What is leadership? Who is a leader? Are leaders only elected or anyone can be a leader? What does leaders do anyways? What do you think about when you hear the word “leaders”? Even more interesting, who do you think about when leadership is discussed around you? Since our monthly theme on TAP magazine this June is “youth in leadership roles”, I took it upon myself to try and understand what leadership is all about. I’ve consulted with a few colleagues and did my little research and the following is a brief summary of what I have learnt. I strongly encourage you to share with us what you might know about “leadership” in the comments section. Remember, each and every one of us at some point in our lives is entrusted to lead ‘others’.
Like many other key terms, there is no exact definition that every one agrees on. That said, the general understanding is that leadership is a process by which a person is able to influence others to accomplish a task and continuously direct these group of people towards their goals. Northouse’s, 2007, pg3).
Two schools of thoughts!
A section of scholars seem to believe that leadership is more of a scientific process and others assume that leadership is not a science. That its a learning process, an adventure that everyone can take on and practice. They don’t subscribe to the notion of “born leaders”. To this school of thought, Leadership is taking responsibility and you don’t need to be a highly educated, skilled or a tittle to be a leader. You are a leader only when you are getting something/task done through other people. If your a captain of a team, a mayor or the president of a country, and your not getting the job done; then your not a leader.
Factors of Leadership
According to the (US, Army, 1983); there exists four factors of leadership.
- You must have an honest understanding of who you are, what you know, and what you can do. Also, note that it is the followers, not the leader or someone else who determines if the leader is successful. If they do not trust or lack confidence in their leader, then they will be uninspired. To be successful you have to convince your followers, not yourself or your superiors, that you are worthy of being followed.
- Different people require different styles of leadership. For example, a new hire requires more supervision than an experienced employee. A person who lacks motivation requires a different approach than one with a high degree of motivation. You must know your people! The fundamental starting point is having a good understanding of human nature, such as needs, emotions, and motivation. You must come to know your employees ‘be, know, and do attributes
- You lead through two-way communication. Much of it is nonverbal. For instance, when you “set the example,” that communicates to your people that you would not ask them to perform anything that you would not be willing to do. What and how you communicate either builds or harms the relationship between you and your employees.
- All situations are different. What you do in one situation will not always work in another. You must use your judgment to decide the best course of action and the leadership style needed for each situation. For example, you may need to confront an employee for inappropriate behavior, but if the confrontation is too late or too early, too harsh or too weak, then the results may prove ineffective.
- Also note that the situation normally has a greater effect on a leader’s action than his or her traits. This is because while traits may have an impressive stability over a period of time, they have little consistency across situations (Mischel, 1968). This is why a number of leadership scholars think the Process Theory of Leadership is a more accurate than the Trait Theory of Leadership.
“Leader” is another word for “boss.”
- Well, what do you mean by “boss”? A guy who pushes and orders other people around? No, a leader is not one of those. (But some people try to lead this way.)
- Or do you mean a boss is somebody who has a job to do and works with other people to get it done? This is true. A leader is a boss in that sense.(Bass, 1990).
Want to be a good Leader!
Great leaders have specific skills and traits that guide them. Good leaders are usually effective communicators.They have a vision/message, and they know how to communicate it. They are also great motivators. A great leader has to be able to motivate everyone to contribute. They know how to push the right buttons on everyone to make them dedicated and productive on the leader’s goal. Successful leaders are also big on ‘planning’. They don’t guess but has a well structured plan of how they will achieve their goals. The following are more principles that great leaders adhere too.
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement– In order to know yourself, you have to understand your attributes. Seeking self-improvement means continually strengthening your attributes. This can be accomplished through self-study, formal classes, reflection, and interacting with others.
- Be technically proficient– As a leader, you must know your job and have a solid familiarity with your employees’ tasks.
- Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions– Search for ways to guide your organization to new heights. And when things go wrong, they always do sooner or later — do not blame others. Analyze the situation, take corrective action, and move on to the next challenge.
- Make sound and timely decisions– Use good problem solving, decision-making, and planning tools.
- Set the example – We must become the change we want to see- Mahatma Gandhi
- Know your people and look out for their well-being– Know human nature and the importance of sincerely caring for your workers.
- Keep your workers informed– Know how to communicate with not only them, but also seniors and other key people.
- Develop a sense of responsibility in your workers– Help to develop good character traits that will help them carry out their professional responsibilities.
- Ensure that tasks are understood, supervised, and accomplished– Communication is the key to this responsibility.
- Train as a team– Although many so called leaders call their organization, department, section, etc. a team; they are not really teams…they are just a group of people doing their jobs.
- Use the full capabilities of your organization– By developing a team spirit, you will be able to employ your organization, department, section, etc. to its fullest capabilities. (www.nwlink.com)
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
John C. Maxwell
@RasMutabarukaPosted on 28/08/2014 by Moses Mutabaruka
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