In order to understand leadership it is important to realize that leadership is not about a specific set of traits or characteristics. It is about trust, relationships and guidance between someone leading and others following.
Many studies have been done and none have led to any definitive list of attributes that one must have to be a good leader. However, leadership does have a series of actions and behaviors which is what I hope to focus on in this series.
Qualities Of Leadership
While there are not specific characteristics that define a leader, there are a number of qualities of leadership that can be seen valuable in leaders. These include integrity, honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, confidence, positivity, wisdom, determination, compassion, sensitivity, and a degree of personal charisma. These are not things that make a leader, but they tend to be some of the qualities of a leader and are often shown by their actions.
Leadership doesn’t require or expect you to behave in a specific way or have a pre-defined set of leadership qualities either. It has many styles and the only really important thing about leadership styles that is important to know is that you must practice your own style. You cannot copy someone else’s or learn a specific style, it must be something that comes natural for you. There is no right or wrong style and so you must embrace a style that works for you as a leader and one that you can value.
Some of the styles are based similarly to personality styles or behavior based styles, such as the Meyers Briggs (take a free test here ) or DiSC (more info here ) profiling models, respectively. There seems to be three main styles of leadership:
- Authoritarian / autocratic
- Participative / democratic
- Delegative / free-reign
Good leaders will use all three styles depending on every situation with only a minor bias to their natural style. Poor leaders will generally stick with one style and not adjust for different situations limiting their influence greatly.
Regardless of the style applied, a leader’s approach can be one with a focus on rewards that are positive to motivate or they may use penalties to frighten (which is also a motivator) action.
Lead By Ideas
While leadership is largely about behavior, that behavior will never be different from others’ without the ability to act on new ideas. A leader’s ideas direct their actions, decisions and new behaviors. Ideas are the only way to challenge things we currently do and belief and a great leader is able to shift and motivate people from a static life to one of great transformation changing views, beliefs and values. All these changes ultimately lead to new actions which is what leadership is driving to change!
Ideas are what enables a leader, as its ideas that are forceful to others and its ideas that will engage others to see from new perspectives and take on new possibilities. These ideas are how a leader finds its followers and how they find a new path to follow.
So, to me leadership is about inspiring and motivating others either deliberately or passively by your own way of doing things. It is about steering not only your own path towards something, but also the path of any number of followers that value something about you enough to follow. The variations here are endless but all leadership requires this at some level.
What would you add to help someone better understand what leadership is?
Please continue reading the next article in this series. Leadership: Know Yourself and Your Capabilities
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