By Dr Kellen Kiambati
A leader is a steward. Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or a set of goals. The influence could be as a result of either the position held by an individual or from within the group. Good leaders need to have the basic understanding of group dynamics, interpersonal relations as well as be trained in the application of managerial skills. Therefore, good leaders need to be aware of the impact they have on their subordinates, and encourage and use feedback and members’ suggestions in order to minimise negative tendencies that adversely affect their subordinates.
Whereas leadership entails working with and through people to achieve results, management is preoccupied with achievement of institutional or organisational goals. Organisations realise optimal effectiveness and impact through both strong leadership and management. Whereas leaders create visions for organisations and inspire members to work towards them by challenging the status quo, managers create efficient organisational structures by formulating detailed plans on how to achieve the set goals and overseeing the daily operations.
Leaders can be classified as implied (identified by group members due to his rank, expertise or other quality); specific; emergent (emerges during the group’s deliberations) and designated (elected or appointed when the group is formed and serves as the spokesperson). A good leader is characterised by being an effective communicator and decision maker, able to motivate and inspire others, as well as maintain and show respect for and trust in others. In addition, he is fair, patient, humble, humorous, accommodates others’ views and has ability for self-relation.
An effective leader maintains good interpersonal relationships, has a broad understanding of human nature, develops and uses certain leadership skills as well as sets a deliberate course of action. Individual leadership qualities can be improved through education and experience using such strategies as coaching by the immediate supervisor, guided job experiences on a planned basis, serving as a leadership intern, job rotation through planned transfers, placement in a special trainee position, participation in professional associations and civic projects, formal classroom lectures, workshop exercises, feedback from peers, subordinates, clients and superiors at work, problem discussion groups, role playing and programmed instructions.
Education and training in leadership need to consider interpersonal skills, flexibility of approach, diagnostic ability and the realisation that effective form of leadership behaviour is as a result of the total leadership situation (Mullins, 2008). Organisations should identify and develop future leaders by succession planning.
Principles of leadership
In developing leaders, Adair identified several principles that include
Develop the leadership development strategy for three levels: operational, strategic and team
- Select high potential individuals
- Train leaders in the core organisational needs
- Assign individuals tasks in order to promote career development
- Immediate supervisors to serve as leadership developers by developing individual potential and sharing leadership knowledge
- Create a positive corporate culture that encourages self-development in leadership
- Lead from the front and own the growing leaders’ mistakes
The following leadership attributes are critical for a successful leader
- Courage to do what is right and to overcome obstacles
- Confidence in your personal ability to realise what you want
- Concentration and focus to be on track through persistence
- Enthusiasm and commitment in what they do and believe in
- Values a strong sense of enduring standards of behaviour
In developing an organisation’s human potential, a new agenda that creates asset of expectations for the leaders has to be made. Gratton identified four leadership expectations:
Expectation 1: collective dreaming- creating enthusiasm and excitement in the people and letting them share in the vision. Allow members to work independently within the framework of the general direction.
Expectation 2: balancing between short and long term planning- plans of action should reflect time scales, human capacity and building a vision that engages people and allows them to understand their future role.
Expectation 3: building an organisation that values people- respect people and value ideas. In addition, create effective communication channels and show commitment to individuals.
Expectation 4: understanding the organisation’s reality- strategy should focus on building a highly committed workforce. Ensure high levels of trust, commitment and inspiration in the organisation.
Leadership skills and competencies
Traditional leaders’ approach was characterised by command, control and hierarchical based leadership. However, new leaders require a new set of skills and competencies such as
- Understanding and practising the power of appreciation: use acknowledgements or appreciation especially for knowledge workers to motivate staff
- Constantly remind people what is important: this will prevent the organisation from imminent entropy. Constant reminders give meaning and value to work and collectively focus energy to people.
- Generating and sustaining trust: trust in this context includes competencies, constancy, caring, fairness, candour and authenticity.
- Acknowledgement of the fact that the leader and followers are intimate allies: great leaders are produced by great groups and organisations that value respect and dignity. Without each other, the leader and the led are culturally impoverished.
The writer is a member of Institute of Human Resource Management of Kenya and author of Business Research Methods