Much has been written about leadership over the years. There have been articles on the rules of leadership, quick tips and pointers to employ, articles on leadership style, and plenty of biographies on inspiring leaders throughout world history. But in all that books and articles on leadership, there are plenty of ideas that fail to get any recognition. Below is a short list of things you thought you already knew about leadership.
1. Leaders come in ALL different flavors.
There are different types of leaders and you will probably work for more than one type of leader in your lifetime. Formal leaders are those elected into political offices, such as congressmen and presidents of the local VFW. Informal leaders are those people we look up to by virtue of their wisdom and experience. Some examples of this include the elders of a tribe, or our grandparents. Other informal leaders include those who have earned our respect by the virtue of their expertise and contribution to society. Examples of these informal leaders include Albert Einstein (Theoretical Physics) and Leonardo da Vinci (Arts & Sciences). Regardless of whether the leadership is formal or informal, leaders practice a combination of different leadership styles.
2. Leadership is a process.
Although it may seem that certain people are born with innate leadership qualities, without the right environment and exposure to quality leadership, they may fail to develop their potential. Just like learning how to ride a bicycle, you can also learn how to become a leader and hone your leadership abilities. Knowledge on leadership theories may be formally gained by enrolling in leadership seminars, workshops, and conferences. Daily interactions with employees and customers provide the opportunity to observe and practice leadership theories. Together, both formal and informal learning will help you gain leadership attitudes, insights, and further your cycle of learning. You do not become a leader in one day and just stop learning. Life-long learning is important in becoming a good leader.
3. Leadership starts with you.
The best way to develop leadership qualities is to apply it in your own life. As the old adage goes, “action speaks louder than words.” Leaders are always in the spotlight. Keep in mind that your credibility as a leader depends on how much your actions speak when you interact with your family, friends, and co-workers. Your way of managing personal and organizational responsibilities, and even the way you handle customers are also being watched and scrutinized. Remember, repeated actions become habits long term. Steven Covey’s book, entitled "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" provides good insight on how you can achieve better leadership by instilling new habits.
4. Leadership is shared.
Leadership is not the sole responsibility of one person, but rather the shared responsibility among members of a managing team. A leader belongs to a group. Each member has his/her responsibilities to fulfill as part of the group. Formal leadership positions are merely added responsibilities in addition to the responsibilities as members of the team. Effective leadership requires members to do their share of work. Another major part of leadership is communication. All social interaction, whether it be by the "leader" or a member of the "management team", plays a major role in leadership of the group. To learn how to truly work together requires a great deal of trust between leaders and members of an emerging team. Trust is built upon actions and not words. When respect exists, trust is fostered and confidence is built.
5. Leadership styles should depend on the situation.
Why does a dictatorship work for Singapore but not the United States of America? Aside from culture differences, religous beliefs, and value systems, the current situation of a nation also affects the leadership style used by its formal leaders. Most of the time, leaders employ a combination of leadership styles depending on the situation at hand. In emergency situations such as periods of war and calamity, decision-making is a matter of life and death. Thus, a nation’s leader does not have time to consult with all the departments of a group to arrive at a crucial decision. The situation is much different in times of peace and order - different sectors and other branches of government have time to freely interact and participate in governance. This should apply to leadership of groups and companies as well. When staffs are highly motivated and competent, a combination of high delegative and moderate participative styles of leadership is appropriate. But if the staff has low competence (or is poorly trained), a combination of high coaching, high supporting, and high directing behavior from the leader is required.
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