Leaders are made, not born
by John Adair
Whilst debate rages over the differences between management and leadership and the various qualities which may or may not be inborn, practical people just want to know what they have to do, whatever it is labeled.
In today’s business climate three levels of leadership are now emerging which replace a single leader at the top. Together these form the overall leadership team of the organization.
Team leaders – responsible for between 8 and 12 people
Operational leaders – responsible for a sizable area of the business
Strategic leaders – responsible for the whole organization
Character is part of leadership. Leaders gain credibility by exemplifying the qualities expected within the working group and are different from managers because they possess certain generic traits such as enthusiasm, integrity, toughness, fairness, warmth, humility and confidence. The first step in developing leadership potential is to recognize those traits in oneself.
The suitable approach to leadership is based on the use of authority appropriate to the context. There are four types of authority:
Position – “Do this because I am the boss�?
Knowledge – "Authority flows to one who knows"
Personality – Charisma in its extreme form
Moral authority – the personal authority to ask others to make sacrifices
To get people to co-operate, a leader will need to understand the particular circumstances and choose which type of authority would be most effective. The leader who knows what to do inspires confidence in others. Technical and professional knowledge can make a significant contribution to a leader’s development.
My approach focuses on group actions. A group of people working together develops a unique personality which has three overlapping areas of need. These needs are: to achieve the task, to build and maintain the team, and to develop the individual. Each interacts with the others, so that if a task is achieved, the team develops and individuals develop a sense of satisfaction. Equally, if the group lacks cohesion its task performance will fall, resulting in lowered individual morale.
At this point the mystique of leadership falls away – success comes from something a leader does rather than someone a leader is, so leaders can enhance their skills through practice, study, experience and reflection.
Leaders cannot avoid being some kind of example, because people constantly observe what they do and who they are. However, the individual has discretion over whether it will be a good or poor example (and people generally notice bad examples more than good). A sure sign of integrity is when a leader’s words match their deeds and the best leadership example is provided unselfconsciously as an expression of who the leader is, rather than something calculated to have an effect.
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