The best leaders the world over were not always the book smart types. It is a fact acceptable across the globe that, IQ and technical knowhow might be a major leadership requirement, but having emotional intelligence has to be the biggest and most important bit of leadership (Goleman, 1998). Taking a broader consideration of the way of life, everyone is a leader and a follower at a particular point in their life. The issue of classification of leaders has been far and widely discussed in many levels of complexities. The situation is further complicated in organizations where the workers have very high levels of education, making it difficult for the leaders to try and force them into blindly following their vision. More of these employees want to be given a leadership vision, in addition to having their views and opinions heard. It is in these situations that the aspect of great leaders comes into play.
Despite the fact that, the area of leadership has been studied for millennia with thousands of books being churned out at every instance, the true aspects that constitute leadership still are considered to be mysterious. Scholars and philosophers alike have not been able to accurately pin point on one thing they can clearly describe to be the cause of great leadership. For one to be considered a great leader there is the need to be in possession of one remarkable and unique quality that will set them apart from the rest of the other people considered being leaders. These unique qualities give them the power of influence over the lives of others and make people follow them. The attraction they exude makes people want to listen to their point of view making it easier for them to achieve outcomes that might have been considered to be beyond the scope of a particular group.
It is imperative to note that, this gift has not been clearly defined, neither has there been clear ways to show how it develops. This quality has in many white papers and research books been labeled charisma, which comes from the Greek word that means gift. This is a quality which was thought to be given to some people and not to others. It is notable that, early scholars never tried to tackle its origins, as no one could clearly elucidate its origins. While emphasis was laid on teaching other leadership qualities like good oral presentations and the power of delegation, charisma was set aside as it was believed that, one either had it or not and it could not be acquire along the way. However, in my own words, I would like to describe charismas possessing some notable aspects such as values and morals; a leader has to have beliefs, values and morals. Further, a leader has to be knowledgeable and motivating as well as being able to give directions and implement plans. Charisma has been an enigma in many discussions. Many people see it as that aspect a leader posses, which makes them, stand out. By the virtue that charisma is not anything specific, then, it makes it very difficult to qualify a person who has it, and those that do not posses it. An analysis of around 14,500 leaders revealed that, charisma happens to the most important of all leadership qualities. It also went ahead to show that, this is the quality where leaders get the biggest challenge to achieve.
This is just a clear indication that, the leadership levels in the world over have a very big deficiency and vagueness. Zenger and Folkman tried to deconstruct charisma and came to the conclusion that, for a leader to be set apart from others and be considered to be great, they have to have ten critical qualities as well as certain behavior. They further went ahead and grouped the behavioral traits have been categorized to three categories such as attributes, behavior and emotion. The behavior characterized under attributes was the ability to inspire change, being a role model and initiative. It is a known fact that, inspiring and motivational leaders are very good examples of what they require others to do. They influence a great following that is full of hope and they mostly come in when the state of leadership is in a bad state. Analyzing this statement, it triggers the question ‘Are these type of leader’s opportunist or do they have the charisma?’ This is mostly a feature that comes from the subconscious. Since leaders are on an around the clock from the glaring eye of the public they are usually needed to maintain this high moral standards at all times without any timeouts.
Inspiring leaders are those who are often pushing the organization to move with the times. They have a progressive mind and they have a constant driving force influencing others towards forward thinking and making things to happen. They in essence walk the talk and strive to challenge the status quo. According to Zenger and Folkman the core qualities of a leader include the ability to develop people, clear communication, ability to work as a team, stretch goals, clear vision and direction and innovation. It is pertinent to note that, even Zenger and Folkman found some of the required behaviors to be baffling. As earlier discussed, it is clear that charisma is not clearly defined or rather it is quite difficult to define it and comes in different flavors and varieties. What is common to leaders with charisma is their ability to evoke emotion from those under their jurisdiction. A charismatic leader will in more ways than one, be able to reach people at a level which will inspire them with a high enthusiasm and energy and this will only be able to be manifested in cases where the leader is able to evoke emotion from his people. A lot of research is proving that, most of the leaders in high positions have the ability to have a contagious emotional effect on their subjects (Zenger and Folkman, 2011).
A common metaphor that has been used to describe the power of an emotion inspiring leader is that of a battery pack. The battery pack holds a number of individuals batteries, which are each aligned according to its polarity and connected in a way which enables them to deliver power to a specific device. The three attribute that I have listed above can be a representation of the container of the pack, which in essence can be said to create housing for the stuff that it takes to come up with inspiration and motivation for others. The leader’s attributes can be aligned in the same manner. The switch which is used to turn on the pack can be said to be a representation of the leader’s use of emotion to inspire his subjects and this is usually the most powerful tool in the leader’s arsenal of inspiration. The energy in the people is turned on by powerful positive emotions, where negative emotions usually shut down the flow of energy.
