After spending his lifetime leading soldiers, General Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of the victorious US and Coalition forces during the Persian Gulf War, often said that “leadership is hard to define, but I know it when it see it.” Even though leadership is hard to define, this has not stopped scholars and self-proclaimed experts from trying. Collectively, they have proposed various definitions and leadership models. While none of these is perfect, they do offer some insights into what defines leadership. One approach to a leadership model comprises three aspects of leadership: Personal, Team, and Organizational:
Personal Leadership: All effective leaders begin with personal leadership. Good leaders know that before they can lead others, they must be able to lead themselves. They are clear about their personal values and set the example for their followers. Personal leadership is the basis for building trust between the leader and the follower. Without trust, leaders will be ineffective. Thus, personal leadership is the cornerstone of any leadership endeavor.
Team Leadership: The essence of team leadership is making sure that the right people with the right skills are on the team. Jim Collins, author of the book Good to Great, makes the point that getting the right people on the team is more important than anything else. It is more important than strategy or resources. If you have the right people, they will work together to find the resources and develop the strategy to accomplish the mission. Thus, one of the primary jobs of a leader is to get the right people on the team.
Organizational Vision: Leadership at the organizational level requires a compelling vision for the future. Without an organizational vision, any group will be disorganized and the old adage will apply: any road will get you there. Senior leaders need to define where they intend to take the organization and how they will get there. They also need to do this with political savvy by building consensus so that they will have the support of key organizational stakeholders. Furthermore, a well-crafted vision should be aspirational and inspirational to provide motivation that energizes everyone in the organization. Thus, a primary function for a senior leader is to provide a compelling vision around which followers can coalesce.
These three aspects of leadership are worth thinking about if you are trying to become a successful leader. While a comprehensive definition of what makes a good leader may be hard to find, these three elements are often fundamental to all good leaders’ actions. Anyone can be a leader who has the desire and dedication to practice and learn. Apply these three aspects of leadership to your own approach and become a better leader.
Leonard Kloeber is an author and leadership consultant. He has extensive leadership experience as business executive and as a military officer. He has been a hands-on leader in a variety of organizations large and small. Most recently he was a human resources executive for a Fortune 100 company. His book – Victory Principles, Leadership Lessons from D-Day – illustrates seven bedrock leadership principles that all successful leaders use. Download a free summary of the Victory Principles at: http://www.victoryprinciples.com and find other bonus materials for leaders. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find his book Victory Principles at http://www.leadershipthebook.com
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