What is great leadership?

Posted on: April 21, 2009

There is an entire chapter on leadership in my new book Growing your property partnership – Plans, promotion and people and here is the beginning of that chapter that explores old and new explanations.

Over the years there have been many theories about leadership. Originally, there was a view that a leader was a composite of various personality traits such as: the drive to achieve, motivation to lead, honesty and integrity, self confidence, ability to withstand setbacks, knowledge of the business and managing the perceptions of others in relation to these characteristics (Kilpatrick & Locke).

Similarly, there were those who focused on charisma – that special quality of leaders whose purpose, powers and extraordinary determination differentiates them from others. This view sees leaders as people who are dominant, with a strong desire to influence, lots of self confidence and a strong sense of their own moral values (House). And it is observed that many great leaders have boundless energy and enthusiasm and are both larks (those who are good first thing in the morning) and owls (those who operate best towards the end of the day and at night).

Yet more modern theories focus not so much on the “born to lead” models that don’t hold out much hope for those who are not endowed with particular personality characteristics but on their behaviours in different situations which – theoretically at least – can be adopted and practised by all. These behaviours focus on task behaviours (which are directive – or, in extreme cases, autocratic) and relationship behaviours (supportive, coaching and nurturing).

This suggests that you need to adopt different styles of leadership depending on the situation, for example:

  • Dictatorial – When a firm faces a crisis and there is no time to consult – Use sparingly
  • Analytical – When there is time pressure or threat and the right decision must be made quickly
  • Opinion seeking – Builds team confidence and shows that you value people’s views
  • Democratic – Use regularly to empower team members and help strengthen their commitment

A leader creates the vision and a strategy to reach the vision whereas a manager uses a set of skills to work toward achieving that vision. Leadership in a partnership comprises those who lead and those who are led and their responsibilities to each other.

In his book “The absolute beginners guide to leadership” Andrew J DuBrin provides his top ten list for becoming an effective leader:

  1. Understand that leadership is an influence process that includes inspiring, motivating and persuading others; creating useful visions and bringing about constructive change
  2. Develop self-confidence by achieving a small goal, and then continue to achieve progressively more difficult goals
  3. Develop your charisma. Learn to let your emotions show when you express yourself and remember people’s names
  4. Become knowledgeable in some area of your business. Top leaders retain some important expertise, such as opening international markets
  5. Develop your communication skills – oral (spoken), written, nonverbal and listening – to the point that you are convincing
  6. Use a grab bag of influence tactics to positively influence people: persuasion, exchanging favours, ingratiating yourself and joking and kidding
  7. Lead by example. Be a model of how you want others to perform. Ethical leaders breed ethical followers
  8. Empower others by giving them the authority and responsibility for various tasks – exciting tasks, if possible. Empowerment helps people feel motivated and multiplies your effectiveness.
  9. Learn to be a multicultural leader. The starting point is to convince yourself that although other cultures may be different from yours, they are equally valuable
  10. Be a great coach. Give people on-the-spot feedback, make suggestions for improvement, offer encouragement and support

Here’s my definition:

‘Leadership is the ability to influence others to act beyond routine compliance with procedures and daily tasks by demonstrating boundless energy and enthusiasm through good communication (including listening) and inspiring confidence and giving support through straight talking. It is the ability to motivate others to act or respond in a shared direction thus effectively a key dynamic force that motivates and co-ordinates an organisation to promote change directed at attaining agreed goals.’

 

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