Leadership: What is it? What an obvious question! It may be interesting to note; that there is absolutely no consensus, among the experts, on the definition of ‘leadership’– despite how much it has been studied and written about. According to Warren Bennis, in his book ‘Leaders (1997)’ writes; academic analysis has given us more than 850 definitions of leadership. I think it’s fair to say that defining leadership will be studied and debated for a long time to come, and it’s likely that we will never all agree on the ‘best’ definition… However, most attempts to define leadership emphasize different aspects of leadership or leadership characteristics or reflect the originator’s leadership values. For example, dictionaries write; leadership is the ability to lead… Wikipedia writes; leadership is a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task… According to Akhil Shahani; leadership is the process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective… All these and many other definitions are interesting because they contain two essential elements of leadership, i.e.; the ‘people elements’ and the ‘task elements’ (related to objectives), and every successful leader must work with both of these elements. Also, most leadership definitions involve a ‘common task’ or ‘objective’ that suggest the end goal is already known, and clearly defined… However, in reality, leadership doesn’t always have the luxury of such clarity… Some experts think of leaders as providing direction (‘dream’ or ‘vision’), which may then be crystallized into common goals and objectives... According to Peter Maxwell; leadership is influence– nothing more, nothing less… Then, Thomas Carlyle talks about; the ‘great man’ theory of leadership, which is based on the belief that leaders are born and not made… but Herbert Spencer countered the ‘great man’ theory of leadership and says; leaders are result of the society in which they live… Then, according to Peter G. Northous; leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal… which may be the best definition of the lot…
In the article What Is A Leader by F. John Reh writes: A leader is a person who has vision, drive and commitment to achieve that vision, and the skills to make it happen. Leaders ‘dream’ dreams. They refuse to let anyone or anything get in the way of achieving those dreams. They are realistic, but unrelenting. They are polite, but insistent. The constantly and consistently drive forward toward their goal. You can be a leader– and you will be– when the cause matters enough to you… the ‘Bass Theory’ of leadership states; there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders:
- Some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles. This is the ‘Trait Theory’.
- A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is the ‘Great Events Theory’.
- People can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is the ‘Transformational or Process Leadership Theory’. It’s the most widely accepted theory today…
In the article The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership–John Maxwell by Phil Campbell writes: Although most people are not born leaders, we all have the capacity to improve our leadership abilities. If we continually invest in our leadership development, letting our ‘assets’ compound, the inevitable result is growth over time. Maxwell is a champion of continual growth and his ‘21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ is collection of what he identified as absolute qualities of effective leadership. By breaking down the individual qualities (laws), Maxwell encourages readers to assess their own leadership strengths and weaknesses. Here is a brief overview of John Maxwell’s ‘Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’ and how they can help you become a more effective and influential leader.
- Law of the Lid: Leadership is like a ’lid’ or a ceiling on an organisation– it will not rise beyond the level your leadership allows. That’s why when a corporation or team needs to be fixed, they fire the leader.
- Law of Influence: Leadership is simply about influencing people. Nothing more, nothing less. The true test of a leader is to ask him to create positive change in an organisation. If you cannot create change, you cannot lead. Being a leader is not about being first, or being an entrepreneur, or being the most knowledgeable, or being a manager. Being a leader is not just holding a leadership position. (It’s not the position that makes a leader, but the leader who makes a position.) The very essence of all power to influence lies in getting the other person to participate. (He who thinks he leads but has no followers is only taking a walk.)
- Law of Process: Leadership is learned over time. And, it can be learned. People skills, emotional strength, vision, momentum, and timing are all areas that can and should be learned. Leaders are always learners.
- Law of Navigation: Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course. Vision is defined as the ability to see the whole trip before leaving the dock. A leader will also see obstacles before others do. A leader sees more, sees farther, and sees before others. A navigator (leader) listens – he finds out about grassroots level reactions. Navigators balance optimism with realism. Preparation is the key to good navigation. It’s not the size of the project, it’s the size of the leader that counts.
