Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.
– Professor Warren G. Bennis
The word “leadership” can bring to mind a variety of images. For example:
- A political leader, pursuing a passionate, personal cause.
- An explorer, cutting a path through the jungle for the rest of his group to follow.
- An executive, developing her company’s strategy to beat the competition.
Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.
Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.
Leadership: A Definition
According to the idea of transformational leadership , an effective leader is a person who does the following:
- Creates an inspiring vision of the future.
- Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.
- Manages delivery of the vision.
- Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.
Leadership brings together the skills needed to do these things. We’ll look at each element in more detail.
1. Creating an Inspiring Vision of the Future
In business, a vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve.
2. Motivating and Inspiring People
A compelling vision provides the foundation for leadership. But it’s leaders’ ability to motivate and inspire people that helps them deliver that vision.
For example, when you start a new project, you will probably have lots of enthusiasm for it, so it’s often easy to win support for the project at the beginning. However, it can be difficult to find ways to keep your vision inspiring after the initial enthusiasm fades, especially if the team or organization needs to make significant changes in the way that they do things. Leaders recognize this, and they work hard throughout the project to connect their vision with people’s individual needs, goals, and aspirations.
Leaders can also motivate and influence people through their natural charisma and appeal, and through other sources of power , such as the power to pay bonuses or assign tasks to people. However, good leaders don’t rely too much on these types of power to motivate and inspire others.
3. Managing Delivery of the Vision
This is the area of leadership that relates to management .
Leaders must ensure that the work needed to deliver the vision is properly managed – either by themselves, or by a dedicated manager or team of managers to whom the leader delegates this responsibility – and they need to ensure that their vision is delivered successfully.
4. Coaching and Building a Team to Achieve the Vision
Individual and team development are important activities carried out by transformational leaders. To develop a team, leaders must first understand team dynamics. A leader will then ensure that team members have the necessary skills and abilities to do their job and achieve the vision.