Table of Contents
What is Leadership
Leadership or Management
Leadership is a topic that has been widely discussed and written about. On Amazon.com there are over 1200 books on leadership alone and these are only the books that were published in the last four (4) years. It stands to reason therefore that this is a popular topic and there are numerous suggestions as to what makes a good leader.
Well-known authors such as Kenneth Blanchard, Stephen Covey and John Maxwell, to name but a few have written many of their own books on the topic. Whatever flavour you give these leadership attributes it always boils down to the same five basic key attributes or skills that a true leader requires. Whether you are comparing Jesus or other prophets or whether you are looking at the local football team captain, the following five attributes, in whichever manner you explain or describe them, will always surface:
1. Lead by example
2. Be focussed on your goal
3. Treat your followers with respect
4. Have a solid set of values and beliefs
5. Communicate properly (this includes listening)
Eric Yaverbaum (2004) interviewed 100 of the top CEO’s in the world regarding what they saw as their secrets for successful leadership and summarised these in a book “Leadership secrets of the world’s most successful CEO’s”. Some of the 100 CEO’s he interviewed included:
- David McClaughlin – Chairman of the American Red Cross
- Chip Perry – President of AutoTrader.com
- Terdema Ussery – CEO of the Dallas Mavericks
- William Lauder – CEO and President of Estee Lauder
- James Keyes – CEO of 7-11 Inc
These are just a few who are quoted in the book and these are some of the comments offered by these CEO’s:
- Surround yourself with successful people
- Treat your employees well and keep them motivated
- Be honest and ethical
- Be flexible and adaptive and embrace change by making it happen
- Guide your people and lead by example
- Communicate with and listen to your people
- Lead your people the way you want to be led
- Allow people to take risks and make mistakes
What is Leadership
There appears not to be a decent definition for leadership. The dictionary defines it as “the act of leading”
Wikipedia defines leadership as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.” Although there are also other in-depth definitions of leadership, it could loosely be defined as "organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal".
Other definitions that have been offered include About.com which defines leadership as “the art of motivating a group of people to act towards achieving a common goal”
It therefore stands to reason that the most logical explanation or definition of what leadership is, must be the ability to accomplish a task or set of tasks through others providing their assistance and support. It is argued that a leader does not necessarily have to have power or position to be the leader. I assume that this statement could be argued in many ways depending on how you interpret the concept of power or position.
On one hand you would need to exercise some form of power, most likely in the form of authority, to get people to follow you, but then again it could be argued that you would require influence rather than power to get people to follow you.
John Maxwell (2011: 4) in his book “5 Levels of Leadership” suggests that leadership is not a position but a process. He further suggests that there are five levels of leadership that a leader will progress through to become the ultimate leader.
Leadership or Management
I have heard many varying opinions on leadership and management and whether they are one and the same. If you agree with the argument put forward in the previous section that you do not need power or position to be a leader then it stands to reason that you would also not need to be a manager to lead. You could be a leader and also be a manager.
In his book “Leadership Secrets”, Michael Heath (2010: 37) suggests that:
- Managers concentrate on details; and
- Leaders concentrate on change
Heath (2010: 37) suggests that managers plan in detail and then focus primarily on getting the work done according to the plan. Managers focus on creating stability and usually have short-term horisons.
Leaders on the other hand tend to set direction and focus more on leading the team in a specific direction. Leaders focus on creating change and this requires long-term horisons
Frederick Taylor (1911) in his book “The Principles of Scientific Management” suggested that the primary role of managers was to improve profits. Of the three principles he promoted, the training and up-skilling of employees was one. This was to improve the skills of the employees so that they could do better work and more work in order for the organisation to improve their profits through improved productivity. We can see that as far back as the 1900’s authors like Taylor already saw the significance of up-skilling and empowering employees but due to the times they were living in the full impact of building relations with employees had not been grasped yet. The focus was therefore still on managing and getting the job done rather than leading employees
Berson and Stieglitz (2013) in their book “Leadership Conversations” show that managers tend to focus more on getting the job done and in the process tend to forget about leading.
Management tends to readily promote the person who is technically the best, or the best consultant or salesperson into the management position thereby perpetuating the cycle of not developing leaders but finding the person who does the job the best. Unfortunately in many cases the person may know how to do the job the best but has no idea of how to get someone else to do the job just as well and therefore fails as a leader. This is a classic example of the Peter Principle where an employee rises to the height of their own incompetence. In their book The Peter Principle, Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull (1969) state that the members of an organization where promotion is based on achievement, success, and merit will eventually be promoted beyond their level of ability. This could be better explained as employees being given increasing authority until they cannot continue to work competently.
Bob Adams (2008: 256) claims that “you don’t have to be a manager to be a leader…. You don’t have to have any authority.everyone has the potential to be a manager”
Although the title of this section refers to techniques, they could be regarded as principles, or skills or attributes or any other word with a similar meaning. The point is that there are certain attributes or characteristics that are required in today’s workplace to be a successful leader.
According to Michael Heath (2010: 11) “there are different styles of leadership but all of them depend on the character of the leader”.
Stephen Covey (1992) promoted the idea of a four-tiered leadership model
The first level is the innermost circle and requires the effective leader to determine their level of honesty and whether they are loyal or not.
- Quote paper
- Rowan van Dyk (Author), 2013, Leadership. How it applies today, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/232511