Leadership- Are You a Leader
Now that the Grand Old Party is officially nominating their choice, Governor Mitt Romney, for President of the United States and current President Barak Obama is defending his record of leading the United States the last three years; we are faced with a decision to choose who best fit to lead our country. America has a vast history of leaders who have embarked on the challenge which affects many lives from small businesses with less than five employees, large corporations with tens of thousands of employees, to Presidents who are challenged with decisions influence the lives of 313 Million people.
Leadership is "organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal". According to this definition, a leader may or may not have a formal title. That means a leader can be any of your colleagues including yourself. It makes no difference as to what your title is. A leader can be anyone from a parent, student, receptionist, General Manager, technician, sales person, to the owner or founder of a company. The same theory applies that a boss may not be a leader. In addition, a company can be a leader of their industry.
There are no Failed Leaders, only those who Fail to Lead.
Are you a leader? Is your company a leader? This article will discuss traits of a leader, and allow you to take a deeper look into your qualities, skillset, and drive to lead. We will explore leadership traits, styles, and recommendations helping you to accomplish your goals. The assumption is that you are reading this because you want to lead; however, not all leaders seek out this responsibility. Some leaders have to lead out of necessity because there is no better option or their company, country, or family needs them to lead. We will also discuss leadership myths. Some heads of organizations believe they are leaders when in fact they adversely affect the goal they are trying to reach. If we agree with the definition of leadership which is “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal” then this figure head is not a true leader.
Myth #1- All leaders have the same personality
When most people think of a leader they will imagine the most vocal member or dominating personality in the room. Many failures believe that they are a leader because they think they always have something to say, and the louder they talk the more they believe they are leading.
Once, I had a CEO that used to come into the board room and beat his chest and just start yelling. Mark Twain once wrote, “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are a fool then open it, and remove all doubt.” This was so true in this particular case.
The more this CEO yelled and screamed the worse the executives performed and their staff performed. The company ended up failing. What is worse is that he took these same traits into two other companies, and both of those companies failed as well. In reality, the louder the person is the less likely followers hear. Now, do not mistake loudness for passion. A passionate leader may be very vocal to get there point across at a crucial time when trying to achieve a goal. Passion can emphasize the severity of the consequences of actions or lack thereof. Those of you who played sports or were in the military understand that there are times that a vocal leader is needed at times. This is passion, and not yelling just to yell.
|Coach Mike Krzyzewski has coached at Duke University since 1980 winning four NCAA Championships, 11 Final Fours, 12 ACC regular season titles, 13 ACC Tournament Championships, and 2 gold medals for the United States Olympic Team. He was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame becoming the winningest coach in NCAA Division I men’s basketball history.|
Some feel that all leaders have a charismatic personality. The term charisma has two senses. The first meaning is having a compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, and the second meaning, a divinely conferred power or talent. Truth is that most of the famous leaders had some sort of shortcoming or personality issue. Your cause, your purpose, and your mission in life will make you seem charismatic, not the other way around.
|President Ronald Reagan is one of our most beloved presidents in American History. He was perceived as charismatic because of his success. He was not successful because he was charismatic. He had a cause, purpose, and mission in life and he inspired others to help America reach those goals.|
Others feel all leaders have an extroverted personality. Leaders aren’t all extroverts. There are actually highly successful leaders who are introverts. From Microsoft's founding in 1975 until 2006, Gates had primary responsibility for the company's product strategy. He aggressively broadened the company's range of products, and wherever Microsoft achieved a dominant position he vigorously defended it. He gained a reputation for being distant to others; as early as 1981 an industry executive complained in public that "Gates is notorious for not being reachable by phone and for not returning phone calls."
Bill Gates is consistently ranked among the world's wealthiest people and was the wealthiest overall from 1995 to 2009, excluding 2008, when he was ranked third; in 2011 he was the wealthiest American and the second wealthiest person. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of CEO and chief software architect, and remains the largest individual shareholder, with 6.4 percent of the common stock.
