Define Leadership and Exercise it – The Missing Key Success Factor in Change Management

How you define and exercise leadership in the present climate will be a significant determinant in your organisation’s fortunes – and especially in the context of change management.

Let’s define leadership: Leadership is the process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective. Leaders have a vision that they share with others. It is the leader who binds the organisation together with beliefs, values and knowledge… and who makes it more cohesive and coherent.

Leadership is also defined as a process that…motivates people to excel in the field in which they are working.

Is this you? Is this your direct up-line report?

So can leadership be taught?

Many would say that leadership qualities are not inborn but can be developed gradually through education and self-study. Personally I am not so sure about that.

The current assumption is that leadership can be taught. There are very many many courses, seminars and books on leadership and a big demand for training to develop leadership skills.

On the basis of my life experience and as I define leadership – it is my view that you can only teach leadership skills to someone who has the latent [and maybe unrecognised and unacknowledged] potential to be a leader.

Management skills can be taught to just about anyone of at least average intelligence and education [and in saying that I am not denigrating management]. However, a brief review of the differences between leadership and management suggests that leadership owes as least as much to “nature” as it does to “nurture”.

It may not be a popular thing to say but in my experience – most people would rather be led than lead. In my experience – the vast majority of people are followers and not leaders and very happy to remain so. Leaders are a very small percentage of the population maybe less than 1% and really strong leaders with the potential to really change things [for better or worse] probably less than 0.1%.

Leadership versus management – some useful points of comparison

– Leaders are apparent – Managers are appointed
– Leaders cope with change – Managers cope with complexity
– Leaders set direction – Managers plan
– Leaders press for change – Managers promote stability
– Leaders are visionary, inspirational and have eye to the future -Managers are operational, hands on, and based in the ‘now’
– Leading is concerned with future direction – Managing is concerned with uncertain conditions: implementation, order, efficiency and effectiveness
– Leadership is strategic – Management is operational
– Leaders set the direction – Managers develop the capacity to achieve the plan
– Leaders motivate and inspire – Managers control and problem solve
– Leaders need to ‘get on the balcony’ to spot operational and strategic patterns within the organisation – Managers get caught up on the field of action.
– Leadership defines the culture of the organisation – Management instills the culture in the organisation

Leadership in change management

Clearly both sets of skills are needed.

But so often in change management situations the emphasis is on the process and the management of the situation and not the leadership.

The leadership characteristics outline above are crucial for the fulfillment of a change programme director / leader role – leading [and being seen to lead and own] the whole change initiative.

How we define leadership, how we understand it and how we exercise it, is of paramount importance in the current economic and business climate as the quality of your leadership could be a major factor in determining your company’s fortunes – and especially in a change management situation. And this is where the properly applied leadership skills are exercised to best effect when employing the holistic and wide view perspective of a programme based approach to change management.

For more on this: “Define and exercise leadership

Equip yourself to avoid the 70% failure rate of all change initiatives with the “Practitioners’ Masterclass – Leading your people through change, putting it all together and managing the whole messy business.”

Stephen Warrilow, based in Bristol, works with companies across the UK providing specialist support to directors delivery significant change initiatives. Stephen has 25 years cross sector experience with 100+ companies in mid range corporate, larger SME and corporate environments.

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