaders bring passion and mojo to whatever they do – they demonstrate passion energy, excitement and enthusiasm for what they’re trying to get done. Great leaders go about their business and highly motivated fashion with great vitality that creates great energy momentum and drive for the people who follow them. Great leaders are all about making a difference.