The personality of leaders can vary from demanding, friendly, stoic, calm, methodical, and even lucky; however, these personalities did not make the leaders. The leaders led using their personalities to the best of their abilities and achieved success by reaching a common goal.
Myth #2- Titles Define the Leader
Leadership is not based on position or rank. It is based on action, performance, ability, and effectiveness. We all relate to working for those people who were placed in leadership roles who did more to demoralize and destroy the business than anything else. The best companies strive to develop and create as many leaders as possible. Real leaders are acknowledged by their peers, supervisors and subordinates. It’s not a matter of position within an organization. It’s a matter of who has the best skills, knowledge and resources to enable the team to achieve a common, shared goal.
When I was younger, working for my first “real job” after college, my supervisor nominated me to be a Change Leader in our organization. Our corporate team had set out a goal to create a “Best Place to Work” and devised a vision to be everyone’s choice in the automotive educational industry. We developed a plan to empower employees to help our company reach these lofty goals. Although the company is considered a success eventually going public in 1996 putting a lot of us in a different tax bracket, management deviated from this path and failed to realize the company’s full potential. However, a great example of a company that practices Leadership by Empowerment is Harley-Davidson.
Harley-Davidson Inc. is an American motorcycle manufacturer which was founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during the first decade of the 20 th century. It was one of two major American motorcycle manufacturers to survive the Great Depression. It also survived a period of poor quality control and competition from Japanese manufacturers.
In 1983, new management adopted best practices by allowing employees at any level to share new and innovative ideas to improve the quality of business for the organization. Many components and technical improvements were made saving the company from shutting its doors for good. Furthermore, the leadership team, identified with their consumers building trust and allegiance to develop Harley-Davidson into a Worldwide Brand that is so popular people is willing to permanently tattoo the company logo on parts of their body.
Myth #3- Leaders are Born Not Made
Many people still think leaders are born and not made. Just research Qualities of a Great Leader, and you will find millions of articles and books trying to find the gene that makes up such a person. What you will find is that everyone has an opinion on the matter. Many people who are trying to sell books say that anyone can become an effective leader. Obviously, the books have the “secret sauce”, so you have to pay $19.95 to find the answers which will lead you to wealth. The truth is that if you are reading this article, you have a desire to improve yourself or your company. The second truth is that you must have a goal that you are trying to accomplish. So, in reality, you will be defined as a leader by the circumstances that have been created and how you are able to accomplish these goals inspiring others to help you accomplish these goals.
Mother Teresa spent her entire adult life working for the indigent, sick, and uneducated. She had a goal to help these people, and believed in the cause. By her actions and convictions, she was able to inspire royalty, wealthy, and countries to take up her cause.
Myth #4- Leaders are More Formally Educated than Others
When today’s leader steps in front of a microphone to give a speech on the economy or a presentation to their staff, we often mistakenly perceive they have been educated by some of the finest schools that gave them that “secret sauce” in school. The truth is that education does not make anyone a good leader. Learning, understanding, ambitious, visionaries, experience and communicators become leaders. Leaders identify situations and then apply their experience and knowledge to reach their stated goals.
For example, Henry Ford identified that the middle class American needed a vehicle they could afford. His introduction of the Model T automobile completely revolutionized the transportation and automotive industry. He is credited with “Fordism” which is the mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers. Ford had a global vision, with consumerism as the key to success. His commitment to systematically lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations.
Ford grew up on a farm near Detroit, Michigan. He left his farm to work as an apprentice machinist later coming back to farming. After becoming adept at operating the Westinghouse portable steam engine on the farm he was hired by the Westinghouse Company to service their steam engines. He became an engineer with Edison Illuminating Company gaining enough time and money to devote attention to his personal experiments on gasoline engines. This led to the completion of a self-propelled vehicle named the Ford Quadricycle.
|After an opportune meeting with Thomas Edison as well as much encouragement from Edison himself, Ford built his second vehicle. Ultimately, Ford Motor Company was incorporated on June 16, 1903 with the Model T being introduced in 1908.|
|Henry Ford on his Quadricycle|
Henry Ford was Time’s Man of the Year in 1935, and in 1999 was among 18 included in Gallup’s List of Widely Admired People of the 20th Century, from a poll conducted of the American people.
