Please can we start teaching leadership in schools as a specific and mandatory course. I am frequently amazed by how poor the general understanding of leadership is. So at the risk of repeating previous posts I am going to summarise the key aspects of leadership.
Two key attributes of leadership:
1 – Leaders initiate – Leaders do not need to know the answers, they do not need to be the creators or owners of the vision, they do not even need to know how to do things, but they do need to initiate. Leaders must take responsibility for making sure that the vision and direction are defined. Above all leaders need to decide to lead, to take the first step – to not wait to be told what to do, but to decide to act.
2 – Leaders have followers – having decided to act, leaders attract followers. Initiating something and failing to gather a team around it makes a loner not a leader. The leader takes responsibility for turning a group or community into a team. A team is a group of people who support each other in pursuit of a common objective.
Two skills of good leaders
1 – Good leaders follow – After the initiation and team formation the leaders job changes. Once into delivery or execution the leaders job is mainly to be out of the way. They may become part of the team and support the delivery or they may be slightly outside the team ready to step in to support or to contribute learning for the next time.
2 – Good leaders are available – Leadership is a role itself. Leaders cannot lead and spend 80% of their time being operational. Leaders need to be available to support or even substitute team members. They need to be tracking and working on team dynamics. They need to be holding the wider context and feeding that into operational decisions. Leaders are there to maximise the performance of the team and individuals within the team – not to maximise their own performance.
Good leaders are also agile, able to flex their leadership style based on the situation, below are four different styles of leadership. Being locked in to only one style will seriously limit the potential of a team. The best leaders typically seek to be Authentic, but have the flexibility to use other styles where the situation demands it.
Four different kinds of leader
Autocratic – authority comes from fear. Advantages – by far the most popular historically, can be good in a crisis. Disadvantages – limits creativity, totally dependent on those at the top, often leads to competition among “princes”. Autocratic leaders are often narcissistic. Tends to create a highly political culture of “Yes” men.
Hierarchical – authority comes from title/uniform. Advantages – can be good with young or inexperienced populations. Disadvantages – limits creativity and responsibility, works badly with intelligent and capable populations. Hierarchical leaders are often insecure and indecisive suffering from “impostor syndrome”. Tends to create a disempowered culture, reluctant to take decisions.
Hero – authority comes from charisma, Advantages – inspiring, great things often get done, people can perform beyond what they thought they were capable of. Disadvantages – not often sustainable beyond the original “hero”, can lead to hero creating fires to put out, does not get the most from everyone. Hero leaders are often narcissistic. Will create a culture in the image of the hero leader – very dependent on their personality.
Authentic – authority comes from character eg values, wisdom and courage. Advantages – gets the most out of nearly everyone, sustainable. Disadvantages – needs to be learned and is a real skill, very hard if the population are not ready or willing to step up, authentic leaders are less common. Tends to create an empowered culture of distributed leadership.
If you think this is helpful – please share it as widely as you can. A world with great leaders would be a better place.
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