Leadership An Introduction

A definition of leadership

"...Leadership is the lifting of a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a person's personality beyond its normal limitation..."
Peter Drucker as quoted by William Cohen, 2020

To achieve this, an organisation must encourage ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

An integral part of this definition of leadership is integrity, social responsibility, etc. However, for an organisation to fulfill its social responsibility, it needs to remain profitable and survive.

. Leadership is obviously a critical factor in Guideline 3

. As Peter Drucker states, leadership is not charisma and not a set of personality traits. It is essentially about performance and it is a means to an end. It involves work that can be mundane, unromantic and boring, ie

"...the leader sets goals, sets priorities, and sets and maintains the standards. He makes compromises........but before accepting a compromise, the effective leader has thought through what is right and desirable.... what distinguishes the leader from the misleader are his goals.......The compromises he makes within the constraints of reality..."

Peter Drucker, 2001

"...Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results, not attributes. There is a demand for focus on outcomes more than inputs together with a careful, watchful alertness......we live in a world where ordinary words are unbleached of meaning, where a 'clarification' or 're-forecast' is 180° turn around or a completely different articulation of a position..."
Michael Easson, 2020

. Peter Drucker further states that leadership is a responsibility rather than a rank and privilege. Remember: Harry Truman's statement that the buck stops here!!!!!!

There are library full of books on leadership and most are on Western style of leadership, especially USA-centric. These styles do not take in account non-Western cultural issues. Below is a list of generic characteristics that make good change leadership, ie

. Awareness (of own and others' strengths & weaknesses)

. Behaviours (exemplary; doing the right thing - not necessarily the popular thing; know when to be "tough" &/or "soft")

. Role model (leading by example, ie positive example)

. Providing a vision or focus for the future that people are willing to follow (it is shared & relevant; it motivates & persuades others)

. Willingness to change

. Resilience in face of adversity or crisis (able to handle hard times)

. Humility (high ambition but small ego)

. Wisdom

There are 2 different types of wisdom, ie
"...one is derived from single totalising vision, the other improvised from an array of multiple perceptions..."
Colin Kidd 2018

Research by political psychologist Philip Tetlock has
"...Demonstrated the superiority of free range and versatility to more programmatic kinds of......analysis..."
Colin Kidd 2018

There is no perfect recipe for leadership as it is based on circumstances (situational & contextual)

Need leaders who inspire, influence and innovate
"...if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you're a leader..."
John Quincy Adams, 6th US President as quoted in Grammar News, 2015

. Furthermore, effective leaders encourage "strong" (able, independent and self-assured) and diverse staff around them, who challenge them.

"...an effective leader knows that the ultimate task of leadership is to create human energies and human vision......the final requirement of effective leadership is to earn trust......the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers......to trust a leader, it is not necessary to like him. Nor is it necessary to agree with him. Trust is the conviction that the leader means what he says..."

Peter Drucker, 2001

This is called integrity, especially with the leader's actions and beliefs being congruent and/or compatible, and consistent.

. According to Rob Goffee (2008) followers want community, significance, excitement and authenticity from their leaders.

. There are 5 types of followers (Barbara Kellerman, 2008) based on the degree of engagement, ie isolates, bystanders, participants, activists and diehards.

- isolates (those you don't know, who don't care and not respond, ie tightly disengaged)

- bystanders (observers who do nothing)

- participants (are engaged enough to care and to offer support)

- activists (eager, energetic and engaged)

- diehards (those who are prepared to "die" for a cause)

. More work on followers shows that they have 4 basic needs, ie stability, compassion, trust and hope

- stability

"...I need to know the things around me are secure, they are real and they are going to last into the future and that is a critical part of what makes me feel secure in what I do.."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

- compassion

"... I need leaders to project the sense that they care about me, though they might not know me as a person. But, through their actions and through their words, they show some compassion for my existence and for what it is I want and need in life..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

- trust

"...there has to be some honesty and openness in the face of the situation that confronts me. So, I don't trust the leader who speaks in Pollyanna language and who dresses up problems as easy to solve or pretends there are problems where there are none - because I can see through that..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

- hope

"...the optimist tries to communicate to people that struggle is worthwhile, there is going to be benefit to be gained as a consequence of the hardship that we go through. That the future state we are going to create is better than the state that we are in, and that I am part of the solution rather than a passer-by watching what is going on..."

Barry Conchie et al as quoted by Fiona Smith, 2009e

It has been demonstrated that employees who strongly believe their leaders feel enthusiastic about the future, and engage considerably better in the workplace.

. Some more comments on leadership

"...leadership is best thought of as a behaviour, not a role..."

Margaret Wheatley, 1996

On the his 75th birthday, Winston Churchill stated:

"...What will separate the leaders of tomorrow from the leaders of today will be their ability to manage change and to understand the world, not only as it is but as it may soon be..."

as quoted by Lachan Hart, 1999

"...The real contribution of leadership in a time of change lies in managing the dynamics, not the pieces. The fundamental job of leadership is to deal with the dynamics of change, and the forces that changes unleash, so that the organisation is better prepared to compete..."

Harvard Business Review,1999

"...The narrow (and often unforgiving) path towards mastering the complexities of change and leadership is rarely travelled in straight lines...."

Kerry Patterson et al, 1996

"...There is no such thing as a perfect leader......If there is one, he is only pretending, like a pig inserting scallions into its nose in an effort to look like an elephant..."