Myth #5- Leaders have all of the Answers
Leaders are fallible. As a matter of fact, they appear to make more mistakes or wrong decisions then the average person because they may make more visible decisions at stages than others. However, leaders know that they have to have a vision and sense of direction while learning from others. Ultimately they will be judged by their success and failures, but they have to collaborate with their team. A leader has to be able to admit mistakes while learning from them. A leader will not be so egotistical that they think they have all of the answers, and they will surround themselves with knowledge or knowledgeable people to help their team achieve its goals.
President Abraham Lincoln led our country through its greatest crisis, the Civil War, while preserving the United States of America. Many people know about President Lincoln presiding over the Union during the War of the States, but his legacy of collaboration between the defeated South and victorious North to repair the harms of the war should not be overlooked.
Take a look at the civil wars in Africa and Middle East. Those countries, after hundreds of years of battling, continue to have unrest in their country.
In addition to scholars ranking Lincoln as one of the top three presidents; he paved the way through collaboration and compromise that the United States of America still flies Old Glory.
Not all leaders are moral leaders
Once again, a leader organizes a group of people to achieve a common goal. I say this again because not all leaders are ethical, but they have a lot of the same traits of the leaders above. For example, Adolf Hitler was able to coerce, manipulate, and control his country into hating and ultimately killing 6 million Jews as well as 5000 children by lethal injection because they were mentally and physically disabled.
Leadership is about the future, not the past. Joel Barker's has the best quote about leadership, "A leader is someone you would follow to a place you would not go to by yourself." Leaders gain followers out of respect and their ability to cause people to work toward a particular goal or achieve a destination. People follow because they can relate to the vision or goal personalized by the leader. Ultimately, Hitler’s leadership failed because a leader helps people become better than they are. A leader creates a work environment that attracts, keeps and motivates its workforce. Thankfully, his plan failed.
According to the American Library Association leadership traits that are characteristics of good leaders can be divided into seven categories. These characteristics are: physical, emotional, social, intellectual or intelligence, communication, experience, and trustworthy. When we practice being good leaders, leading and motivating others to reach a common goal, we are able to take our companies, communities, families to new heights.
Many leaders spend time exercising trying to stay in top physical condition. When the body is strong, we are able to perform at a high level. Our energy needs to remain strong, so we can prepare for the challenges ahead. Great leaders don’t break a sweat in stressful situations. As a matter of fact, they thrive on it. Many leaders are not concerned about being overworked and while having solid vitality.
Leaders have self-confidence and are more likely to attempt to influence and look for challenging tasks. They have a desire to improve while understanding their own strengths and weaknesses. The best leaders have self-objectivity. Their emotional intelligence is the extent to which a person is attuned to their own feelings and the feelings of others. They are self-aware have empathy, and self-regulation. Many do not dwell on mistakes and view mistakes as opportunities to learn and move forward.
President George W. Bush speaks to employees of DeliveryMaxx about success.
Leaders have courage and are not paralyzed by fear of failure. They have a deep understanding of one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. They love what they do. They are risk takers, and confident in their ability to take these risks. Leaders are able to handle negative reactions to the outcome. They are not intimidated by superiors and believe they have control over their own destinies.
They are optimistic, even when times are tough. A good leader will accept responsibility and remain persistent.
They do not let potential objections or criticisms stop them despite resistance or setbacks. They keep going and stay the course. A good leader exhibits concern for others showing genuine interest. They give a humanistic touch always recognizing others success. A leader is perceived by others as constant and reliable picking positions or ideas and sticking to them. Self-discipline is important to them. They are determined and good at managing their emotions. Leaders have a desire to achieve.