However, it is significant noting that, it does not matter which battery the leader uses as long as they bring out the right mood or effects. An inspiring leader should be able to utilize a number of different ways to connect to his subjects. Sometimes a mixture of more than one attribute at a particular time is needed to lift people to a higher level. Levels of leadership should also be put into key consideration. Great leaders understand that, there are many levels of leadership and know that for one to be truly great, one has to rise through the ranks on merit. A general is considered a prime leader, but so are sergeants and captains in their own rights. For one to be truly great they have to know that, it is imperative for them to delegate work to several others who are their juniors because they are not in a position to perform all the duties assigned to them alone. A story is told of a small university that promoted someone from a middle level academic position to become the president of the institution. His credentials allowed him to head the university at a rather lower level. Suffice to say he did not last for long, the reason for the failure was the lack of good strategies and the implementation of good strategies was lacking. This was experienced from the time he took over the leadership position. According to Sidiuos D (2008) one must know oneself and seek self improvement, a factor which will be attributed or enhanced by self-study and reading.
This story can be used as an illustration of the fact that, not all of us are cut out to make it at the top. We may believe that since we had a little successful stint in the small pond we can make it anywhere, although it is imperative to understand that we all have our limits. Great leaders are those that will clearly understand the levels where they are slated for and ask for assistance in case they are out of their depth. This is a common problem in many leaders as most are afraid to admit defeat. This is usually a problem that can be fixed by having a number of mentors at a time. Leaders should understand that, the learning curve does not stop once they get to the top. The best leaders are those that look at life at the top as a learning experience rather than the end of learning. For one to be continuously learning while in a position of leadership, they need to keep their eyes open as observation is the best way which a leader can keep informed. This should not be restricted to the observation of just one aspect leadership but many. As the leader looks for working models for which he can emulate, he should not be blind and look at one area. Many places should be observed and notes taken. Stephen Trachtenberg advises that, for a leader to be in a constant mode of learning they have to ensure they have the following four things figured out.
First, they need to be in constant communication with those they are leading. This he says can be done through ensuring that all letters and emails sent to the leader are replied with a personal touch (Porter-O’Grady and Malloch, 2011). Secondly, he advises that leaders should ensure that all the good ideas, which come to their front, are handled with caution and given a strategy that is proven to work. Further, he is of the opinion that, a good idea is just anything written down on paper which will die out if not given the right approach and tactics. Thirdly he says that, a leader should always try to give the perception of being in the know of how he appears as he struts down the street. He suggests that’s for a leader to inspire energy to his subjects he has to project energy and enthusiasm himself. Finally he advises that no leader should ignore the power of the media as it is clear that leaders should always be camera ready. The four points given might not be easy to adhere to but no one should ever be of the perception that leadership is easy.
The current age in which we live has made the world a much better place for most of us. The advent of technology in every aspect important to life has made it very simple to communicate and even get medical help (Porter-O’Grady and Malloch, 2011). This on the other hand has made it much more difficult for leaders to be considered great. The days when leaders used to inspire people by trying to be the first to unveil something that happened half way across the world due to their resources are long gone. In this information age where something happening on the other side is known by everyone in the world in seconds has made it such that leaders have to dig much deeper to inspire their subjects. These times have also led to uncertainties as some aspects of life that had earlier been believed to be the gospel truth are being disapproved as technology proves otherwise. The new crop of leader is supposed to be flexible enough to the changing times and attempt to ensure their subjects get the best guidance and incorporate the uncertainties that had cropped up and merge them into the work to facilitate the adaption and growth of his or her organization. The leader should be able to steady the ship and ensure that the changing reality fits in perfectly to the vision and mission upon which the organization was built (Goleman, 1998).
A leader should be spiritually aware and in the same breath be able to recognize that for personal growth to prosper one has to embrace the challenges and difficult which are going to be bestowed upon them as change occurs. The leader will connect to the change and show that growth can still continue in the new aspects and this will most likely spill over to the others and give them the encouragement to pursue their own development journeys.
