Leadership is a term often misused in business. Mistaken as another word for management. Understanding the differences between the two terms however is your first step for choosing the right people for the roles.
Management is all about managing resources. The effective and efficient management of resources is important to every business large and small.
- Effective in producing an effect or result. Results should be measurable and stem from what the business is trying to achieve.
- Efficient in achieving the result with a minimum expenditure of resources.
But businesses do not exist or accomplish anything without people. This is where leadership comes into play.
Leadership is all about communication. Leaders have an ability to steer their team to achieve common goals and objectives. At the end of the day people can and will make or break your business.
Well motivated competent people can do amazing things. Choose the wrong people to lead and the impact can be disastrous. Choose the right people and a business can soar.
We are all born with certain innate characteristics and we develop competencies in response to the education, training and experiences of life. Some people are born with leadership potential and others develop it.
So what should you look for in a leader? In its most basic form, leadership is about character and competence.
Character of a Leader
The character of a leader embodies who they are, what they believe, and it affects how they act.
Attributes are physical, emotional and mental. They are the foundation upon which character is built. Mental attributes such as will, self-discipline, initiative, intelligence and judgement, emotional attributes such as motivation, stability, and self-control and physical attributes such as health, physical fitness and bearing all combine to define who a person is.
Ethical principles are used to judge between right and wrong. They are the framework around which character is built. Ethical principles such as integrity, loyalty, honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility, and accountability are often considered among those that are applied to leaders.
Values are beliefs about behaviour that guide actions. They are the glue that holds character together. For example, include integrity, honesty, trust, professionalism, commitment, customer service, and excellence.
Competence of a Leader
The competence of a leader is demonstrated in what they know and how they perform. Knowledge and skills are both fundamental to competence.
Knowledge of a Leader
Knowledge is used to understand, explain, communicate, explore, research, assess, evaluate, critique, solve, and to create. Knowledge can be factual, conceptual, procedural and meta-cognitive and exist at three different levels:
- Tactical – the day-to-day operations of a business and the production of a product or the delivery of a service.
- Operational –planning the operations in the near term and developing the organization over the medium term.
- Strategic – deciding the direction of the organization and how to get there over the longer term.
Skills of a Leader
The practical application of skills is necessary at every level in an organization but the focus on the types of skills needed often changes as a person rises to higher levels in an organization. Psychomotor (physical) skills may be the focus at lower levels while affective (emotional) and cognitive (thought) skills often become more important at higher levels.
Choosing a Leader
Choosing a leader should start with character. You can train a bright willing novice in the fundamentals of your business but it is a lot harder to train someone to have integrity, judgement and the drive to get things done. Leadership is a complex and value-laden concept. It does not merely include the authority to lead but also the ability to lead others. Leaders aim to influence and persuade other people into doing something of their own free will. Leaders will not be effective if they do little to influence and inspire those that they lead. Leaders will have well developed people and communication skills. A leader only becomes a true leader when they are trusted and accepted as a leader by those that they lead. Leaders must:
- Meet the needs of the organization within which the leader operates
- Meet the needs of the people with whom the leader interacts
- Have some form of authority over the people that they lead
- Accept and discharge the responsibilities of the position to the best of their ability
- Be answerable and accountable to someone or some group of people for their behaviour, decisions, actions and performance.
Once in place your leader must create an environment where the best, brightest and most creative are attracted, retained and unleashed. Guide them by telling them what needs to be done and let them come up with how it will be done. You will be amazed at just how creative well motivated people can be and your business will benefit from their creativity and motivation.