What is Leadership?
Such a simple question yet it continues to vex popular consultants and lay people alike.
Many definitions have been bandied about such as, “those who employ others” as Bill Gates once popularly said, or “the ability someone has to motivate and empower others to achieve a goal..” Leadership can be hard to define and it means different things to different people. In the transformational leadership model, leaders set direction and help themselves and others to do the right thing to move forward. To do this they create an inspiring vision, and then motivate and inspire others to reach that vision.
In these series of monthly column contributions exclusively here, the TRUTH will dissect the quintessential elements of Leadership as well as interview leading figures both in the corporate as well as the political space to have a broad, comprehensive and nuanced look at Leadership in Botswana.
We will start with demystifying leadership and shedding light on what it is not as this happens to be a ubiquitous misconception regarding how intrinsic leadership should be defined.
Leadership has nothing to do with seniority, title or one’s position in the hierarchy of a company. Many folks talk about a company’s leadership referring to the senior most executives in the organization. They are just that, senior executives. Leadership doesn’t automatically happen when you reach a certain pay grade.
Leadership should not be attributed to personal traits such as charisma, boldness of action, et cetera, this does not lend one favourably to lead or to become an effective leader.
Leadership isn’t management. This is a common problem where the two are often used interchangeably…Managers have specific deliverables which are quantifiable, measured, coordinated and so forth and Leaders lead people.
Leadership is not having mere followers, followers need guidance, need a vision to buy into and motivation to stay the course.
Similarly leadership is not the presence of a vision. A vision needs execution and people to run with specific tasks in alignment with a desirable pre-determined objective or outcome.
Empowerment is not leadership, one can be empowered but to achieve what stated goal? What Vision?
Let’s now begin our Leadership journey and share the intrinsic elements that constitute Leadership and the traits required to be an effective Leader. Effective leadership includes strong character. Leaders exhibit honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and ethics. Leaders act in line with how they speak, and earn the right to be responsible for others’ success in the company. Strong leadership involves clear communication skills.
Leading means having a vision and sharing it with others. Only when you get to inspire others is it possible to share a common goal towards which to direct the efforts and dedication of the entire team. What is your vision?
The leader knows how to motivate better than anyone else; it is one of their main functions as people managers. Through motivation, the leader channels the energy and professional potential of their coworkers, in order to achieve the objectives.
The leader is at the service of the team, and not the other way around. Group members must have and feel the support of their leader, the tools needed to do their jobs properly must be available to them, they must have recognition for their efforts and know that there is a person paying attention in order to correct bad habits. That is all part of a leadership which serves the team, and not the opposite.
One of the basic qualities of any leader seeking success is precisely emotional intelligence, that ability – often innate – that makes leaders put themselves in the place of others, understand their concerns and solve problems. Leaders know the secrets of their businesses and therefore can empathize with customers and members of their teams: that empathy gets to inspire and establish links that will ultimately lead to success.
The definition of leadership also has to do with creativity. Good leaders are able to create an environment that will encourage all the members of their team to develop their skills and imagination, so that they can contribute to the common project and vision of the company. If you want to lead successfully, respect the creativity of others and learn from the people around you, their ideas will surely prove to be positive for you.
A good leader sets the bar high for their people, because they want to reach the goals and make the best of their teams. Only a demanding leader will achieve great results. In addition to this thoroughness, the leader must know how to listen, in order to know the needs of the people, and then provide the necessary time and resources for them to do their job properly, and therefore meet what is demanded of them.
The leader must be at the forefront to lead and guide their team throughout the whole process until the goal is reached. But besides being that “torchbearer”, leaders also know when to step back and make their team take the initiative. In this way, the team gets the chance to develop, both personally and professionally. Pure management focuses on the tasks, real leadership focuses on the people.
True leadership is about working in a team to reach a common goal. People management is one of the most difficult tasks faced by leaders. Thanks to the positive attitude essential in good leaders, and the trust in their workmates, people get better results. Team-aware leaders take responsibility when something is wrong, and reward the group after a job well done.
The leader is the one responsible for taking the risks that others are not willing to take. They are confident enough to make a decision, and if they make a mistake, the leader must have the courage to rectify, assume their guilt and take the right path without blaming it on the team. Good leaders know how to get ahead of their time, they see opportunities where others can’t and know how to spread the enthusiasm for their vision to try to make it real.
True leadership seeks continuous improvement. Leaders have the ability to turn the people in their teams into stars, people who have improved and developed their skills through the influence of their leader.
In short, the definition of leadership has nothing to do with the hierarchy or position of anyone in the company, it has nothing to do with imposing views but with listening to those who know. Leadership is the attitude assumed by those looking for something different, committed to achieving a goal and whose conviction they manage to transmit to others through enthusiasm and optimism to reach a common goal.
Next month we look at the importance of leadership and leadership styles.
John Chataika @chataika on twitter