As advised earlier by Stephen Trachtenberg, a leader’s life is always under the scrutiny of microscopic view each and every time. It is in this frame of reasoning that a leader should have their life squeaky clean at all times. Quantum physicists believe that even the tiniest of things can have the biggest of effects on other things around them. There is a strong belief in cause and effect as it is said that, every action will have an effect which could be of large proportions in other parts of the world. The scientists have even gone to stipulate that a negligible thing like a butterfly flapping its wings in China could lead to the occurrence of an earthquake in the Atlantic Ocean.
This line of thought is best applied to the effects the leaders have on the people who idolize them. The smallest and even sometimes considered insignificant action by a leader could heavily impact on others at different levels in the organization. From the behavior of the leaders that are under constant scrutiny and assessment they influence the culture which will always be seen to be a reflection of the organization which they run (Porter-O’Grady and Malloch, 2011). A company’s CEO might think that remembering a low level employees name is no big deal but to the employee this could be seen as the biggest event of his or her career. People feel as part of a team when the leaders are able to communicate with them on a personal level. A little warm greeting in the morning might be an effortless thing to do, but this could be what inspires an employee in to giving all they have to the organization. Making one feel special is an age old management technique leaders have used to ensure that their team works to its fullest capacity.
A leader usually has a pedestal which everyone expects that they will live to uphold. A leader who does not live up to the expectations which are set upon him or her will not have any moral ground to as those who follow them to do the same. A leader’s response to certain life calls must be seen to have some consistency and fairness. For instance, a leader who change their minds at every instance and respond to same questions with different answers might lead to lack of trust from their followers or people in their organizations. The followers might see this as a lack of a certain form of consistence, which is a requirement for those in leadership positions.
There are some realities of life that leaders should live in accordance to. A leader of an organization should be excited about the products the organization is churning out or else it will be difficult for other members of the organization to be excited about it. A leader should have the mental model the shows that anything is possible and easy to accomplish. The leader who is always complaining about how life is difficult puts his team in a position where they will be inclined to think in a similar manner such a leader cannot be great. The leader should be open to new ideas feeling that life is an adventure that will enable discovery of what is going on around him. This is the attitude that is bound to fill his team with the spirit of hard work (Goleman, 1998). According to Sidiuos D (2008), a leader should train people that he/she is working with to have a spirit of team work and this can only be done if the team has an inspired shared vision.
Great leaders often tend to set aside a time where the team can sit together and bond. This creates a team spirit that will no doubt foster a sense of togetherness among the members. Creating a team that is willing to work for each other and cover for each other is one of the most important things a leader can do. This team will be looking forward to coming to work and even putting up ideas that cross their minds for discussion as they will feel they can trust each other. In fact this type of leadership style promotes responsibility as no one will want to let their colleagues down. In the same aspect, a great leader should allow both him and the team some time to reflect upon the direction their lives are going. Meditation is an important part of human life and should be fostered both at team and individual levels. This has over time been proven to prevent burn out of the group, thus reenergize and revitalize the group and the individuals (Clegg, 2000).
Time has shown that change is inevitable. The only thing that is for certain to remain the same is change. As mankind develops new technologies and ways of handling work, relationships and even communication are coming up. Of these new inventions there are those that are very useful and those that close scrutiny will show to be a blatant waste of time. A great leader should embrace change. They should look inside the aspects of life that are in transformation and explain to their colleagues why they need to take up something and why they need to ignore other things. People often tend to get into their comfort zones and it is usually difficult to convince them that they need to changes what they know and are comfortable with and urge them to move into a world of unknown. A good leader is one who will be able to convince the receptionist in a way that is not intimidation that she needs to take up a few more classes so that she would be able to operate the new phone system that they are putting up (Fulmer, 2000). A leader using emotional intelligence should be in a position to say this words; ‘I admit I am wrong’, ‘thank you’, ‘if you so please’, ‘what is your opinion’ and ‘you did a good job’. Sidiuos D (2008)
Just like change is inevitable, chaos will always accompany a particular transition. Before people will be able to completely embrace new ideas and visions there will always be a chaotic transition. Further, before the effects and advantages of migration to digital systems from analogue systems are felt there will always be that time when people forget to adhere to the new rules leading to a black spot of chaos. A great leader will be the one who is able to firmly put in place rules that will see his team make a smooth transition without being too tight on those having a hard time with the transitions. While all this is going on and the leader creates a team that bonds well, what the leader should always have in mind is that they need to maintain their identity. A leader should not get so intertwined with connecting with his subordinates that he forgets to draw a line with the workers. The leader should recognize that the space which they occupy should be subjected to a level of respect. For them to be able to influence and control all the aspects that pertain to the work of the group, great leaders will always isolate themselves while the other members of the group adapt to each other.
