There has been an age long debate as to what Leadership style is deemed to be the best, given the varying trends of affairs in the marketplace as well as the fast paced competition witnessed by many businesses. The panacea to this debate is one that is mostly likely to remain a mystery as its participants seem to either favour The Authoritarian/Dictatorship, The Paternalistic, The Democratic or The Laissez- Faire style of Leadership. In other words, there is no one universally accepted style.
The analysis of these Leadership styles is however, not the sole purpose of this post but rather it seeks to highlight the Essentialities of great Leadership, gleaning facts from either historical trends or Leadership traits characterised by those ascribed by many as Great Leaders.
In view of the deficiencies in Leadership prevalent in our present day society, a lot of individuals have developed a keen interest in discovering a lasting solution to this malady and are even making a career out of it.
Having said this, many will favour the notion that any style of leadership style would suffice, so long as it gets the job done. However, I wish to highlight the fact that at the end of every Leader’s tenure, whether by expiration of a tenure or by retirement, a Leader’s success will always be evaluated on the basis of the following two key criteria.
1.The extent or volume of success achieved by such Leader based on predetermined targets and/or;
2.Their level of influence on those who were led. (i.e. the quality of impact on subordinates).
Leadership and Influence are two inseparable concepts that must work together in order to achieve a set goal or desired success.
A Former American President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower termed Leadership as “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This statement more or less corroborates the ideas of John C. Maxwell established in his book “Becoming a Person of Influence“. Here he suggested that Leadership is all about “Influence”; the ability to get a person or a group of people to execute a certain task that suits a given objective or goal. However, being able to positively influence a person or a group of people to the point where they are willing to do any or everything just to see the Leader as well as the work succeed is what makes one not just a Leader but an Exceptional Leader.
So the question is, how does one do this without being seen as a Corporate Bully or a Dictator? I have worked in places where Managers or Supervisors are so goal-centric due to set targets, that they forget they need a team of dedicated people to accomplish the set goals. This team of people, though sometimes seen as insignificant and replaceable by a dictator, most often play a major role in determining whether or not a mission is successful. All it takes is for them to form a coalition with the aim of sabotage and the lofty vision is gone down the drain.
Well, here are a few essentials, which I believe are not only imperative for being a great Leader with a positive influence, but also serve as a tool of evaluation, assessing how effective one is as a Leader.
The degree of passion a leader brings on board a project dictates the level of commitment to be commanded by the team.
It was in the Movie “We Were Soldiers” that Lt. Col. Hal Moore played by Mel Gibson, gave the outstanding speech saying “Look around you. In the 7th Cavalry, we got a captain from the Ukraine, another from Puerto Rico. We got Japanese, Chinese, Blacks, Hispanics, Cherokee Indians, Jews and Gentiles–all American. Now here in the States, some men in this unit may experience discrimination because of race or creed, but for you and me now, all that is gone. We’re moving into the valley of the shadow of death, where you will watch the back of the man next to you, as he will watch yours, and you won’t care what colour he is or by what name he calls God. Let us understand the situation. We’re going into battle against a tough and determined enemy. I can’t promise you that I will bring you all home alive, but this I swear, before you and before the almighty God: that when we go into battle, I will be the first one to set foot on the field, and I will be the last to step off. And I will leave no one behind. Dead or alive, we will all come home together. So help me God”.
Now, I don’t know about you but this would surely make me want to go all out for such a Leader. A Leader must be known and seen to be at the forefront of pursuing his or her vision. No one ever got recognised as a Great Leader for being passive. Passivity is the silent killer of any team’s spirit. The age old quote “Lead by Example” comes to mind, as it is through this that followers get a clear understanding of the level of commitment expected of them.
Every follower wants to know that their Leader cares for his or her welfare. Jesus Christ, who in my opinion is the greatest Leader of all, was always concerned about the welfare of His disciples. It was recorded that He took time to visit Peter’s Home and when He noticed that Peter’s mother in law was ill, He was willing to heal her-Matthew 8:14. I believe He knew that Peter’s mind would not be settled in the mission field knowing fully well that his mother in law was ill.
As a Leader, have you taken time to show interest in the lives of the people you lead?, Have you gotten to know what their concerns are and how you can help?. I do boldly say that until this is done, your team may be hesitant in going all out to see your vision fulfilled. It was no surprise to me that later on, this same Peter was willing to lose his life for his Master- Jesus- Matthew 26:35. Most times, the greatest determinant of a successful outcome in any given project lies in the passion and respect people have for their Leader as they would be unable to bear the thought of seeing their Leader fail or the mission unaccomplished.
Communication is the blood that pumps through the veins of every top performing team and every leader must come to terms with this. The importance of communicating the vision can never be over emphasized. One of my lecturers whilst in University once said that “Repetition deepens impression”. Until the vision is repeatedly communicated, it may never be engraved in the hearts of the team members. I accept the fact that one may detest the act of repeating things often but constantly communicating the vision cannot be done away with. Someone once said that “Vision leaks. It needs to be communicated clearly, creatively, and continually”. I would recommend that Leaders have what I call “Periodic Vision Refill Sessions” (P.V.R.S) in order to ensure that everyone is brought on board with recent developments and is kept abreast of any changes as time goes by.
An article I once came across stated that “there are three different kinds of attitudes when it comes to enlisting people to help fulfil a vision. The first one says, “We are going to do this with or without you.” The second says, “We sure would like you to help us do this.” The third says, “We cannot do this without you.” You can guess which one inspires and motivates people to participate and give their best.
No one wants to be where they are not valued, hence, it is important for a Leader to always express genuine appreciation towards his or her team, particularly as it relates to their role in fulfilling the vision.
A great example of this occurred during World War II in a parachute factory. Workers made parachutes by the thousands for the war effort, but it was a painful and arduous task. They spent long hours at a sewing machine stitching miles of plain white fabric. Every morning workers were reminded that every stitch was part of a lifesaving operation. Their husbands, brothers, or sons might wear the parachute they sewed that day. Those lives could not be saved without their efforts. The fact that the vision was continually cast before them and knowing that it would not be completed without them kept them going. No matter how insignificant a role may seem, it is crucial to highlight the part it plays in fulfilling a vision. Even the tiniest screw plays a pivotal role in making sure the ship stays afloat.
In Conclusion, it is imperative that leaders understand that people matter and in the words of Dale Partridge from his book “People Over Profit”, “How you make others feel about themselves says a lot about you”.
Are you a Dictator who does not place a premium on the affairs of the team or a Great Leader who places value on every member of the team and is valued by them? If you had no title, would your presence command or demand respect? Think about it.
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