Leadership is the process by which one person is able to influence others socially so that they can work together towards making a similar objective possible. Various theories have been advanced regarding leadership and the various roles that leadership plays in the society. The early western history theory presupposes that a person must be born with leadership qualities. The theory is based on traits exhibited by certain individuals that set them aside from the other members of the population. The school also proposes that leadership is genetic and can be inherited from one generation to another.
Alternative theories rose to contradict the early Western theory since it had been noted that people who could lead in one type of situation could not lead in another. Theorists began to explore leadership from the point of view of the behaviors exhibited by various leaders. The theorists concluded that characteristics such as high esteem; positive ego, self confidence and a strong personality were key ingredients of leadership. Based on the set of behaviors displayed by leaders, three mainstream leadership styles have emerged: The Laissez-faire style; the authoritarian style; and the democratic style. Any of the styles can be effective depending on the process a leader incorporates to prevail or cooperate with the people.
Leadership can also be categorized based on the emotions people show towards the actions of a particular leader. Positive leaders tend to generate positive reactions from the people they lead. The process through which leaders transmit their feelings to their followers has been described as an emotional contagion. The emotional contagion mechanism works particularly well for charismatic leaders since they are able to attract people to their policies through the positive energy they transmit. This paper explores the various features of leadership and how to create an effective leadership plan based on their strengths and weaknesses.
Traits, behaviors or qualities of a leader are the threshold for defining leadership. Good leadership arises out of perfecting good leadership skills. The most important leadership quality is identifying the characteristics and requirements of the post that one has been appointed to lead. Good leadership helps to boost an organization, business, department or government. To achieve the targeted goals, a leader must actualize his abilities in order to steer several different people towards a common goal. Leaders are at the centre of every organization since they have to set goals for the organization, come up with the organization’s vision and actually influence the members of the organization as well as motivate them to work together towards attaining the stipulated goals.
Leadership is not an easy task. It is a very challenging role which comes with huge obligations and responsibilities and which therefore demands specific qualities and skills. It is often difficult and complicated to attain the set goals .A leader must know how to initiate, guide, motivate, build morale and create a good working environment for his or her subordinates. An effective leader is an asset to his organization while a disorganized leader is often a liability to the organization. A leader must be endowed with certain qualities.
Honesty tops the chart when it comes to leadership qualities. The leader must tell the truth in his or her dealings with everyone in the organization. Honesty creates transparency which is the apex of a successful organization. An honest leader does not have integrity issues that could end up compromising him or the entire organization. An effective leader must also be fully dedicated and committed to his position. By doing so, subordinates and other members of the organization will be inspired to follow in his or her steps.
A good leader must be able to create a vision for the organization. He or she must also remain focused to the vision created for the organization. Leaders with a visionary approach to leadership tend to be more successful since they conduct feasibility studies and sieve the viable elements of the vision from the elements that are not viable. Visionary leaders are not conventional and think beyond the present situation. They explore the circumstances and conditions in the future that are likely to work in favor of the group or the organization. Good leaders must be endowed with interpersonal skills to help them to relate with their subordinates, peers and superiors. Their motivation is not individual gain but overall success of the group therefore they are not selfish.
Good leaders are capable of inspiring people to come together and work towards a common goal even if they are not willing to engage in the task initially. This translates into creation of a conducive working environment. The organization or group is in turn able to attain or even exceed the desired results. The leader does not let good work from the subordinated to go unnoticed. He or she rewards hard workers with bonuses and incentives. Awards and rewards go a long way into motivating the human spirit and no wise leader should ever downplay their role in motivation.
Consistency is an integral quality of good leadership. An effective leader must be consistent in his or her decision making policy and in delivery of quality results. This is in order to gain the respect and confidence from the subordinates and superiors. A leader who is inconsistent and who does not have a stand-point cannot be trusted. Inconsistency causes failure of both the leader and the organization. Subordinates find it very hand to tolerate or cooperate with an unpredictable leader.
A leader must have high self-esteem, self-confidence and a positive attitude. The only way to earn confidence of other people is to have confidence in oneself. Self-confidence is also very important in making decisions that may involve elements of risk. He or she must be fully confident that the decisions made are in the best interest of the organization and have the positive attitude that they are going to work out.
The leader must also be knowledgeable about the discipline he is working in or the project he or she is working on. He or she must be aware about the required manpower, resources and time needed to accomplish a specific project. An effective leader is also patient, bears with his juniors and does not lose temper easily no matter how bad things may become. Good decision making is the hallmark quality of a good leader. Such leaders analyze a decision form all points of view and are bound to be successful in fulfilling their duties.
The value of leadership is measured from the responses and reactions from the leader’s followers. A real leader does not engage in imposition of authority. He or she is able to influence followers by winning their hearts through assurance. The power of a leader can be deciphered from the achievements gained by those who follow him. The trait theory argues that some people are born leaders while others are not. Leadership abilities, skills and attitudes are derived from the natural attributes of a person’s personality and God-given talents. The social environment in which a person is brought up in also affects the person’s ability to lead in that it affects the person’s self-esteem and belief in his capabilities.
Intelligence is perceived as a key leadership trait. It is often argued that leaders have particular traits that are unique and that make it possible to identify them from a general population since they stand out. It is often possible to identify and assess the particular leadership traits. The word trait is used to refer to temperament, ability, physical qualities, abilities and disposition of an individual. To be categorized as a trait an action must be consistent or stable and must not be susceptible to change even in dangerous circumstances. Leaders tend to display higher levels of intelligence, responsibility, academic ability, persistence, oratory skills, self-confidence, and alertness than the general population.
