One of the common explanations given by many is that leadership is the ability to bring people together to dedicate themselves to a common goal. Leaders or the top managers in an organization are people who get things done. However, it does not mean that all leaders are managers and all managers have leadership qualities. Though the context of leadership has changed considerably over the years still even today the content and fundamentals are universal and timeless (Kouzes and Posner, 2007). Effective leadership is a must in corporate leaders and entrepreneurs, managers and employees, aspiring leaders in retail, manufacturing, government, community, church, and school settings. Leaders are known for their accomplishments.
Over the years, the significance ascribed to the roles, functions, and traits of leaders has led many to ask a common question as to what makes an effective leader and why? Many social and behavioral scientists have tried to offer answers to this question. Leadership, however, is a surprisingly complex and elusive concept that requires in-depth understanding and explanation. This report brings out some of the most important qualities that make the leader effective and also unique from the common man.
Many people have conducted research in the field of leadership. According to the psychological research, some of the positive personality variables associated with strong leadership include tenderness, friendliness, self-confidence, ability to stand up to pressure. These researches have also found that the absence of negative qualities such as arrogance, aggression, boastfulness, egotism, and passivity are correlated with positive leadership (Romney, 1996). Several qualities need to be possessed by leaders and only then they can be effective leaders. For instance, leaders are good listeners. An effective leader listens emphatically. Secondly, they are good decision-makers. An effective leader, who is listening carefully, reliable, daring and emphatic, must also have the proper timing in making and executing decisions. Leaders are good at prioritizing and lead the group at an appropriate speed and they use time as their ally. Time management is an important part of good leadership. A leader should also possess the ability to encourage people and foster growth in them. They are always looking for helping others and increase group efficiency. In other words, they are good at creating a win-win situation. They are the role models, someone who leads by example. Self-knowledge and self-awareness are also essential characteristics.
A leader is always pleasant and friendly to all the team members. A leader trusts in the team and motivates them for high performance. A good leader is always generous in praising and recognizing each individual who is a performer and appreciates all contributions, big and small. A leader must project fearlessness in facing challenges. A leader must stand firm even in the presence of criticisms, but still having the courage to admit their mistakes.
The most important attribute for a leader is being principle-centered. All enduring philosophies, religions, and thoughts are based on principles such as integrity, compassion, trust, honesty, accountability, and others at their core. Leadership is all about communicating to people their worth and potential effects. It is the influence on others to help them discover their own voice, to find their own purpose, to make their unique contribution, and to release their potential, that truly defines leadership (Khan, 2005).
It is not difficult to identify a leader among a group of people as a natural leader will stand out. Leaders can be identified by looking at their past history of achievements. A good leader has the capacity to create or catch the vision. They are trendsetters and set an example by walking the talk by themselves. They have the capacity to influence people and motivate people to bring out the best in them. A willingness to take responsibility and accept challenges are important characters of a leader. A potential leader needs mental toughness. Above all, they have a set of values and principles in their life that make them strong in whatever field they are in.
According to Stephen Covey Leadership is not just about management. The basic difference he points out is that leadership focuses on the top line and Management focuses on the bottom line (Covey, 1989). While managers focus on the numbers, leaders focus on people. Management is doing things right whereas leadership is doing the right things. Team building and vision are the foundation of leadership. Leadership is all about building peak-performing teams, teams focused on accomplishing goals. Leaders can effectively communicate and motivate the team to perform the set goals.
At this point in time, another question that arises in the mind is if leaders are born leaders or are these qualities are acquired over the years. This is a question that still puzzles many working on the concepts of leadership. However, there is little or no evidence either way. Researchers have found that in many cases, genetics and early family experiences play a significant role in developing the personality and character needs that motivate the individual to lead. They also contribute to the development of the intellectual and interpersonal skills necessary to lead. But many researchers believe that the origins of leadership go beyond hereditary or genes and family to other sources. Work experiences, hardship, opportunity, education, role models, and mentors all go together to make a leader. An important assumption in this theory is that the raw material essential in people in order to lead is not in short supply. Rather, the lack of needed leaders is a reflection of neglected development rather than a shortage of abilities. Thus, leadership is a complex equation of birth and early childhood factors, shaped by later life experiences and opportunities (Maltby, N.D.).
A real leader attracts followers or in other words, they have a magnetic power that attracts people. Dependability in a leader allows trust to be built and maintained. A leader must have talent or specific skills at some task at hand. They must possess initiative, tied up with a certain degree of charisma that motivates and stirs people to motion. A leader is results-oriented, optimistic, and is of the belief that he has the ability to “make a difference”. They should also possess the ability to encourage people and foster growth in them. Self-knowledge and self-awareness are also essential characteristics. The most important attribute for a leader is being principle-centered. Centering on principles that are universal and timeless provides a foundation and compass to guide every decision and every act. All enduring philosophies, religions, and thoughts are based on principles such as integrity, compassion, trust, honesty, accountability, and others at their core.
In today’s world of competence, organizations face tremendous change and challenges. The increasing complexity of work, managing a diverse workforce, the need for higher levels of productivity, and employee commitment all combine to perform in ways different than in the past. However, the concept of leadership has not changed and people around the world today are seeking to understand the concept and practices of leadership. Though there are several reasons for the popularity of this topic, the main reason is that organizations are faced with changes like never before. The concept of leadership is applicable to any aspect of ensuring effectiveness in organizations and in managing change.
Covey, S (1989), The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. 1st edition. Franklin Covey CO.
Khan, S. (2005) Leadership Development Interview with Stephen Covey, Web.
Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z. (2007) The Leadership Challenge, 4th Edition, John Wiley & Sons.
Maltby, D.E. (N.D.) Are leaders born, or made? The State of Leadership Theory and Training Today, Web.
Romney, P. (1996) Being a Leader. Web.