Leadership

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1. What is leadership?

In the past, leadership was chiefly a matter of being at the top of a command-and-control hierarchy. In today’s world, a much wider range of skills – people rather than process skills – is involved:

  • A highly-developed emotional intelligence
  • The ability to build a followership and get the very best out of those people
  • The skill to switch leadership styles, choosing the appropriate style for the occasion.

Timeless challenges include

  • Modelling the vision, mission and values
  • Getting the right people in the right roles
  • Providing opportunities to develop
  • Scanning the environment and clearing obstacles
  • Instilling trust and belief
  • Reinforcing the strategy.

2. What makes an effective leader?

Effective leaders have high levels of emotional intelligence and know

  • Who they are
  • Their strengths and how to deploy them
  • Their weaknesses and how to compensate for them
  • What they want and why they want it
  • How to communicate this want to others in a way that gains co-operation and support
  • How to achieve their goals.

Effective leaders

  • Brief people on expectations
  • Agree the boundaries
  • Contract on performance objectives
  • Offer the requisite support for attainment and development
  • Provide on-going feedback on achievement and challenge
  • Tackle the difficult issues as they arise.

3. Leadership versus management

Management can be seen as task-orientated, and is primarily associated with getting the job done efficiently, to the required standard and within the set parameters. Leadership, on the other hand, could be described as the capacity to engage people at an emotional level in such a way that they are at least willing and at best enthusiastic and passionate about putting their energy into the tasks that will achieve the vision of success. If effective management is fundamental to the success and effectiveness of an organisation, what sustains this is leadership.

  • Management focuses on process and task.
  • Leadership focuses on vision and people.
  • Management is rational, linear, logical and concerned with the containment of risk.
  • On its own, management can stifle innovation.
  • Leadership is more lateral – strategy, vision and longer-term thinking are the priorities of the leader.
  • While it may be right to value leadership, this should not be at the expense of good management – both are required for success.

4. The transition from manager to leader

A century of management discipline has tried to apply logical and rational structures to the organisation, which is seen more as a mechanism than as an organism. These management disciplines have attempted to contain and perhaps even control the unknowable and the unpredictable. While all well and good in many areas – the development of sophisticated planning techniques, financial accounting methods and the availability of information – these management disciplines have an unforeseen result in checking the source of creativity and innovation.

  • People in management situations have seldom had any leadership development. Many have not reached an acceptable comfort level around building relationships and dealing with people issues.
  • When it becomes not just a matter of managing a process efficiently, but getting the whole team to do so, to understand and believe in the end goal and to feel engaged, then leadership skills come into play.

5. Excellence in leadership

As we are learning, defining leadership presents huge challenges; yet most of us feel confident that we recognise effective leadership when we either see or experience it. When it comes to challenges, of any kind, effective leaders will ask themselves the following questions:

  • Did I engage and pick up the challenge?
  • Did I persist and take some learning, regardless of the outcome?
  • Did I quit?

Leaders need followers:

  • Leadership is about persuading others to commit their energy to achieve a common vision and its associated goals.
  • 21st century followers have, in effect, become discerning customers of those who supply leadership.
  • Today, all evidence suggests that leadership is first and foremost about relationship management.
  • This requires high levels of EQ.

6. EQ in leaders

Leadership effectiveness is first and foremost about authentic presence. It is about self-esteem, consistency and showing the way. Effective leaders

  • Have an unfailingly positive attitude in all contexts
  • Possess a very high level of personal self esteem.
  • Command respect, not fear
  • Foster collaboration, not competition
  • Set boundaries through consultation, not edict
  • Inspire and motivate, rather than coerce
  • Provide the space for others to develop and contribute, rather than command
  • Set the vision and the values that will inform the parameters.

To do this, they require highly developed EQ levels with regard to

  • Intrapersonal skills – self knowledge
  • Interpersonal skills – seeing things from others’ perspectives and influencing appropriately
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to manage stress appropriately
  • Positivity.

