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Essentials of Successful Leadership

Sep 02, 2014

Image courtesy: ghsmart.com

Google, Apple, Microsoft, Xerox, Starbucks, Berkshire Hathaway, Ford, and TATA Industries are globally recognized brands. However, we sometimes forget that behind these successful companies are some very strong business leaders. The leadership of these companies was innovative, created a vision for the company, and energized the employees towards achieving the vision.

If you have wondered, what makes a successful business leader, you are not alone. Deciphering components of effective leadership appears akin to cracking the Da Vinci Code.

Let’s explore this fascinating subject by beginning at the beginning.

What is Leadership?

The Oxford dictionary defines leadership as ‘the action of leading a group of people or an organization’. Here are some famous quotes on what it is to be a business leader –

  • Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it – Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes. —Peter Drucker
  • As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others. —Bill Gates
  • Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower- Steve Jobs
  • Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Henry Ford

The following statements sum up what is takes to be a leader –

  • A leader has a vision and has the ability to effectively communicate it.
  • He/ she is able to influence people (not just the direct reports) to work towards and achieve a stated outcome.
  • A leader is result driven. Leaders establish themselves by delivering results repeatedly.
  • He/ she is an innovator and problem solver.
  • Leaders take decision basis available information as well as a strong self-belief in what they are doing.
  • Leaders empower and inspire other people in the company to do better.
  • Even the most successful leaders have faced massive failures, but they learnt from it and quickly moved on.

Leadership and Management – Is There a Difference?

Management is about planning, budgeting, staffing, clarifying jobs, measuring performance, and problem solving, whereas leadership is about alignment to organizational vision, motivation, and inspiration.

Vineet Nayar former CEO of HCL Technologies and the author of ‘Employees First, Customers Second’, explains the difference between leadership and management as following:

1. Leader creates value, while a manager counts value – A manager measures performance, whilst a leader is focussed on empowering people to create value.

2. A leader creates circle of influence, while a manager creates circles of power – You are a true leader if people other than your direct reports come to you for advice. A manager on the other hand has circles of power, often basis the authority vested by the company.

3. A leader inspires people, while a manager gets the job done – A manager focuses on administrative tasks, while a leader is driven by motivating and influencing others to achieve organizational success.

Not all leaders make good managers, and vice versa. For instance, Sir Winston Churchill was a great war-time leader, inspiring his nation to go to war, but he was not as effective at managing the country in time of peace.

While leadership and management differ in their concept, in today’s business scenario they must exist in tandem. For example, while a manager assigns tasks to the team (which is management), he must also inspire them to do well by nurturing talent and skills (leadership).

Qualities of a Successful Leader

Whether you aspire to start a business or to work with an established company, you will ultimately need leadership qualities to achieve success.

Leadership plays a pivotal role in all organizations and is not restricted to the senior management or people with large teams. Middle and junior managers, as well as employees without managerial responsibility, are required to display leadership qualities. For instance, when a management trainee is asked by the supervisor to take charge of a project, present new ideas, assemble a team, and deliver the results, he is in fact being expected to have the ‘leadership’ to get the job done.

If you want to be a successful leader in the workplace, here are 8 things you can do every day to develop your leadership skills –

1. Encourage a healthy dialogue. Instead of intimidating or focussing on what you have to say, encourage others to voice their opinion.

2. Take decisions. Successful leaders focus on making things happen, by either empowering colleagues or taking decisions essential for progress. Don’t procrastinate when it comes to solving problems.

3. Effectively communicate performance expectation. Clearly communicating goals, values and mission, keeps the team focussed on delivering results. It also helps you as a leader to identify laggards who cannot meet the expected standards.

4. Encourage people to be innovative. Successful leaders understand the skills and abilities of their team and challenge them to reach for more.

5. Lead by example. Successful leaders practise what they preach, constantly innovating, taking decisions and pushing themselves.

6. Reward performance and recognise hard work. Leaders actively measure performance and acknowledge those that deliver consistent results. They also appreciate the efforts made, regardless of the outcome.

7. Give feedback. Leaders realise the power of feedback in deriving performance and building employee relationships.

8. Know your people. Successful leaders are successful at allocating responsibilities because they understand the capabilities of their colleagues

As a leader, you are responsible for creating a positive and inspiring work environment that sets in motion the ability of the team / organization to deliver results, consistently.

Hone your skills as a leader by combining leadership lessons from the real world, with learning academic theory on effective leadership. Ultimately, your personality, experiences, and training background, will hugely influence the leadership style you develop over time.

Article Posted in: Leadership Management

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