- Who is a leader?
A leader is essentially an individual with the ability to inspire, motivate, influence, and support the members of his/her team or organization towards the achievement of desired goals. He/she has the capacity to impress on the members of a team/organization to rally their skills, knowledge, abilities, performances, and commitment to achieve a common goal. A leader is a person with the insight to evaluate the needs of a group or team towards the future to envision a desirable state that the team needs to achieve, and then inspire, motivate, influence, and support the members to unite and dedicate their abilities towards achievement of this vision (Algahtani, 2014). In essence, a leader is one who does not depend on control or power of an office to push the performances of team or organization members towards a goal, but instead depends on personal influence to promote achievement of the goal.
Various characteristics are essential for a leader if he/she is to be effective in these roles. This means that these characteristics are critical elements of being a leader. In other words, a leader has to have these characteristics as a foundation for his/her effectiveness in this role. These characteristics include self-confidence, strong communication skills, strong interpersonal skills, readiness to take risks, creative and innovative thinking abilities, openness to change, responsiveness in times of crises, levelheadedness, and perseverance in the face of failure. A leader is a visionary character with the ability to assess needs and develop ideas and solutions that could solve current problems. A leader also has the capacity to articulate a vision to the members of a team or organization and excite them to accept and work towards the vision.
- Leadership vs. Managing: A Motivator
Leadership refers to a practical skill that encompasses an individual’s ability to guide and motivate others and their performances towards the achievement of a task or vision. It involves the provision of direction and guidance to an organization or a team and its members to influence the achievement of desired goals. Leadership contrasts with management in a marked way despite the roles of both at the top of operations in an organization or team. Management concerns the role of controlling a group or entities with the objective of influencing the achievement of a goal. In contrast, leadership involves the ability of individuals to influence, motivate, support, and enable or empower others to enhance their contributions towards the success of a team or organization (Arruda, 2016). While management emphasizes on control and power, leadership emphasizes on inspiration and influence. This understanding of leadership is important for an effective understanding of the meaning and significance of being a leader.
Motivation and support are critical roles in leadership. In leadership, the orientation of motivation is towards change or transformation towards a desirable vision, while that in management has an orientation towards maintenance of the status quo. The manager sticks to methods and approaches that have proved to be effective, refining the prevailing structures, processes, and systems to improve their value in the operations of a team or organization. In contrast, a leader embraces change and focuses on possible alternatives for an improved future. To motivate others, leaders focus on interpersonal relationships with them. They focus on people and spend time with them to know them deeply and build trust and loyalty (Arruda, 2016). In contrast, management focuses on ensuring that the relevant systems are and remain in place for the achievement of desired outcomes.
- Coaching and Performance Management
As noted above, leadership involves the development of visions for teams or organizations and focus on transformation of the organizations’ methods towards improvements and better outcomes. One of the critical roles of leadership in influencing progress towards goals is that of supporting the members of teams or organizations to contribute more effectively and competently to the process of achievement. In this context, coaching and performance management are important tools and approaches in the leader’s provision of support to team or organization members.
Coaching refers to the approach of assisting others to develop, learn new skills, improve their abilities, achieve aims, find personal success, cope with personal challenges, and manage changes in life. It typically addresses the behaviors, attitudes, skills, outlooks, and knowledge of individuals. It also focuses on the aspirations and goals of individuals, as well as spiritual development. In coaching, the leader assumes the position of a partner with others to help identify their aims and areas of weakness and design individualized and effective plans for their development. The purpose of coaching is to improve individuals’ on-the-job performance through acquisition or enhancement of current skills. Performance management features the process of creating an environment of work that enables employees to perform according to their abilities. It is an on-going communication process between the leader and a team member across the year to support accomplishment of strategic organizational objectives (MTD Training, 2010). It involves the setting of objectives, identification of goals, clarification of expectations, provision of feedback, and review of results.
- Leadership Ethics
In the effort to perform his duties in a team or organization, the leader faces demands from diverse stakeholders with competing needs and interests. These stakeholders include the members of teams or stakeholders, shareholders (owners of organizations), rivals in the industry, and government regulations. This scenario implies the need for the leader to negotiate through these demands and needs and balance them in a way that presents value for the organization in the long term.
This pressure in the leader’s role raises the need for ethics. Ethical leadership implies both acting morally and setting a standard in behavior, attitude, and choices that followers can emulate. Leadership and ethics go hand-in-hand. The underlying principles of ethical leadership are justice, responsibility, integrity, honesty, empathy, and accountability. Ethical leadership focuses on honoring and respecting others in a team or organization and seeking to empower them to achieve success by focusing on right actions. An ethical leader is one who implements a principle-centered approach to the development of an organization and its members. He/she focuses on acting and behaving morally and basing his/her external actions on internal values. Ethical leaders transform their own behaviors first as a way of influencing an ethical culture in the team or organization and the ethical actions of members (Mihelic, Lipicnik, & Tekavcic, 2010). Ethical leadership creates systems and a culture that can motivate ethical action.
Ethical leadership emphasizes on rewards for the community and individuals internally. It commits to following an approach to decision-making oriented towards virtue. Such leadership rests on a foundation of individual values. As noted above, justice, responsibility, integrity, honesty, empathy, and accountability are the underlying principles of ethical leadership.
- Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity refers to the understanding that individuals are unique in their characteristics, and in terms of individual differences. Individuals belong to different race, ethnic, gender, social, and other backgrounds, and have different sexual orientations, physical, psychological, and emotional abilities, religious and political beliefs, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds. Effective and successful leadership understands the unique differences of individuals and differences in their backgrounds, and ensures equal treatment of all people despite these differences (Bourke & Espedido, 2019). Leadership treats these differences among individuals and differences in their backgrounds as a source of strength through the provision of different perspectives on organizational issues and problems.
In order for leadership to be effective in the face of individual differences and differences in people’s backgrounds, it is necessary to individualize communications and interactions with the members of a team or organization. This is particularly the case when the members come from diverse social, racial, cultural, gender, and other backgrounds. The leader’s consideration of individual differences in a team or organization features the effort to learn the dissimilarities among them so that he/she can incorporate these lessons in interpersonal interactions and communications. This is a necessary approach to ensure that all members of a team take an active part and do not feel excluded in the processes and activities of the team/organization. At the same time, it is essential for the leader to influence and encourage a culture of learning in the team/organization to promote the members’ awareness and knowledge of each other’s culture and background. The way to achieve this is through the leader’s encouragement of the members to consider their differences as opportunities to expand their knowledge and enhance their creativity (Bourke & Espedido, 2019). This is because by discussing and sharing their backgrounds and different perspectives on diverse issues, the members of organizations/teams would examine existing challenges and problems from fresh perspectives.
Algahtani, A. (2014). Are leadership and management different? A review. Journal of Management Policies and Practices 2(3): 71-82.
Arruda, W. (2016, November 15). 9 Differences between being a leader and a manager. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamarruda/2016/11/15/9-differences-between-being-a-leader-and-a-manager/#545b856b4609
Bourke, J., & Espedido, A. (2019, March 29). Why inclusive leaders are good for organizations, and how to become one. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2019/03/why-inclusive-leaders-are-good-for-organizations-and-how-to-become-one
Mihelic, K., Lipicnik, B., & Tekavcic, M. (2010). Ethical leadership. International Journal of Management and Information Systems. 14(5): 31-42.
MOTD Training (2010). Performance Management. MTD Training and Ventus Publishing.