According to the great Ronald Reagan, ‘The greatest leader is not necessarily the one that does great things but the one that gets people to do great things’. It is specifically so because a leader’s greatest attribute is the influence and the control he/she has over those who look up to him/her. More to the fact, leadership brings about a variety of images such as that of a political leader through his everyday ambition, an explorer leading the way through a jungle or even a business person striving diligently to ensure his company stays ahead of the pack. It is therefore wise to define leaders as people who strive to help themselves and in doing so help others do the right things (Bass, 1985). Furthermore, they are responsible for setting the direction, defining the vision and coming up with innovative ideas to loop all possible problems. In guiding the people that look up to them, the leaders basically need to have managerial skills as a tool to enable them to lead in a clear and concise way and in the right direction. As a matter of fact, leaders are not managers and vice versa. A manager is typically a person who is good at his/her job and is highly skilled but does not necessarily need to have leadership skills.
In the definition of an effective leader, some factors come into play to determine his/her efficiency in maintaining and determining that position of leadership. Such factors include: the ability to come up with an inspiring and motivational vision for the times ahead, the ability to get people into working with his stated vision, to efficiently manage throughout the whole process until the vision materialises and the ability to coach and build teams that enable him to reach the vision. It is thus a requisite requirement that the leader must have managerial skills in order to get the team to work through thick and thin to the realisation of the vision. All that stated, this essay is about a business partner of mine-or rather my boss- who I interacted with and more so to observed him as a leader. In the subsequent chapters, I will look at the characteristics of great leaders and those that are mirrored in him. I will furthermore reflect these characteristics on me and draw a conclusive note thereafter
Characteristics of a Good Leader
To be a good leader may be a calling as in the biblical context but in most circumstances, leaders are born or made. To begin with, a good leader should display high levels of honesty. This is particularly an important trait if a leader wants the team to follow. Display of honesty by any leader will, by all means, tract onto the team and in the case of an office environment, the employees. It is stated that display of honesty by a leader alters the mood in the office into a more lively and friendly one. Furthermore, display of this characteristic is an indication of the core values and codes that the company follows and more importantly, a reflection of the leader and the team as well. As per my business partner, this was a core characteristic. His display of honesty on extreme levels to the customers meant the business managed to stay ahead of the competition.
Secondly is the ability to delegate responsibilities. A leader is continually faced with the task of selecting the right people for his/her team to see through some activities and this requires some level of trust from the leader. It has been noted that any aspect of trust demonstrated by a leader is a sign of strength and hence helps, in the long run, the attainment of the vision as stated by him/her. As a leadership trait, delegation is important in assessing the strengths and the weaknesses of the team. This is beneficial to the company as the leader can capitalize on this by engaging people in departments that they find rather enjoyable. More so, delegation helps a leader by enhancing his/her output by limiting the work done and by helping the leader to focus on higher level tasks. This may be slightly misappropriated but increases the productivity of the company. In the context of my business partner, delegation played a great role in the development of our mutual trust and to a large extent the growth of the business. By engaging me in the much simpler duties such as running errands and simple calculations, he was able to focus on bigger tasks such as the purchase of commodities and searching for a market. Furthermore, this delegation of duties increased the productivity of the business by limiting the task to be done by a single person.
Confidence is an integral part in the success of any leader. It comes to play when times may get rough and the business is in a state of worry meaning the levels of confidence within the team are low. As a leader, display of panic and uncertainty is worrying to the team and tends to be dangerous in the stature of a business. Any good leader is required to always stay focused, calm and confident as this wins the trust of the team and boosts their morale. It is wise to note that teams take cues from the leader and any display of worry or lack of confidence passes on to them. In regards to this, my business associate displayed confidence even when the business was on the verge of a downfall due to the absence of customers and capital. Since the business was more like a partnership him having the majority of share, this unwavering show of confidence boosted mine as well. By assuring me that all was well and there was no need to worry, I was able to work and move ahead.
Commitment is always an important characteristic of any person willing to achieve set goals and a leader is no exception. The aspect of commitment is, even more, burdening to a leader than any other person since he/she has to lead by example. By displaying the commitment to work as a boss, the subordinate staff is likely to follow suit since this is a display that every level in any organization is committed to hard work. On the aspect of work, commitment may vary from being the first to arrive at work to be the last to leave the workplace and by this display, not only will the team respect you, but some aspect of commitment and energy will be instilled into them (price, 2012). As committed to the work as my business partner was, he was also a fair leader in terms of setting breaks from work such as holidays and Friday outings.
