You don’t usually expect to get engrossed in a discussion on leadership, over a coffee, with a group complete strangers at a motorway service station in the English East Midlands. Well that’s what happened. I just had to gatecrash the party. These were good guys, honest hard working souls but they were for the most part sharing, in an increasigly animated way, the most bizarre theories on leadership. Leadership is a subject that I’ve studied extensively but for some reason I seemed unable to articulate my thoughts. Well articulate of a sort I managed, but summarise I did not. I sounded at best like an eccentric professor as I stumbled through theory after theory and had the air about me of one who had lost his way somewhat. On reflection perhaps their thoeries were if bizarre a least succinct. Perhaps my brain was fried after ‘sales bootcamp’ – article on that beauty to follow, I promise.
What I realised was that I needed instant access to the place that all of that learning had taken me to. Just as the aspirant entrepreneur will have access to his elevator pitch should the occasion on which he finds himself in a lift with Lord Sugar ever present itself I was in need of the Tibself Declaration, the summation of my academic endeavours on leadership, a paragraph on which to call. Well here it is fresh from my pen. Gentlemen, as promised, these are the qualities which make a leader great:
There is a commonly held perception in western culture that leadership equates to a superior intelligence, logic and wisdom but it occurs when one group member modifies the motivation or competencies of others in the group. In short you cannot have a leader without followers. Numerous academics prepared lists of qualities that constituted born leadership but the lists became long and bewildering. De Gaulle was tall but Napoleon was short. It does not make a difference. Perhaps trait theory isn’t appealing to those born with the sceptical gene. In short trait theory alone cannot account for the complexity of leadership because it is too one-dimensional. Leadership has to be one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth but we recognise it when we see it. Different situations call for different skills and styles. No one leadership style is ideal for every situation and a leader must be able to modify their approach accordingly by telling, selling, participating or empowering. A great leader will demonstrate consideration and be mindful of subordinates, including a respect for their needs and feelings but they also have to be task orientated, with a focus on goal attainment, after all that’s what they are there for. Charisma as personal power resides in many great leaders; it can be enhanced by position or expert status. You are; what you know; what you do; and what you believe but you have to be able to able to motivate and enthuse others. It is perhaps because the topic has consumed so much energy, time and effort that it appears to be the Holy Grail for corporates and entrepreneurs alike.
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