February 26, 2014 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Leadership
Essential Elements of Leadership
By Andrea A. Breazeale
Now more than ever before the topic of leadership is at the forefront of organizational strategy. Companies want to ensure that their managers are effective leaders. In the news we hear about leaders in education, politics and even athletics. Indeed, “leadership” is big business. A Google search on the word returns 124.000,000 results. It’s an industry with a wealth of “experts” ready to provide the latest workshop or seminar. But is leadership that complex? What exactly does it mean to be a leader?
Dictionary.com defines leadership as: the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group. So, in general terms, a leader is someone who manages a group of people. We all have encountered individuals who are great leaders, who left a lasting impact on us; perhaps it was a teacher, a coach or a manager; someone who made you feel good about yourself and helped you reach your goals. Conversely, most of us have also encountered individuals who were terrible leaders, who you hated to be around. What was it about influential leaders that made them good? When we peel back the layers, all the rhetoric, and for profit gimmicks, effective leadership boils down to just a few key characteristics.
- Vision: An effective leader has to establish an ultimate outcome. There has to be a reason to follow him. The vision incorporates goals and objectives the leader wishes to accomplish. “When an organization has a clear vision, it is easier for people within the organization to learn how they fit in.” (Northouse, p. 197)
Trust: Individuals want to fully trust their leader. They want to know that the leader has their best interest, as well as that of the organization, at heart. Trust involves consistency. The trustworthy leader can be relied upon in any situation, “even in [those] that are uncertain.” (Northouse, p. 197)
Communication: A leader must know how to communicate. Whether it be the team goals or an unfavorable report, he must be able to relay the message in a way that will be effectively received. A component of communication is transparency. The leader should keep his team updated on all pertinent information in a timely manner. In addition, he must be a good listener, and open minded enough to respect others’ points of view.
Knowledge: A leader should have sufficient skills necessary to secure needed information in a timely fashion. The leader may not be the subject matter expert (SME) on every topic, but he has resources (people, books, professional organizations) available to get the information he needs, and utilizes them as necessary.
Ethics: Leaders set the moral compass of the team. Individuals look to them to exhibit appropriate behavior. Certainly, every person has his own understanding of what is right and wrong, but the leader establishes the expectation for the team. “Leaders play a major role in establishing the ethical climate in their organization; that role requires leaders to be particularly sensitive to the values and ideals they promote.” (Northouse, p. 448)
These key characteristics are at the core of effective leadership. You may read about many others, but in most situations, if an individual has a strong grasp on these five (not in any particular order) he will be able to successfully manage a group to achieve established objectives.
Northouse, P. (2013). Leadership, theory and practice (6th ed.).Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Dictionary.com, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/leader
Andrea A. Breazeale is a human resources professional, with over 16 years of experience. She is also currently enrolled in the Master of Entrepreneurship Degree Program at Western Carolina University. Copyright 2014 by Andrea A. Breazeale. http://www.breazealeaa.com.
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