Liu Shao-Ch'I as quoted by Harvard Business Review, 1998

"...Leadership's job is to set the frame and set people free..."

Carly Compass, AFRBoss 2000

"Setting the frame" means making key choices about strategy, making key choices about structure and profit, making the key choices about rewards and metrics, making the key choices about culture and behaviour. Then, within that frame, empowering people, setting them free to invent on behalf of customers.

"...the 4 Es of GE leadership: very high energy levels, the ability to energise others around common goals, the edge to make tough yes-and-no decisions, and finally, the ability to consistently execute and deliver on their promises.....In my mind, the 4 Es are connected by one P - passion..."

Jack Welch as quoted by Jack Welch et al, 2001

"...Leadership is an improvisational art. You may have an overreaching vision, clear and orienting values, and even a strategic plan, but what you actually do from moment to moment cannot be scripted. To be effective, it must respond to what is happening.....you take action, step back and assess the results of the action, reassess the plan.....and make the next move. You have to maintain a diagnostic mindset, changing reality......a plan is not more than today's best guess. Tomorrow you discover the unanticipated effects of today's actions and adjust to those unexpected events.

Sustaining the leadership, then, requires first and foremost the capacity to see what is happening to you and your initiative, as it is happening. This takes discipline and flexibility, and it is hard to do. You are immersed in the action, responding to what is right there in front of you. And when you do get some distance, you still have the challenge of accurately reading and interpreting what you now observe. You need to hear what people are saying, but not accept their words at face value. Groups want you to take their viewpoint. People want you to understand their motivation and the explanation of behaviour in their own terms. Creating alternative interpretations, listening to the song beneath the words, is inherently provocative, but necessary if you going to address the real stakes, fears, and conflicts.

Pay very close attention to senior authority figures. Read their words and behaviours as signals for the effects you are stimulating in the group as a whole. See through them to the constituencies pulling them in a variety of directions. Don't just personalize what you see. Read authorities to gauge the pace and manner to push forward......The lone warrior myth of leadership is a sure route to heroic suicide......relating to people is central to leading and staying alive......beyond developing your own base of support, let them help you relate to your opposition, those people who feel what they have the most to lose with your initiative. You need to be close to them to know what that are thinking and feeling, and to demonstrate that you are aware of their difficulty. Moreover, your efforts needs to gain trust......to those folks who are uncommitted. You will have to find appropriate ways to own up to your piece of the mess and the knowledge of the risks and losses people might have to sustain. Sometimes you can demonstrate your awareness by modeling the risk or the loss in self. But sometimes your commitments will be tested by your willingness to let people go. Without the heart to engage in sometimes costly conflict you can lose the whole organisation..."

Ronald A. Heifetz et al, 2002

"...Leadership is an action that involves discussing the undiscussable and asking questions that no one wants to hear..."

Paul Porteous as quoted by Julie Macken, 2004

Furthermore, Porteous comments on how to be a leader

"...Understand the issue and context: avoid quick fixes, dig deep to a depth to identify the underlying issues represented by competing values, assumptions or beliefs.

Partner to survive: build like-minded coalitions but pay particular attention to your opponents' views; you may have missed something.

Act with purpose: don't worry if people agree or disagree; it is the engagement that generates innovation.

Remember, leadership is an action, not necessarily a position..."

Paul Porteous as quoted in Julie Macken, 2004

. According to Howard Gardner (2006), leaders require at least 3 intelligences

i) be gifted as storytellers, ie they need to know how to create a story, how to communicate effectively and how to alter it

ii) interpersonal intelligence, ie they need to understand other people, be able to motivate them, listen to them, and respond to their needs and aspirations.

iii) extension intelligence, ie they need to be comfortable with posing the fundamental questions, such by explaining their vision and to answer fundamental questions about life, death and the prospects of the future

Furthermore, effective leaders hire people whose intelligences complement their own

In addition to the above intelligences, leaders require a well honed instinct (gut feeling), ie a feeling for the right move at a particular situation or

"...a partially conscious but difficult-to-articulate recognition of the resemblance of a present situation to earlier ones, in which one course of action proved far superior to its rivals......leaders should acknowledge that sometimes a decision, whether based primarily on the head or the gut, will be wrong..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

Remember: incorrect decisions create opportunities

Furthermore, effective leadership requires integrity; including finding time for reflection and

"...an openness to changes in the world and oneself; sensitivity to the valid strains in both stories and counter-stories; flexibility in the presentation of one's fundamental themes; and a sense of the commitment to a mission coupled with humility and one's actual potency. Some would call these features the prerequisites to wisdom..."

Howard Gardner, 2006

. According to Rob Goffee (2008), characteristics of authentic leadership include

- sensing situations

- reading and rewriting the context

- identifying by getting close but keeping your distance

- revealing differences by knowing and showing yourself enough

- revealing weaknesses

- communicating with care

- conforming enough

- practising what you preach

- keeping a common thread

- being comfortable with your background and origins

To develop the above you need to

- maximise the number of leadership-type experiences

- cultivate sources of replenishment, eg holidays

- gain perspective (know who you are, where you are, etc)

- get honest feedback

- accept that you are not perfect (develop relationships where people help each other)

- consider the difference between being good v. being great (conforming enough)

- determine if you are in the right place to express your authentic self? (do the things that you care about)

According to Rob Goffee (2008), followers want community, significance, excitement and authenticity from their leaders.


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