Extroversion and dominance are traits that have been found to augur particularly well with leadership. Conservatism on the other hand was found to be a negative trait to leaders and leaders who display it do not hold leadership positions for long. A leader must have a drive to be successful. Drive as a leadership trait encompasses initiative, ambition, tenacity, motivation to achieve and energy.
Effective leaders always thirst for achievement and are never complacent about the results they deliver. Achievers derive satisfaction from completion of particularly challenging and competitive tasks. They set standards and make sure that they abide by the standards without compromising on their integrity. By challenging themselves to complete daunting tasks, leaders are able to gain the relevant experience to manage their subordinates. To perform effectively, leaders keep on redesigning and improving their strategies (Parnell, 2009). They always dedicate themselves towards performing better than the previous time no matter how impressive the results were.
Ambition is a universal trait among all successful leaders. It is a burning desire to foster ahead in spite of the obstacles that might stand in the way. They inspire their juniors by taking tangible steps that clearly illustrate their unwavering determination to achieve a particular goal. They set goals that are almost impossible to achieve so that they can challenge themselves beyond their abilities.The ambition is usually inextinguishable and they shun negative comments by ignoring any comments by anyone who doubts their capabilities.
A lot of energy and drive is required in maintaining a leadership position. Leaders are known to be active and restless in their pursuit for their ambition. Leaders must also be equipped with the tenacity to bounce back from failures and disappointments (Adair, 2010). A person who gives up easily cannot be a leader. They must be able to persevere through the hardest of times and must pursue the initiatives that they have started to the very end. Some programs take years before returns can be realized and a lot of persistence is required before the effort of hard work can be reaped.
Successful leaders must be pro-active. They should initiate projects rather than wait for things to happen then react to the consequences. Leaders should not sit and wait for the results but rather engage themselves in the entire process. The urge to have power and influence others is a crucial leadership trait. Successful leaders entertain notions about being the greatest and never settle for anything less than let. They prefer being in a dominant position and they can do anything to ensure they never have to come down to the level of a subordinate. Power has been defined as the currency with which leaders transact their business. Leaders must also have high levels of cognitive ability to interpret the information they receive and make valid decisions.
Behavior approaches to leadership study the impact of the behaviors and actions of a leader on his followers. The behavioral leadership theory is attributed to Jane Mouton and first came to the limelight in 1964. Leadership behaviors determine the means that a leader may use to achieve the desired results. The leader’s behavior dictates the influence he or she holds over his subject and is the most effective factor in determining the success of a particular leader.
An autocratic leader (Directive behavioral leadership) instructs his followers what task to do, how to do it and when to do it. The followers typically do not question their leader. A democratic leader (Participative form of behavioral leadership) seeks the input and views about how to accomplish a task from the group he is leading. In this mode of leadership behavior, followers and the leader are deemed to be equal partners. This behavioral approach creates a conducive working environment since the followers are not intimidated and can create a rapport with their leader. In a laissez-faire mode of leadership (Delegative form of behavioral leadership), leaders leave all the decision making functions to their followers. Followers do what they deem best with minimum interference from the leader. This “hands-off” form of leadership is not highly recommended since the followers tend to perceive the leader as weak and irresponsible.
The performance of individuals in a group or an organization is influenced by the levels of personal motivation based on the leadership style that is in place. Motivation levels explain why some people perform better than others, how they do so, and why they do so. Motivation refers to the amount of effort and interest that a person applies to a particular job or task at hand. It also refers to the persistence which an individual commits to ensuring that a particular task is accomplished according to the instructions and as soon as possible.
Extrinsic motivation involves motivation of people based on external factors such as benefits, perks, level of pay and the management policies while intrinsic motivation refers to internal motivation arising from deep within the individual. Abraham Maslow proposed that the needs of human beings are hierarchal in nature and are satisfied in the order of physiological needs, safety needs, and self-actualization needs respectively. Motivation is the desire of an individual to attain needs that are higher in the hierarchy. A leader who is able to keep his followers motivated is a successful leader.
Leaders must have inter-personal communication skills so as to be able to communicate effectively with their followers. The ability to communicate effectively is paramount to successful leadership since it is an integral component of charisma. Communication involves use of capability and skills to the maximum when spreading a message to people. A leader must incorporate the features of style and oratory that are necessary to persuade his followers and subordinates. A leader must always communicate to inspire and motivate his or her audience. Communication is the only way that a leader can influence others to achieve the desired results by communicating to them the goals and objectives of a particular task or project and getting them to work with him. Communication will be a key mode of interaction with my followers in my leadership plan.
Good leaders are not born; they are made. Anybody can become an effective leader by being ready to learn and to adhere to good leadership qualities. The process of becoming a good leader takes effort, persistence and experience. Good leaders do not become complacent upon attaining their goals. They continually work hard and challenge themselves to achieve more difficult tasks by continually improving their knowledge and skills. The leader motivates and inspires the followers so that they can trust him or her and have confidence in his or her abilities. A leader must have the power to convince impact and influence his or her followers. I intend to observe the traits and qualities of a good leader and fully observe upon incorporating them in my leadership plan.