NUMEROUS scholars have attempted to ascribe a definition of leadership and to date there are over 350 definitions of leadership.
I must from the onset refute the assumption that leadership is some sort of a title or position. Rather, it is a mindset.
Leadership manifest itself at every level of human endeavour. Any one at any level of the social or business strata can have a leadership mindset about his or her roles and responsibilities.
However, it is the strength of leadership that varies from individual to individual and this strength is also determined by one’s mindset.
There have been different opinions about leadership; with other schools of thought asserting that leaders are born while another school proffered that leaders are made.
Which ever school of thought you subscribe to, the belief that leadership cannot be learned is a far more powerful deterrent to development than the nature of the leadership process itself.
Some leadership experts like Noel M Tichy and Warren G Bennis in their book Judgment: How Winning Leaders Make Great Calls (Portfolio, 2007), contends that it is the quality of judgment that separates poor from powerful leadership.
Indeed, leadership can have management responsibilities, but real leadership is about a personal vision to excel regardless of roles or responsibilities.
The few years I have been into executive coaching I have found that my most successful executive coaching clients, exercise propitious judgment.
They also tend to be very clear in their decision-making. In my experience, leaders who have good judgment seem to also be happier and lead organisations with a positive workplace climate. Any way I will explore extensively the link between strong leadership and judgement in my next instalment. but for now I would like to share a few things to consider when it comes to leading as a function of your position — whatever it is;
The purpose of any organisation is to serve others. Yes, if it’s a corporation or business it needs to be profitable, but if in the end it doesn’t effectively serve its members, customers or partners it will eventually fail. The purpose of every employee at every level is to; in some way contribute to this ultimate. If employees put the agendas or motives of their department or themselves above this purpose they are doing the organisation and the people or organisations it serves a disservice.
You are responsible to people not for them. This simple concept applies to all relationships — customers, employees, friends and family. Essentially, it means that you are responsible to offer or give — kindness, understanding, compassion, love, friendship, support, direction, guidance etc., however you are not responsible for what people do, how they react or their decisions or behaviour. In a leadership role, again regardless of your position or title, you are responsible for bringing your opinions, suggestions, guidance etc. to the other person, but it is their responsibility to either use or accept these or not. You are not responsible for the actions, behaviours or attitudes of others or the consequences of these.
A cooperative mindset does not mean that you should forfeit your values, beliefs or philosophy, keeping in mind that yours are not better or worse than someone else’s (they are just different) just to create an environment of cooperation, however it does imply that you are willing and open to change or the acceptance of new or different ideas or approaches. Conflict generally occurs when people are stuck in their views or opinions with the irrational belief that they are right and others are wrong.
Humanity is about relationships. Keep in mind that when a human connection is not established and maintained that is grounded in mutual goals, desires, needs and understanding eventually they will fail to meet the expectations of one or all of the participants leading to conflict, disappointment and often failure.
When employees in an organisation fail to maintain positive connections with the people they work closely with or even people that they are only involved with periodically results will tend to suffer.
Life is about vision — for oneself, a relationship or an organisation. If people fail to see beyond their present challenges, circumstances, successes or even failures they will tend to remain stuck in mindsets that will limit what can be manifested and developed in the future. The role of every employee is to bring vision to their roles and responsibilities, from the sweeper to the CEO.
No one is immune to troubles in life, adversity, challenges or failure. Sooner or later we must all face the realities of life with all its successes, achievements and yes disappointments and frustrations. Whether you are the President or the mail clerk you have or will have to deal with different circumstances that you don’t enjoy.
What everyone needs during times of adversity or challenge is a caring attitude from others whether people they work with side by side every day or only interact with from time to time. I’m not suggesting that we should all air our dirty linen and personal situations with others, but from time to time just a listening ear would go a long way when someone is in pain or facing struggles.
Words are words and actions are actions. The question in every relationship is always, “Can I trust your words?” One of the major issues when it comes to integrity, regardless of the relationship is trust and truth. If either or both are missing in any relationship sooner or later someone is going to be disappointed.
If employees for whatever reason are unable or unwilling to always come from a position of truth and/or trust (not necessarily their opinion or interpretation of an event or circumstance) sooner or later an employee, customer or member will be misled, disappointed or at a minimum frustrated. It is the responsibility of every employee to always come from a position of truth no matter how it might be perceived or heard from people either higher or lower on the food chain.
Communication is the common denominator that connects all humans regardless of their connections, length or the purpose or parameters of their relationship. When we believe that effective communication is when you have given all of the facts or details that another person needs, we are kidding ourselves when it comes to the purpose of real communication.
Robert Mandeya is a training consultant, communication in management advisor and personal coach in leadership and development. Email: email@example.com.