Leaders Leading Change

*This is a guest post from Jenny Redding.

When asked to think of a leader in your life, you will probably automatically think of a person for whom you have some level respect. Someone who played a part in your life in either a personal context or a work relationship and who has made things better by being a part of your life. You may not have always liked the person and at the time possibly didn’t even respect them but now in hindsight, the respect has been earned.

Leadership in Community

One thing any community needs, be it a work environment, or another arena in life, is a leader of some description. It could be someone who directs and decides in a dictatorial way, or one who is more laissez-faire and relaxed, some form of guidance and order is required. It might just mean a gatekeeper who can exert authority if needed when things like social or organizational rules are brought into question, or it might be a more closely managed relationship of traditional ‘power’. How much management the community needs depends largely on the types of people who make up the community, the goals of the community, what they need in order to succeed, and the personality traits of the leader themselves.

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theanonymousview/

Leading in the World of Work

If you consider the world of work, you will find more stringent leaders, usually with a number of game plans or agendas. Adherence to rules is more important because non-adherence to them can have far reaching consequences. The world of leadership in work can be a highly political business and leaders are strategically positioned with this consideration in mind. But there are also leaders who come in to push the rules and the status quos. Those leaders believe the rules and habits of the past inhibit the ability to be creative and innovative.

Why is a leader in the workplace so important to success? Well essentially because a team of people needs someone to steer them and make decisions, back workers up and ultimately to take responsibility for outcomes. An accountable party, whose head ultimately could roll in the event of an error of judgment or simply a mistake.

Some leaders from as early as their childhood display their leadership qualities and natural style for taking charge and making themselves heard. The ability to be a great leader is often a natural trait. However it can also be as much to do with nature as with nurture; as such the age old ‘chicken and egg’ debate can be applied. In formative years, being a part of a family of strong characters helps to groom the way that person will be shaped and approach situations. From the sports team situations to interviews and workplace teams, these leaders will revert to natural type and actually be selected as the leader, often by the very team they are to lead. Teams know that they need a leader and part of their survival and success will depend on the selection of the right leader.

It is also possible to teach leadership to people as long as there is a desire at some level to be a leader. Leading a team and managing people is certainly not for everyone and some managers are clearly in the wrong role when you see their style of (not) managing and (not) leading. There has to be some degree of natural confidence and intelligence, knowledge of the field and appropriate personable style. Training sessions can help to develop hidden leadership skills and teach people how to make the most of their qualities to lead with success. These types of people however are unlikely to ever make President!

President Obama

The charismatic leader is the type which steers large organizations and even countries which are, after all, communities on a vastly increased scale. Barack Obama, the 44th US President is a current example. He is charismatic, he is personable, he is intelligent. He knows what he has to get done and has a vision of how he will achieve it. He knows how to get there, using the resources available to him and he reviews his successes and progress.

There are realistically only so many Obamas in the world, but whatever your organization is, be it a grocery store, a broker specializing in limo insurance, a lawyer or a stock exchange broker, your organization deserves direction and support to steer them to be the best they could possibly be, and that falls to their leader.

Jim Collins, Psychology of Leaders

According to Jim Collins, an eminent Business Consultant, there is a pinnacle of leadership attained by only a select few people. He calls these Level Five Leaders in his book ‘Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap….and Others Don’t (2001). Think of the type of leader who is all about ‘the cause’ rather than themselves; it is all about the organization for them. They live, breathe, and would probably die for their team and commonly this is at the cost of everything else in the life.

Collins asserts that “Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus. They always think first about “who” and then about what.”

Collecting the team together, working together to create synergy and shared vision and being an inspiring leader is how the successful leader thrives. They are humble, well versed in the goals of the team and respected. Ultimately they collaborate to shape the future and success, for which everyone in the team reaps the rewards.

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