- Law of E.F. Hutton: Hutton was America’s most influential stock market analyst. When he spoke, everyone listened. When ‘real’ leaders speak, people automatically listen. Conversely, you can identify the real leaders by looking for those who people listen to… Factors involved in being accepted as a new real leader include character, building key relationships, information, intuition, experience, past success and ability.
- Law of Solid Ground: Trust is the foundation for all effective leadership. When it comes to leadership, there are no shortcuts. Building trust requires competence, connection and character.
- Law of Respect: People naturally follow people stronger than themselves. Even natural leaders tend to fall in behind those who they sense have a higher ‘leadership quotient’ than themselves.
- Law of Intuition: Leaders evaluate everything with leadership bias. Leaders see trends, resources and problems, and can read people.
- Law of Magnetism: Leaders attract people like themselves. Who you are is who you attract. (Mmm… I thought ‘like poles’ were meant to repel!) Handy hint: ‘Staff’ your weaknesses. If you only attract followers, your organisation will be weak. Work to attract leaders rather than followers, if you want to build a truly strong organisation.
- Law of Connection: You must touch the heart before you ask people to follow. Communicate on the level of emotion first to make a personal connection.
- Law of the Inner Circle: A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him. The leader finds greatness in the group, and helps the members find it in themselves.
- Law of Empowerment: Only secure leaders give power to others. Mark Twain said; great things can happen when you don’t care who gets the credit. Another point to ponder… Great leaders gain authority by giving it away.
- Law of Reproduction: It takes a leader to raise up a leader. Followers can’t do it, and neither can institutional programs– It takes one to know one, to show one, to grow one. The potential of an organisation depends on the growth of its leadership.
- Law of Buy-In: People buy-in to the leader first, then the vision. If they don’t like the leader but like the vision, they get a new leader. If they don’t like the leader or the vision, they get a new leader. If they don’t like the vision but like the leader, they get a new vision.
- Law of Victory: Leaders find a way for the team to win. You can’t win ‘without’ good athletes, but you ‘can’ lose with them. Unity of vision, diversity of skills plus a leader is needed for a win.
- Law of Momentum: You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving forward. It takes a leader to create forward motion.
- Law of Priorities: Activity is not necessarily accomplishment. We need to learn the difference. A leader is the one who climbs the tallest tree, surveys the entire situation, and yells ‘wrong jungle’! If you are a leader, you must learn the three ‘Rs’; a.) What’s Required? b.) What gives the greatest Return? c.) What brings the greatest Reward?
- Law of Sacrifice: A leader must give-up to go-up. Successful leaders must maintain an attitude of sacrifice to turn around an organisation. One sacrifice seldom brings success. When you become a leader, you lose the right to think about yourself.
- Law of Timing: When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go. Only the right action at the right time will bring success.
- Law of Explosive Growth: To add growth, lead followers. To multiply growth, lead leaders. It’s my job to build the people who are going to build the company.
- Law of Legacy: A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession. Leadership is the one thing you can’t delegate. You either exercise it – or abdicate it.
Leadership is not just a title; it’s not just a few moments of standing in front of the crowd. Leadership is the iceberg deep below the water. It can be cold and lonely at times, and it’s often mislabeled, mistaken, and overlooked until after the fact. Great leaders don’t have to carry big titles or have letters after their name. Great leaders have the depth of character and willingness to do what’s necessary before and after everyone is watching… According to Gabe; don’t ever underestimate the power of your personal influence on a team. You might not consider yourself a leader, but the fact is that we all lead in one way or another. We either lead poorly or effectively: The choice is ours. Leadership will always be the difference maker for your ideas, for your business… According to John Maxwell; everything rises and falls on leadership, but knowing how to lead is only half the battle. Understanding leadership and actually leading are two different activities… the key to transforming yourself from someone who understands leadership to a person who successfully leads in the real world is ‘character’. Your character qualities activate and empower your leadership ability, or they can stand in the way of your success! Several key attributes to being a good leader, include:
- Charisma: First Impression Can Seal the Deal.
- Courage: One Person With Courage Is a Majority.
- Problem Solving: You Can’t Let Your Problems Be a Problem.
- Teach-ability: To Keep Leading, Keep Learning.
- Vision: You can Seize Only What You Can See.