The literature written on leadership is absolutely phenomenal. The guide lines, tips, styles and profiles of exceptional leaders during the course of history are everywhere… and worth reading! As we read and research, we learn to recognize specific leadership ideas and qualities we previously failed to see before. Following is a list of things we thought we knew and understood about leadership.
1) Leaders come in different styles.
History points us toward Albert Einstein, well known for his Theoretical Physics; Leonardo da Vinci, for his Art. These are leaders we use as mentors for their wisdom and experience or by their virtue and expertise, as well as what they contributed to society. Elders of a tribe or grandparents could be included in this category of informal leadership. Then you come up against the ‘formal’ leaders or those appointed or elected to the position of leadership. Senators, congressmen, presidents or judges fall into this category; those who are elected to the position of eldership within a government or club.
Literature written by Lewis outlines the three basic styles of leadership which are authoritative, participative and delegative.
Then there is literature written by Likerts which outlines the four styles: authority that is exploited, authority that is charitable, deliberative and participative.
Also, included in the list of literature written by Goleman, who researches six styles of leadership; visionary, instructive, networking, democratic, commanding and pace making.
2) Leadership is a process of ‘coming into’.
Some people seem to be born with leadership qualities, while others learn the art of leadership. However you come into these qualities, you need to develop and sharpen these leadership abilities. You can obtain knowledge by attending seminars, workshops and conferences on leadership. Another way to increase your abilities is to interact with people who already project and practice these leadership qualities.
Expanding your knowledge and exposure will enable you to obtain and exercise leadership attitudes, insights, and integrate the cycle of learning. Being a leader is a full time, lifelong learning process; not something you accomplish over night. A good leader puts his or her knowledge, skills and attitudes to the test daily; plus, sets a goal to have a new experience each day.
3) Leadership begins with YOU.
First, applying the knowledge you accumulated to your own life is the best way to develop leadership abilities. Leaders enjoy the limelight. Remember, your actions affect your credibility; as in ‘action speaks louder then words’. How you interact with family, friends, co-workers or the public; connect with your actions and development you as a leader. Time management in both your personal and professional responsibilities will affect your leadership qualities, too.
Repetition develops habits; habits form character. ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Steven Covey, a must read for insight on achieving personal leadership.
4) Leadership is shared.
Leadership is designed to be a shared responsibility between members of a group or team. Each individual must fulfill his or her responsibilities. Elected or ‘formal’ leadership positions are merely additional responsibilities from their usual team or group responsibilities. Being and effective leader means sharing the work. Putting a group of individuals together, forming members and leaders to work toward one mutual goal; is the formation of a great team. While learning to work together; there must be trust within the full group to be effective. Through actions the foundation of mutual respect and trust are built, which in turn builds confidence.
This was one of the strongest abilities of Ronald Regan when he was president. He had a tremendous ability to delegate tasks throughout his staff because he felt he had put the right people in the right positions. Which created trust between him and staff, but more importantly… throughout the staff. Creating a collaborative effort between everyone and leaders in the process.
5) Leadership styles connected to situations.
Where dictatorship works in Singapore; it does not work in the United States of America. Leadership styles used in ‘formal’ leadership depends greatly on culture, beliefs, values and the form of government in that nation. There are no restrictions on the number of leadership styles used for any given situation. Most of the time, a combination of styles are used as the situation dictates.
In instances of war and calamity, decision-making is a matter of life and death; a nation’s leader cannot afford to consult with all departments to arrive at crucial decisions. Leadership is different in times of peace and order, each sector and branch of government can freely work together and positively affect each other while working toward the mutual goal set before them.
Another situation would be leadership within an organization. When there is a high motivation and competent level; a combination of delegative and participative styles of leadership is in order. However, if the competence and commitment is low, a combination of high coaching, supporting and directing style of leadership is required.
The ideas we may already know or concepts we take for granted are actually the most useful insights we can have on leadership. How we apply these insights to our life is the difference between a good leader or a great leader. Either way, there is a leader within all of us. It’s just whether or not you choose to accept it.
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To your continued success!