Unit 430: Leadership Topic 1: Effective leadership

Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not 'making friends and influencing people', that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.
Peter F. Drucker, US management consultant and professor

Let us start with a broad and greatly simplified definition of what a leader is: 'A leader is someone who has followers'. Pursuing this line of logic, we can then assert that leadership encompasses possessing the capacity and the skills required to lead a group of people or 'followers' towards a pre-defined outcome. Furthermore, effective leadership is the process by which a leader maintains the support and commitment of his or her followers throughout that journey and achieves the goal.... It forms part of a reciprocal process - it relies heavily on the nature of the interaction which takes place between the leader and the followers.

... [T]he leader/follower definition highlights implicitly that leadership is a two-way process, but also that leaders and followers form a single dynamic. That is, leaders and followers are inextricably intertwined, and you cannot have one without the other. According to Hughes et al. (2006), this has implications for a number of leadership issues, including achieving the vision, driving change and motivating people to do better.

In the Art of Leadership, Manning and Curtis (2007) assert that there are three types of leaders who have historically influenced the world, and to some extent still do today. The Rulers are those leaders driven primarily by the thirst for power and the desire to dominate. The Teachers are leaders who think outside of the prevalent mindset of the times and push others to do the same. The Heroes are those leaders known for their creativity and inventiveness; they are the ones who champion great causes and produce theories, concepts and works which we still refer to today.

.. [W]e look for leaders in the areas of politics, government, community, society, culture, religion, spirituality, economics and business. Australia is a democracy that encourages civil liberties such as freedom of association, freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Consequently, our leaders are largely chosen by the free will of our population.

Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.
Stephen R. Covey, author of multiple leadership publications including "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"

In his article, 'Managers and leaders: are they different?', Abraham Zaleznik states that managers and leaders differ on multiple levels. He first seeks to examine the key differences in personality, asserting that managers lean towards rational decision-making, high levels of control and an emphasis on problem-solving. On the other hand, leaders are likened to creative thinkers, such as artists or scientists, with a higher tolerance for chaos and lack of structure. Furthermore, Zaleznik states that managers and leaders will differ in their attitudes towards goals, conceptions of work, relations with others and their personalities. Controversially, Zaleznik stretches his argument so far as to say that in essence managers and leaders are two different kinds of people, and that individuals are either managers or leaders by nature (Zaleznik, 1977).

In the management versus leadership debate, others take the comfortable middle-ground. They prefer to think of management and leadership as interrelated yet distinct functions. This view acknowledges that many managers are also leaders within their organisation, and that many leaders within an organisation do not have managerial roles.

Organisational visions and strategies are interrelated in the sense that the definition of strategy is 'a plan of action intended to accomplish a specific goal'. Thus, the vision is 'where do we need to go?' and the strategy is 'how to we go from here to there?' Leaders as strategists take responsibility for ensuring that the organisation aligns itself to its vision, and works towards turning the vision into a reality - the accomplishment of the vision.

A vital role that leaders play in organisations is communicating the vision. In addition to highlighting the importance of communicating the vision, the example above also illustrates the importance of recruiting supporters and advocates. As well as delivering the message to persuade people to support the vision, leaders recognise that communication is a two-way process.

Some leadership researchers assert that constructing corporate culture is one of the fundamental roles of leaders. The followers in this context look to their leaders, and seek to mimic their behaviour. The onus, therefore, is on the leader to use his or her words and actions to project an image which epitomises the core values of the organisation.

Studies have shown that, typically, effective leaders need to be efficient 'soft-information' gatherers (Mintzberg, 1990). This is achieved by being efficient communicators, building networks and using their listening skills to stay in touch with the 'pulse' of the organisation. They often surprise people by how much they know about seemingly unimportant pieces of information.

The purpose of communication is to align the goals of potential supporters with those of the vision. This is where empowerment comes into the equation. To gain and maintain support for an organisation's vision, a leader needs to empower his or her employees... The fear of recrimination from dissenting supervisors often results in employee inaction and a reluctance to contribute to the change process. Aligning employee goals to those of the organisation helps to overcome this problem... Leaders who develop their ability to motivate others end up with driven, satisfied and committed followers.

There are many myths about leadership.

* 'PEOPLE ARE BORN LEADERS'
Most contemporary researchers, academics and leaders today would agree that leadership is both a learned skill and a result of seizing leadership learning opportunities throughout life. In direct contrast to the myth that 'people are born leaders', there is another myth in circulation that 'everyone can be a leader' as it assumes requisite skills and desire.

* 'LEADERS MUST BE CHARISMATIC'
One of the most recent theories to come to the forefront of discussions is a modern update on Trait Theories. This approach refers to two styles of leadership: transactional versus transformational (otherwise known as charismatic) leadership. However, not all leader are transformational.

* 'PEOPLE ALL PERCEIVE LEADERS THE SAME WAY'
If this myth were true, there would be no benefit in studying leadership concepts or debating the pros and cons of various theories. If we all perceived leaders in the same way, we would all have the same mental model of our ideal leader.

* 'PEOPLE WHO GET TO THE TOP OF ORGANISATIONS ARE LEADERS'
Often they are, but not all senior officials or office holders are necessarily leaders. Equally, not all leaders are senior leaders; in any organisation there are many 'unofficial' leaders

* 'EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IS BASED ON CONTROL, COERCION AND MANIPULATION'
Whilst we acknowledge that this style of leadership exists, most would agree that it is neither: the ideal leadership style or a currently dominant leadership style.

Kotter argues that the main differences between managers and leaders are that:
* management is about coping with complexity whereas leadership is about coping with change
* management is about planning and budgeting whereas leadership is about setting direction (vision and strategies)
* management is about organising and staffing whereas leadership is about aligning people to the vision
* management is about controlling and problem-solving whereas leadership is about motivating and inspiring
* managers promote stability while leaders push for change.

There are five main roles of leaders:
* Leaders as strategists—their role is to help create/define a vision for the organisation and to motivate and inspire others to achieve the vision.
* Leaders as organisation builders—their role is to determine corporate values and culture and then to lead by example.
* Leaders as communicators—one of their primary roles is to seek the most effective ways to communicate the vision to key followers.
* Leaders as motivators—their role is to empower, motivate and inspire their followers to achieve organisational goals.
* Leaders as decision-makers—their role is to primarily make strategic decisions in the interests of the organisation's future success