7. Becoming an emotionally intelligent leader

To raise your EQ levels, you need self awareness.

  • Seek feedback from appropriate sources.
  • Act on it.
  • If you are an introvert, be aware of the need to communicate and get your message across.
  • Be aware of the context in which specific skills are required.

8. Develop your personal effectiveness

This used to be seen as a question of time management. Nowadays it needs to embrace such concepts as energy sources, energy management, prioritizing tasks, speed of decision making, overall mental agility, the ability to size people up appropriately and indeed much more.

  • Firstly, do you know what your values are? You are likely to enjoy tasks that are in line with your values, and vice versa.
  • What are your natural energy rhythms? The challenging tasks that you might instinctively resist are best tackled during high energy periods.
  • Agility in decision making is also a component of personal effectiveness. Effective leaders quickly scan the options, then make the decision.

9. Core leadership practices

Research shows that the following six practices are critical to success. They sit at the centre of effective leadership.

  • Challenge the process – seek challenges and opportunities to develop, grow, innovate and change the status quo; experiment and take controlled risks in the belief that we take invaluable learning from failures.
  • Inspire a shared vision – visualise a positive future that is attainable and express it in easy-to-access terms.
  • Enable others to take action and contribute to achieving results in a context of support.
  • Model and mirror the way – set the example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values; by choosing a positive attitude and achieving small gains in a consistent manner that will encourage and promote progress and build commitment and motivation.
  • Engage the mind of others – people will be engaged when they are doing something that is important to them.
  • Encourage the heart by recognising individual contributions and commitment; contributors are encouraged to travel the journey.

10. Moments of truth

The concept is associated with Jan Carlson, former CEO of SAS, who recognised that each contact a customer made with a member of his staff was a ‘moment of truth’. So, too, with leadership effectiveness: from the moment you arrive at your place of work, staff and workplace partners experience moments of truth.

  • How do you choose your attitude?
  • Are you unfailingly positive?
  • What about your personal image?
  • Can you restate a problem appropriately?
  • Can you reverse a problem?
  • Can you clear your head to give full attention to a problem?
  • Can you strip away layers of complexity to give a timely and effective response?

11. Leadership theories

People have sought to explain leadership from many angles. These include

  • Great man theories – great leaders are born, a theory based on traditional military models
  • Trait theories – which concentrate on the qualities of leaders
  • Behaviourist theories – concerned with what leaders do
  • Situational leadership – the required style depends on the situation
  • Contingency theory – which is a refinement of situational leadership
  • Transactional theory – concentrating on the relationship between leaders and followers
  • Transformational theory – leadership is about achieving transformation

12 The evolution of leadership style

The leaders of the past tended to be left-brain thinkers – logical, analytical and linear thinkers who delivered solutions and enforced them through command and control methods. Nowadays, Real Change Leaders use both sides of their brain, putting huge emphasis on emotions, feelings and passion, as well as analysis of the facts. Today’s leaders require

  • Cognitive skills
  • Action skills
  • Relationship skills
  • Expert skills.

13. Choosing and using leadership styles

In an increasingly global arena, where players are sourced from a huge variety of cultural, ethnic and belief backgrounds, one leadership style (we all have a default style) will not suffice. Effective leaders have learned how to draw on a gamut of styles. The context will dictate which approach to any given challenge is appropriate and most likely to offer successful performance outcomes.

  • Autocratic, directive and heroic leadership styles all have their place, especially in times of crisis.
  • The charismatic style can result in risky hero worship.
  • The networked style works well in the appropriate culture, but can stifle innovation.
  • Transformational leaders are viewed as agents of radical change, putting the end (in the form of a set of goals or a vision) above the means. These are the innovative, entrepreneurial transformers of tired, dispirited organisations.
  • The pace-setter sets high standards of for performance, and works best to get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team, creating a drive to achieve.
  • The coach develops people for the future; their style is anchored in self-awareness and empathy, and works best when the context can support a long-term perspective.