Socially leaders are well-adjusted and oriented toward improving ones self while not denying weaknesses. They treat followers in a fair objective fashion and are honest, ethical, trustworthy. Their promises are kept and they fulfill their responsibility. A good leader is able to convert purpose and vision into action producing desired results. They are able to adjust their behavior to fit the situation. A great leader makes people feel valued from their contributions to the goal. The leader understands others and knows how to influence them. They show empathy, social insight, charm, tact, diplomacy, and persuasiveness. Their decisions are based on reality and needs of others. They listen, empower, generate trust, negotiate collaboratively, and resolve conflicts.
The leader understands others and knows how to influence them. They show empathy, social insight, charm, tact, diplomacy, and persuasiveness. Their decisions are based on reality and needs of others. They listen, empower, generate trust, negotiate collaboratively, and resolve conflicts.
One of the most respected congressmen, Honorable Ralph Hall meets with DeliveryMaxx’s CEO helping improve small businesses and the US economy.
. Leaders are well-adjusted, a superior listener, understands small group dynamics, and emphasizes partnerships. They persuade others to follow, and do not rely solely on authority to get things done. A great leader will find common ground with all types of people and builds rapport with them. They take the initiative in social situations. A competent leader appraises readiness or resistance of followers to move in a particular directions, and senses when there is dissent or confusion.
A powerful leader learns from experience and adapts to change. They possess extensive knowledge used by subordinates to perform the work. They develop inspirational image of new products, services, or ideas and exercise good judgment, foresight, intuition, and creativity. These leaders have the ability to find meaning and order in ambiguous, uncertain events.
An effective leader plans, organizes, and solves problems. They coordinate separate specialized parts of the organization, and understand how external events will affect the organization itself. They have an honest attitude toward facts and objective to find the truth. They are decisive in their decisions because they get the facts; assess information, and act, even if all of the information is not available, or if their decision does not make others happy. A leader will look and ask for more responsibility, and knows how to delegate. They are willing to ask tough questions and search openly without bias for practical answers to the most vexing problems. The leader has learned to experiment and withhold judgment until they have completely assessed a situation and identified a well-reasoned course of action.
They have a plan to deal with criticism by listing the benefits of the project in advance and prepare to articulate them to others. The leader who has self-knowledge anticipates how others will react to situations and prepares to minimize the impact. They are able to combine both hard and questionable data and intuitive guesses to arrive at a conclusion.
Senator George Mitchell and COO of DeliveryMaxx, James Schaefer participates at a Leadership Summit. Senator Mitchell was author of the Mitchell Report which is trying to rid Major League Baseball of steroids. He is also a minority shareholder of the Boston Red Sox.
Communication from leaders is essential to being successful. They have to articulate a vision outlining purpose, direction, and meaning. It is a must to have clear goals and the determination to achieving them. Their passion is essential for followers to align behind the overarching goals of the organization. They are able to use metaphors that others can relate to in order to symbolize their vision and inspire others. A good leader is an expert at one-to-one communication. A major advantage for strong leaders is great orator and writing skills; however not all leaders possess one or the other. They create and maintain a communication network and informs all on problem situations. They are able to network with people inside the organization and profession that may have certain knowledge and different viewpoints from those within.
Former Secretary of State, Condoleezz Rice
They do not depend on only once source of information, and are able to communicate with key individuals in areas of specialization that may each have a different dialect. Leaders with good communication explore new approaches to their work, and are not fuzzy about results. They communicate persuasively because they have the facts and believe in the goal taking advantage of opportunities to speak to large groups.
Successful leaders usually had experience in a variety of different types of situations where they acquired broader perspective and expertise in dealing with different types of problems. They may give followers freedom to take responsibility for their own ideas, decisions, and actions. They are committed to collaboration and require everyone to participate in leadership. They have the competency which is skilled in performing required tasks and the ability to mentor those that follow them.
Leaders have to be trustworthy to lead others to accomplish goals. They genuinely are concerned with followers’ lives and well-being. They empathize and care about the implications of their actions and their staff has to believe the leader will support, defend, and come through for them.
