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The purpose of leadership is to get somewhere.
Leadership means ‘getting people moving and heading for a positive future with vision’.
That means influencing people, by providing purpose, direction and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization. In other words, organizations continually face the difficult task of developing and advocating a leadership style that reflects the organization’s vision and helps managers achieve that vision.
Organizations bring challenge, excitement and diversity. They also bring opportunities and uncompromisingly high standards and responsibilities to all stakeholders. Organizations need strong leaders to deliver these.
Being a leader is about entering into a partnership. Leading implies a group of followers (employees) and objectives to provide direction. Leadership has three implications: objectives, a team of followers and a ‘contract’ between the leader and those being led:
- Without objectives, leadership is a meaningless exercise. Objectives must come first, since even formally leaderless teams will ‘elect’ a leader once they agree where they are and where they want to get to.
- Without a team of followers, the ‘leader’ is an individual contributor, and no matter how highly motivated and successful, he/she can never really be considered a leader unless there is vision.
- Without a ‘contract’, activity is not focused and progress is haphazard or not made, and the objectives not attained within the desired (budget and time) constraints.
Great leaders use vision, flair, inspiration and skills to continually push the boundaries towards achieving their organization’s vision, and in return gain a breadth and depth of expertise, skills and qualities that they take with them for life.
The art and Science of leadership
As Max De Pree said, leadership is ‘much more an art, a belief, a condition of the heart than a set of things to do’.
Organizations need to engage their management (development) community to agree and then promote consistent approaches to leadership development.
The art of leadership = Define a standard for leadership in the organization
The science of leadership = Design a model of leadership development to drive common approaches to development initiatives
In the context of a business environment, leadership answers four questions:
- To develop a vision that creates an appropriate and compelling way forward for the future. Where are we going? What is our goal? The most important/difficult thing for leaders is to bring this vision or ‘sense’ into the management team. Their role is to communicate this concrete framework to the team, to create shared meaning and understanding. The manager’s role is to think about how to do it.
- To set strategy and turn it into actionable plans. What framework (not tools) do we use to get there?
- To organize the structure and establish and maintain relationships with all key stakeholders to enable success. Shape and strengthen the organization to create long-term sustainability. Decide who can best help us get there.
Who is best for the job and can help others be successful? Excellent leaders can’t do it alone. It’s the people they choose.
- To prepare the culture– what attitude and behaviour should we have?
Most organizations insist that a fundamental part of the leader’s role is to inspire their people to deliver the business vision. This, and the following, are all soundly based on what the organization needs to succeed. This may include:
- establishing and communicating a vision to provide a context, motivation and clarity for those who support the leader;
- engendering a passion for organizational values in others and acting as an ambassador for the brand;
- meeting the challenges of driving the business and leading bright and talented teams.
There’s more to leadership than values. To embrace organizational values fully leaders must have capability. Capability is described in terms of competencies. A competency is a combination of attitude, knowledge and practical skill that brings about successful outcomes.
Leaders must be expected to demonstrate competence in leadership, management and functional areas:
- Leadership competencies are fundamental to the success of any business, as they support the achievement of business strategy.
- Management competencies are key to the effectiveness of projects, operations and processes. Managers need to be proficient in planning, budgeting, recruiting, organizing and problem solving to create and maintain efficient processes and day-to-day business operations.
- Functional competencies define specialist professional expertise such as finance, HR, marketing or technology.
Sample leadership competencies typically include:
- Strategic vision Articulate a clear and compelling vision and translate strategy into a road map for success.
- Values communication Build every aspect of the organization’s vision and values into the way you work.
- Customer commitment Be a customer champion and drive the organization towards exceeding customer expectations.
- Commercial drive Win in the organization’s marketplace(s) using superior knowledge, partnerships and entrepreneurial flair.
- Building organization capability Shape the organization to create long-term shareholder value.
- Team leadership Consider the bigger picture; provide the leadership necessary to achieve the organization’s vision and strategy.