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LEADERSHIP: Achieving a balanced approach

Leadership is the key quality, which all managers need to develop, irrespective of whether they are leading a small team of just two or three people, or leading a major corporation.

Leadership involves utilizing a sensible balance of:

Knowledge - e.g. knowledge of business in general and their business in particular, of strategy, of global markets

Understanding - e.g. understanding of people and of working relationships

Skill - e.g. specific professional and job skills and managerial skills like communication, negotiation, organization and so on and, perhaps most important of all,

Sound common sense.

There cannot be one, all-encompassing definition of leadership. This is because:

(a) Leadership involves a whole range of skills, attitudes and behaviours


(b) The way in which people perceive leadership varies from person to person, and from organisation to organisation.

Even so, check out how description of leadership compares with the suggestions below.

'Leadership is about a sense of direction … it is knowing what the next step is.' John Adair, writing in The Director, in 1988.

'More leaders have been made by accident, circumstance, sheer grit or will than have been made by all the leadership courses put together,'


'Managers do things right; leaders do the right thing.' Warren Bennis; co-author of Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge, Bennis, Warren and Nanus (New York, Harper and Row, 1985).

'Leadership means winning people's hearts and minds.' David Gilbert-Smith, founder of the Leadership Trust.

'Leadership is concerned with building bridges and setting a new agendas.' John F. Kennedy, former president of the USA.

'Today's leaders have to be pragmatic and flexible to survive. Increasingly, this means being people rather than task-orientated.' Robert Sharrock, psychologist.

'But the most critical component in Mountbatten's leadership style was that he “connected”. He took immense trouble to connect with the people.' Sir Peter Parker, chairman of Mitsubishi Electric UK, Talking about Lord Mountbatten's leadership during the Second World War.

'Leadership ad management are in many respects the application of common sense, though this needs to be combined with humanity and a willingness to recognise your own fallibility and that of others. Good leaders acknowledge their mistakes.' Sir Colin Marshall, as Chairman of British Airways.

'A real leader, I think, is easy to recognise. He or she is the one who guesses the future, who can see what is needed to keep the organisation going - and going forward - and who can, most importantly, convince everyone in the organisation to follow his or her lead,' Valerie Strachan, Chairman of the Board of Customs and Excise, UK.

'Leaders are judged by what thwy do and this is measured against what they say. I the two are not in accord, ther will be confusion down the line and cynicism about the leadership. Confusion and cynicism are the enemies of purpose.' Sir Adrian Cadbury, former chairman of the Cadbury Chocolate Empire.

There are many different kinds of leader - and just as many different definitions of leadership.

Leadership and Research

In addition to what leaders themselves have to say about leadership, a considerable amount of academic research has been done on the topic.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958)

These authors have suggested that the role of the leader is to:





They also suggest that, in addition to the above list, leaders need to select the appropriate action 'depending on the extent to which followers require guidance, direction and emotional support'.

Hollander (1984)

Hollander suggests that effective leaders:

Are followers

Analyze individual situations

Provide benefits to their team

Trust, and fairly judge, their subordinates

Limit uncertainty

Look towards both internal and external forces

Share information

Provide a stable environment for team members

Reconcile conflicts

Are accountable for their own actions

Bennis and Nanus (1985)

Bennis and Nanus have identified that:

-Leadership is not a rare skill. They argue that, while great leaders may be rare, everyone has leadership potential.

-Leaders are made, not born. The major skills and competencies of leadership can be learned, if the individual has the desire to learn.

-Leaders are not necessarily charismatic. Some are, most are not. Charisma is the result of effective leadership, not are granted respect (an even awe) by their followers - which increase the bond of attraction between the leader and their followers.

-Leaders exist throughout the organization. In fact, the larger the organization, the more leadership roles there are likely to be.

-Leadership is not so much the exercise of power, as the empowerment of others. Leaders are able to translate intentions into reality by aligning the energies of the organization behind an attractive goal. Leaders lead by pulling, rather than pushing; by inspiring rather than ordering; and by enabling people to use their own initiative and experiences for the benefit of the organization.

Greenberg and Baron

These authors define leadership as:
'the process whereby one individual influences group members towards the attainment of a defined group or organizational goal.'


-Know what to do next

-Do the right thing

-Win people's hearts and minds

-Build bridges and set new agendas

-Are people rather than task orientated

-Connect with people

-Apply common sense

-Acknowledge their own mistakes

-Convince people to follow their lead

-Make sure that what they do and what they say are in accord, and match one another.

In the coming weeks the focus will be on the functions of leadership, the attributes and qualities of effective leaders, and the skills which all leaders need to acquire and develop over time.

Excerpts from The University of Leicester Diploma in Management & Resource Development International (RDI) Jamaica.
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