People have been debating the nature of leadership for as long as records have been kept – certainly as far back as Homer and his peers. The topic continues to fascinate and enthral us today, but the way in which we assess leadership roles is changing.
Where once we looked to military and political leaders for inspiration and insight, now it is increasingly business leaders who hold our attention and provide role models.
Ask someone to name a leader whom they have admired and they are just as likely to name Richard Branson as Tony Blair, Anita Roddick as Margaret Thatcher. This focus is reflected in the growing number of books and articles about business and the main players.
Most writing on good management and what it takes to get to the top focus on leadership. It is regarded as one of the most important areas of personal development. This also explains the growing interest in leadership courses.
Defining just what makes a leader effective, however, remains as difficult today as it ever was. But that does not prevent us from seeking to distil their secrets – quite the reverse.
Of course, there must be almost as many theories on leadership as there are leaders themselves and models for the best kind of leadership change with the times.
In the 15th century, Niccolo Machiavelli advocated a combination of cunning and intimidation as a way to more effective leadership. His philosophy, if not his practices, became unfashionable some time ago.
“Great Man” theories, popular in the 19th century and early this century, are based on the notion of the ‘born leader’ who has innate talents that cannot be taught. An alternative approach that is still in vogue is based on trying to identify the key traits of effective leaders. Behaviourist theory prefers to see leadership in terms of what leaders do rather than their individual characteristics, and it tries to identify the different roles they fulfil. More recently, attention has moved away from the individual in the leadership role to embrace a more holistic view and investing less in what some commentators refer to as the ‘myth of the heroic leader’.
Requirements of a Leader:
It is my view that an effective leader needs to be:
• A good diagnostician, who can sense and appreciate differences in people and situations.
• Adaptable, in the ability to adapt the leadership style to circumstances.
A leader must realise there is no one best way to influence people.
In summary, to those who would suggest that great leaders are born not made, I would say this: We can examine all of the great leaders in history and identify some common characteristics but we cannot say they were “Born Leaders.” They all developed into their leadership roles over a period of time, learning the skills along the way. I do believe that leaders can be developed – I have to believe that because currently we have far too few of them in the world.
Latest News: Here’s an opportunity to listen in on a very good live Top Sales Experts Masterclass ……
Wednesday March 24th 2010 1:00 PM EDT
“Sales performance is at its lowest for years. We believe it is too easy just to blame the state of the economy for this disturbing situation.
We will discuss why C-Level executives and sales managers should not be excluded when looking for the root causes of the performance gap. In consequence we will propose a top down approach, focusing on executives and sales managers, how to get better sales performance even with tight budgets, for performance improvement initiatives.
Every C-Level executive involved in sales or not, should attend and verify you are not the cause of performance short falls.”