More to the above-stated characteristics, a leader should be creative. This is a basic step towards decision making since solutions will always be required from the leader and in most circumstances, there might be the need for critical thinking. More to that, there may be the requirement to choose between two difficult options. Creativity comes into play since the team looks up to the leader for guidance and necessary decisions. Leaders always face daily problems and thus this trait plays a big role in the day to day activities. In the realm of my business associate, this characteristic was a major player in the daily business activities and in most circumstances he had to make controversial decisions that at first I did not agree to but in the long run got the job done.
The fact that leaders depend so much on intuition may be more of an intrinsic characteristic than it is extrinsic (Economy, 2014). The fact that a team looks for guidance and to be led through unexpected situations may require a leader to depend on natural intuition. It is particularly so because there is no certainty in guiding a team through unknown scenarios and in some instances, unexpected outcomes and occurrences. The natural ability to figure out what to do next even without knowing the outcome is thus a very important armor in the arsenal of any great leader since this is what guides the team through murky waters. Regarding this aspect, my business associate seemed to have the innate capability to guide the company by his mere intuition. This was a good display of judgment from him enabling the business to move forth by getting past very hard situations and choices.
Another trait that a good leader needs to display is the ability to effectively communicate with the team (Hewes, n.d.). Communication has always been regarded as a business management tool and it is so because it is the main tool used by team members to pass ideas. A lack of this tool by any good leader will tend to distort the actual vision since it will be difficult to describe the actual things to be done. Furthermore, training of any new personnel and establishing a healthy working environment all depends on effective communication in both the bottom up and the top down perspectives of communication. It thus goes on to state that any team will be more obliged to work harder and better considering there is an effective communication line. More to that is the fact that communication maintains a healthy business environment by instilling positive energy in the team such as in humorous suggestions or through encouragement. Specifically to my business associate, communication was no problem both in the bottom up and top down scenarios. Furthermore, it was real easy to get his drift without too much explanation. It thus goes on to explain that communication is an effective tool for any leader and that with time, understanding between team members becomes even easier.
Approach plays a crucial role in determining any output (Patel, 2012). As a leader, different approaches can be used to face different scenarios as opposed to a single approach. This is mainly because of the diversity in any work place: cultural differences, language differences, a difference in educational backgrounds among others. In order for any leader to maximize the output from his/her team, he/she must adopt different approaches to every team member as per the situation at hand. This is mainly so because different people have different approaches to work, have different responses to pressure etc. It is thus important to note the diversity in the team and to customize the approaches to every member in order to get the best out of any team. As with my associate, this was part and parcel of his leadership ability. By being able to customize his approach towards me and in other circumstances towards other people, he was able to get the best.
The last, but not least, characteristic of any leader is the ability to inspire his/her team (Tijan, 2012). This can be basically at the beginning with the main aim to try and show the team the vision and to enable and motivate them work towards it. In this perspective, any great leader will tend to monitor the morale within the team and subsequently invest in it. By encouraging and inspiring the team through various means such as acknowledgments and commenting on jobs done, the workers and the team remain in in high spirits and effectively work towards the vision. That stated, my business associate always ensured that there was always high spirits at the workplace. In effect, the morale around the business was always high and in turn high productivity
My business associate began the interview on a high note quoting John C Maxwell, ‘A leader is one who knows the way, goes all the way, and shows the way’. This, he stated, was his guiding light throughout his daily routines. Various leaders adopt different strategies to get the job done and thus leadership is a relative form. The main aim of the interview was to find out the leadership traits and behaviors, how he manages to use his influence tactics and the possibility of tactical changes during the various situation he encounters.
