The Nature of Leadership

The Nature of Leadership

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The Nature of Leadership
“Leadership is not a person or a position. It is a complex moral relationship between people, based on trust, obligation, commitment, emotion, and a shared vision of the good.”
We are living in a world where our achievements and failures are either attributed or blamed to the leaders of the society, organizations, religion, political leaders and the list may be long. We should be viewing leadership in different perspective since all of us we are leaders in one way or the other; in our personal life, families, careers, society or organizational positions. Wherever we are somebody is watching and will be influenced by our living style whether positively or negatively.
This is challenge to us all despite the positions we hold in Siginon and in the society.
Definitions of leadership have shifted dramatically in recent years with the explosion of
books about leadership. The most recent writings on leadership postulate that leaders:

 Manage the Dream.
 Embrace Errors – the only mistake is to do nothing.
 Encourage Reflection and Back Talk.
 Encourage Dissent – the organizational framework for reflection and back talk
 Posses the Noble Factor – Faith, Hope, Trust and Optimism.
 Have that Special Touch – that sense of where the campaign is going – where
the organization must be if you’re to win.
 Have a Long-Term Focus and Outlook – engage in planning. Understand Stakeholder Symmetry – realizing that you must balance competing claims of all people who have stake in the organization.
 Create the Ability to Think Organizationally;

All organizations must challenge themselves in a very bold and daring way by asking:

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• What is leadership?
• How do we recognize leadership?
• Where does leadership reside within our organization?
• How do we nourish and grow leadership?
• How do we leverage our current leadership?
• Can we measure leadership?
• Is it possible to make leadership a core competency?

Most organizations now realize that they must embark on this unusual journey –searching and understanding leadership.
Look at any great team or organization and invariably see great leadership. Winning sports teams provide good examples, but numerous examples abound in the public, private, and non-profit sectors.
If you want to create a high performance organization, you must have strong leadership.
Leadership is one of those fundamental building blocks that drive everything else. The potential of the individual and the organization ultimately boils down to leadership.

Leadership is something that goes beyond heroic acts. Leadership is about values and how people communicate and live by these values. These values must be shared for leadership to work. In order to apply shared values, leaders must connect to followers.

You might be saying to yourself – well this is easy so far, but let’s reflect on what a character in an E. B. White novel once said: “I predict a bright future for complexity.” The point is simple – the business of leadership is considerably complex. So why is leadership so complex? One reason has to do with everyone’s expectations.

People tend to superimpose “mental models” or view leadership through a portal. Leaders have expectations of followers. Therefore, the leadership process is very reciprocal – the leader has needs and the follower has needs. The question is – do both perceive that each other’s needs are being met. And in many situations, the answer is No! Thus, the leadership process is often bumpy, filled with unmet expectations.
Followers are critical to leaders from a “quality control” perspective. Competing viewpoints and opinions from others will help validate and keep the leader in a lane of reality. This dynamic dialogue between the leader and the follower keeps the whole thing in balance.

In order for the reciprocal process to work, there must be trust between the leader and the follower. Trust is a pre-requisite for every leader and if leaders fail to act in an open and honest way, then trust cannot be earned. In order to solidify trust, leaders must:

• Care about their followers in a thoughtful way, but at the same time, hold them accountable for what they do.
• Honor their commitments to those they serve – do as you say.
• Communicate and reach followers in a way that shows respect, recognizing that differences are a sign of progress.
• Follow a set of values that others can identify with – integrity, courage, reliability, fairness, and a lack of selfishness.

Trust is like a thread running through everything, providing a grounding pillar for making leadership happen. And unfortunately, it takes considerable time and effort to secure trust, and given one slip-up in the eyes of the follower, trust can instantly evaporate.

There are numerous distinctions between leadership and management. Organizations need both leaders and managers, but the reality is managers dominate most organizations. Here is a quick list that highlights some of the differences:-

Managers Leaders

Values results Values relationships
Relates to positions Low regard for positions
Takes few risks Takes large risks
Some what impersonal Personal and caring
Conforms to rules of others Not receptive to the rules of others
Status quo – low innovation New ideas – high innovation
Functional – analyze, evaluate, solve Non Functional – inspire, motivate
Managing vs. Leading
Connecting to the Follower through Trust

This list shows that the path of a leader is considerably more difficult than the manager. This is one of the reasons why we see so few leaders in most organizations. Additionally, organizations tend to impede leadership – hierarchies that constrain information flows, internal politics, conflicting agendas, pressure to conform, and a host of other attributes that make leadership incredibly difficult.

One of the most important values of a leader is to provide overall direction. Only leaders can shape and change the context of vision – articulating passion, candor, and integrity– providing a curious and daring exploration of what should be. Good leaders invent themselves and the future for others.

Warren Bennis, one the best contemporary thinkers on leadership, seems to imply that the difference between a leader and a manager is like the difference between those who can master the context of things and those who cannot. Bennis summarizes these differences in his book: Learning to Lead:

• Managers administer while leaders innovate.
• Managers tend to copy while leaders are more original in their style.
• Managers seek to maintain the environment while leaders try to develop it.
• Managers rely on control, leaders inspires trust.
• Managers are focused on the process and systems, leaders are highly focused on the people behind the processes and systems.
• Managers tend to be short-term thinkers and leaders have a much longer term perspective.
• Managers routinely ask: How and When? Leaders will ask: What and Why?
• Managers imitate according to the culture and politics of the organization. The leader is less likely to comply with culture and politics.

Another contemporary thinker on leadership, John P. Kotter, provides good insights on leadership.
 Leadership does not produce consistency, but change.
 Leadership is about generating movements and currents within the organization.
 Leaders produce change through the processes of establishing direction through vision and strategy, aligning people whose cooperation is needed to achieve the vision, and motivating and inspiring them to overcome the barriers to change

Leaders grasp some “end-state” beyond the present and they communicate this ‘end-state’ to others in such a way that others are willing to take up the challenge. Leaders work hard at coming up with these future states, rarely satisfied with the current situation as it stands today.

To become a leader, 0ne must become himself and become the maker of his destiny, thus enabling him to become the maker of a destiny for others.
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