Life’s journey is strange and paradoxical. In order for people to stay the same they are, required to change some aspects of their lives. In order for the security officer of an organization to remain at the same level they will most likely be required to upgrade some of their knowledge base as the organization becomes bigger and in essence be in requirement of guard with a higher qualifications. Being able to keep the team in a position where no one feels that they will be redundant is one of the requirements that great leaders possess (Leider, 1997). It has been said that each and everyone amongst us possesses some sense of creativity within them. A great leader is one who will be able to spot the inherent creativity within his team and bring it out for best delegation of work. Creativity does not come to the fore advertising itself to everyone, it is imperative for a leader to come up with methods which will be able to help him discover the best creative forces in his team. One thing a leader should understand is the fact that without them discovering their own creative sparks and making sure their team understands their strengths and weaknesses they will not be able to get the best out of others (Arnold and Plas ,1993). They need to develop a sense of self awareness and ensure they expose it to their team.
The most neglected but important part of leadership is creating a free zone for people to express themselves. Most leaders subscribe to the notion that they are the only ones who are supposed to come up with ideas whereas their subordinates take them up. A great leader understands that being able to pick out the brains of each of his team members is one of the best ways to advance an organization. For this to be put in motion the leader should have created an environment where no one is afraid to be wrong. The fear of being wrong is what greatly plagues the 20th century hierarchical set up in organizations (Clegg, 2000). The junior members by being afraid to be wrong in front of their bosses will always sit on million dollar ideas which might be very beneficial to the organization. The great leader in understanding that the juniors might be wrong at times still gives them the opportunity to make it in the big leagues.
An organization under the guidance of a leader who can be considered great, embraces mistakes from the work force. Making mistakes is one of the most essential parts of discovering new things. It is also a very fundamental part of learning. The amount of errors propagated during experimentation is directly proportional to the amount of learning the person carrying out the experiment has gone through. While room for error is allowed in organizations great leaders are always keen to ensure that a person does not repeat an error too many times. Repeating of mistakes is a sure way to show that there was no learning that has transpired (Hawley, 1993). A leader leading an organization should seek responsibility and take responsibility of the organizations action. Sidiuos D (2008) indicates that, behaviors based on fear like judging, blaming and complaining are the biggest killers of innovation. The Japanese are among the most innovative of nationalities in the world. A closer look at the Japanese culture will reveal that they encourage people to speak their mind and to not be scared of the repercussions. A great leader is one who will quickly spot the behavior that is based on fear and shut it down before it has the chance to rear its head. In an environment without fear of expression a leader will see the prevalent increase creativity (Lappe and Du Bois, 1994).
Experiences which we go through in life have a way getting embedded in to our subconscious and over time become what drives us. The human mind is wired in such a way that the negative experiences are those that become dominant driving forces in one’s life. It is common to come across people who greatly believe that they will never have a good idea or that they will never be good enough. This line of thought will always stifle creativity and innovation and in the end lead to stunted growth in the thoughts of an otherwise very good worker (Leider 1997). A great leader will always try to pick out these instances from both himself and his team and try to create an environment that focuses on positive thinking. The leader should always find a way to substitute the negative thought with an avalanche of affirming words that encourage the individual to get out of the rut. Research by De Bono (1996) has shown that human being will respond to positive comments even those which are clearly not true. Behavior will change it said will improve significantly when the working environment is laced with an air of positive culture.
By being able to listen to what his team is saying and taking each and every bit of it into consideration, a leader becomes great not only to those within his organization but also to those he encounters in the outside world. Development of someone’s listening skills might be a hard but this is the very core for one to be considered a leader who stands out among his peers in leadership positions. For good leadership to be put in motion great leaders will most often have listen from the core of their being. Most of the knowledge that we read in books and journals that is considered to be true right now might not be in the next few years or decades. Embracing the fact that we will never know everything and being able to decipher the fact that we should go through life as being a journey of self discovery is what leads one to greatness. Great leaders will in most cases be aware of their limits and will most often try to face their fears head rather run away from them (Porter-O’Grady and Malloch, 2011). I tend to believe that the recipe to being a great leader is to look at the following ingredients in the leadership position that one has been placed. One should have a shared vision (the vision should be shared in words), Challenge the process (identify a process that needs to be improved from the previous leadership), Empower others to act (give the team that you are working with the necessary tools, authority and methods to tackle different issues) and lastly, model the path to follow (when things get tough a leader needs to get his hands dirty. A famous quote says; ‘a boss tells others what to do; a leader shows how it can be done’.).