To begin with, the traits that the respondent used to a large extent include commitment, communication, intuition, creativity, confidence and honesty, which he described as the building blocks for the other traits. Commitment plays an important role in the development of any organization and to a large extent can lead to the downfall if not properly considered. Commitment entails the ability to work overtime in order to be aligned with the vision and the mission statement. This can be in various forms such as getting to work first and leaving the last. Because basically, the business he manages has a team of two people, his commitment is really important in determining the direction. Secondly is the ability to communicate effectively either to the customers or to the team. On a leadership platform, communication with the team ensures the smooth running of any organization ranging from delegation to maintaining a healthy working environment, as he described. Intuition and creativity are to some extent related since problem-solving might require some interaction of intuition and creativity. In being in line with the vision of the company, creativity and intuition do play a major role since the leader is the person who the team looks up to when solutions are required
Finally, confidence and honesty are virtues that a good leader should display. This is because a display of honesty shows that a leader is living up to the core values of any organization which subsequently rubs on to the team. This ensures that the team is in line with the vision. In terms of confidence, no leader should display any lack of confidence in his/her team. The team depends on the leader for guidance through difficult situations and thus confidence should be high at all times and all costs to ensure that the morale of the team is maintained.
On the aspect of how a leader manages to use his/her influence tactics on the team, adaptation was a pivotal factor. In this context, various teams have different members and display differences in diversity. It is thus a requirement of every good leader to understand his/her team for effective management. More to this is the fact that a leader has to lead by example by getting engaged into the routine of the organization. By displaying commitment, dedication and an understanding of the work to be done, leaders manage to influence the teams. In a nutshell, the core of influencing any team is leading by example on matters such as commitment, confidence, honesty, creativity, communication etc., which in turn are displayed by each member maintaining a good working environment and high self-Morales.
The final part of the interview was the possibility of tactical change within the context of his leadership. In regards to the tactics employed by a leader, the strategic plans of the individual, members need to be in sync with the ultimate strategic plan of the organization. Furthermore, strategies are mainly regarded as guidelines for growth while tactics refer to the present performance gaps and the methods to be used to bridge this gap in order to support strategies (Collins & Devanna, 1990). A tactical shift that is meant to win the trust and assurance of the team can come in the form of insurance. By ensuring the team that the leader is concerned about their health, trust and motivation will be maintained (Porter, 1980). Secondly is the ability of leaders to understand the needs and characteristics of the team. It plays a major role in ensuring that the various needs of each, member are catered for and acts as a method that stimulates articulation within the team. This is as per the interview with, the main regard the changes in market structure and the increase in diversity of workplaces.
Reflections and Recommendations
In line with leadership, many theories have been cast to try and explain how leaders stand above the rest. Some of these theories include great man theory, behavioral theories, and contingency theories, transactional and transformational theories (Wolinski, 2010). All these try to describe the presence of leaders.
As previously stated, intuition is one of the traits commonly associated with leaders. It is more of an intrinsic characteristic that has aligned itself with the great man theory which asserts that the traits of any leader are intrinsic (Webster, 2017).an important aspect of this theory is the fact that leaders are born and not made. Therefore, it is of the essence to understand the characteristics associated with leaders and the related theories. More to this idea that leaders are born is the characteristic theory which indicates that leaders are either made or born. Qualities such as responsibility and creativity will tend to put someone in a leaders position. As stated, this is in sync with the characteristics described herein of leaders having creative skills which can either be learned in school or passed from mother to child.
The adaptation to the different needs of teams and tactical changes is on par with the contingency theory which asserts that there are various ways in which leaders can lead teams. It is on this note that I understand the implications of being a leader. Various characteristics are associated with different leaders but the common ground is that every leader should have a vision.
On a final note, my business associate seems to be on a good leadership strategy but has to consider the diversity of the team to enable him effectively manage it. This can be in terms of communication, adaptation, etc. By ensuring a tactical change that caters for the team, efficiency is improved.
There are various characteristics associated with leaders but without managerial skills, it is not possible to lead a team. Furthermore, adaptation is a critical factor in leadership with leaders having to adapt to the various characteristics associated with diversification of teams. In my final remark, the influence that a leader can rub onto his/her team can create a ripple producing more leaders.
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Wolinski, S. (2010, April 21). Leadership theories. Retrieved from managementhelp.org: managementhelp.org/blogs/leadership/2010/04/21/Leadership-theories
- What leadership traits do you have? Explain these traits.
- How do you manage to use your influence tactics in managing the team?
- Is there any time that you are forced to change the tactics? Explain
- What other characteristics do you presume are more relevant in leadership?