Leadership is as elusive a concept as leprechauns. Everyone fancies themselves a good leader and leadership is a fantastic buzz word to sell books or fill seminars but very few have provided real tangible implementable definitions.
But before we talk about what leadership is, please talk about what it isn't
True leadership is not
Your senior executives may not be leader! Most employees mistakenly believe that their organizations most senior executives are the leaders. Look at the number of companies that fail in the hands of these so called leaders. Does the staff working for these most senior execs think they are being lead in the right direction (towards success) or out to pasture for slaughter?
I have worked with a handful of C-suite executives that were leaders but not all of them are. Inversely,
Management and leadership aren't the same. The other fallacy I fight with is the mistaken belief that management and leadership are the same thing. Management is the art of managing your organization for efficient exploitation of your resources to deliver value to the shareholders. This means a good manager must be able to plan, measure, validate, hire, fire, budget, market, etc. All very necessary skills for companies but remember that this is not leadership.
A leader doesn't have to be charismatic and well spoken. A leader could be charismatic and well spoken but he/she doesn't have to be. We have been raised in a world where we see leadership coming from extremely talented, public and opinionated people. Jack Welch (former CEO of GE), Rudolph Giuliani (former mayor of NY City) or Donald Trump. The fact is that none of these characteristics are required for true leadership because they don't help you lead your people better.
True Leadership is
In the words of Anatole France "When a thing has been said and well said, have no scruple: take it and copy it." Drucker is the father of modern management techniques and provides a simple yet powerful definition of leadership. He is correct but other leaders have then drive the point even further
These definitions further expand on the meaning of leadership and provide additional context. These are all wonderful but they are still missing one element: moving towards a mutually beneficial goal. Add this last element and you have the winning formulae.
So my definition of leadership is a person that empowers his followers to become better and helps them achieve the required goals while also achieving the organizations goals. Don't forget that your most valuable asset is your people.
IQ, EQ and beyond
Long ago, we accepted the fact that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was more important than IQ for a leader. Emotional Intelligence equips a leader to discuss things at an emotional level. To make decisions based on emotions. Through research, we have learned that there is a small yet important link between EQ and good leaders.
The new world order suggests that social intelligence is a critically important "intelligence" for a modern leader. It is the ability to understand social situations, to occupy socially defined roles and to influence others. It allows the leader to see and understand other peoples perspectives while understanding the complex new "social rules or norms" used in social relationships. No where is this more evident than the migration of some of our social relationship to the digital world (personal and work).
New research suggests that social intelligence may be the most important intelligence trait successful leaders possess.
Where IQ was defined at birth, emotional and social intelligence is teachable and can be developed.
Are leaders born or developed?
Emotional and social intelligence can be taught. The next question is are leaders born or made? Many leaders claim that they are born with the gift of good leadership but research says otherwise (link).
Tests conducted using twins concludes that leadership is 1/3 born but 2/3 developed. Unfortunately the leaders that claim it is an innate skill typically don't spend much time developing or fine tuning it in themselves or in their followers (which is bad). These leaders falsely believe that they must find the next "needle in a haystack" leader with the right stuff to help the organization succeed. This means they could be turning down amazing future leaders under false pretences.
With the economic downturn starting in2008, many companies have dramatically slashed their internal training programs which means they are not preparing their future leaders. These companies don't understand that finding the perfect leader "in the market" is a long, complex and expensive proposition (as opposed to developing internal talent already showing early signs of greatness).
Early on in this entry, I wrote "A leader could be charismatic and well spoken but he/she doesn't have to be." Research shows that extraverts have greater leadership potential (compared to introverts) but remember that this is the 1/3 of the solution that you are born with. 2/3s of leadership are learned thus only extroverts that improve or develop their emotional intelligence and their social intelligence emerge as leaders.
Leadership is a critical skills for any company wanted to success long term and I have provided much of the roadmap needed to increase your pool of leaders.
- Remember that leaders are made not born.
- Remember that a good leader is constantly learning and doesn't rest on his/her laurels
- Remember that you are more likely to make great leaders from within your company than finding good leaders from the outside.