No one leadership style is the best or worst. Leadership styles should be used like a marketing strategy. A leader must be able to adapt to all situations when helping their followers’ reach their goals. In addition, leaders must use their traits to maximize their effectiveness when utilizing a leadership style. That means they will have to take a cognizant approach when administrating a certain leadership style. For example, when someone goes to church, they dress differently than when they spend a day at the beach. The same theory applies to a leadership style. In addition, all leaders have a default style that they are more comfortable with. However, the most productive leaders who reach their goals adapt, and are able to motivate their followers into performing necessary task to accomplish the overall objective.
There are several definitions available and descriptions of leadership styles. I will combine them into two major categories. One definition that is available is called the Situational Leader which adapts to the situation. However, all great leaders have to adapt to situations or they will ultimately fail to reach the desired goal. Another described leadership style is called Cross-Cultural Leadership. Again, we live in a society that requires leaders to, once again, adapt to various cultures. So, if you accept the myths, and leadership traits described earlier then you will be able to identify with the four major categories. If you accept the premise that leaders can utilize the four different leadership styles, then we can simplify the description of a leader.
The authoritarian leadership style or autocratic leader keeps strict, close control over followers by keeping close regulation of policies and procedures given to followers. To keep main emphasis on the distinction of the authoritarian leader and their followers, these types of leaders make sure to only create a distinct professional relationship. Direct supervision is what they believe to be the key in maintaining a successful environment and followers’. In fear of followers being unproductive, authoritarian leaders keep close supervision and feel this is necessary in order for anything to be done.
Do not mistake this person as obtuse to your needs or less compassionate. This person simply sees successful processes, and requires followers to adhere to them. An authoritarian leader usually manages in one-way, downward communication, and controls the discussion with followers. They cannot be persuaded easily without detailed facts to justify a change in policy. This leader is very aware of the “how’s and why’s” of their business, and expects others to know too.
The democratic leadership style consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality.
This style of leadership encompasses discussion, debate and sharing of ideas and encouragement of people to feel good about their involvement. The boundaries of democratic participation tend to be circumscribed by the organization or the group needs and the instrumental value of people's attributes (skills, attitudes, etc.). The democratic style encompasses the notion that everyone, by virtue of their human status, should play a part in the group's decisions. However, the democratic style of leadership still requires guidance and control by a specific leader. The democratic style demands the leader to make decisions on who should be called upon within the group and who is given the right to participate in, make and vote on decisions. Ultimately followers feel more value in the organization and perceive more control in their destiny. However, with this trust comes responsibility and accountability from the followers’ outcome in reaching the ultimate goal.
Motivation for Success
Many authors have identified other leadership styles such as Laissez-faire which adheres to a “hands-off” approach because the leader delegates the tasks to their followers while providing little or no direction to the followers. I’m in disagreement that this is a style, but more of a motivation that is part of the Democratic approach. In addition, Max Weber described in 1947 a transactional style of leadership where leaders focus their leadership on motivating followers through a system of rewards and punishments. Again, I feel this is a motivation because all leadership sub-styles fall into Authoritarian or Democratic Leadership Styles. My favorite sub-leadership style is described as the Servant Leader. This leader puts the needs of their followers first. They lead by example, and feel that if they take care of their employees the employees will be motivated to accomplish the goal.
A Successful Leader
First, and foremost a leader is successful. The reason they are called a leader is because they have led a group to accomplish a goal. A successful manager, president, owner, parent, or preacher is a Leader. Leadership is not a title. It is an outcome. It can be measured. Leaders have experienced the reward of accomplishment. Great Leaders continue to accomplish goals.
How to become a Leader
Have a vision.
Set a clear goal.
Communicate your goal.
Understand and acknowledge your limitations and strengths.
Understand how and when to use Leadership Traits to motivate others.
Know when to adapt, and change your Leadership Style to motivate others.
Stay the course, and continue to believe in your goal.
Reach your goal, and identify another one.