The words “Leader” and “Leadership” often inspire a plethora of divergent thought streams which translate into a number of separate yet simultaneous definitions for these words. Some of the best minds in the world call these as virtues, while others would term them as traits yet someone else would perhaps describe them as qualities. My intention of writing this small post is not so much as to deliberate on the exactness of what it takes for someone to be defined as a “leader” instead I maintain my focus on qualities that I have noticed majority of the leaders to possess.
However before I go deep into this let me pause for a minute and ask my readers what in your opinion is a difference between
- Leadership and Management
- Leader and a Boss
Take a minute and please note down all that which comes to you naturally when you think about the two points above.
Here are my thoughts
Leadership and Management
In my opinion “leadership” is about transformational and visionary thinking which is intent on bringing about (rapid and disruptive?) change whereas management is a set of process that is employed with the aim of progressively and steadily improving current processes or performance. If I were to provide an analogy a leader would be an explorer who is hacking through wild bushes to make a new pathway for his scout group whereas a manager would be helping troops carry their goods faster while reducing fatigue. Please bear in mind that these are my personal definitions! I do not by any means suggest that this is the definitive guide on this topic.
Leader and a Boss
To carry on from the points above a leader again would be a person who leads by example by putting herself front right and center. A boss on the other hand would be a conductor orchestrating various moving parts in an organization by delegating authority and responsibility as needed without necessarily engaging in end output herself.
With the above frame of reference what then would be the qualities that one would notice in a leader? Here are some of the qualities I have observed in great leaders that I have had the good fortune of working for and learning from
It is all about the team
A very senior person once told me
Your job as a leader is to be the dumbest person in the room. Go on and hire people who are smarter than yourself and make sure the only role you play is that of an enabler.
A leader starts with a vision and follows up on that vision by building great teams. A leader is not threatened by hiring people who are smarter than herself. She would build a collective of collect a group of very smart people and transform that group of people into a high performing team with a sole focus on delivering the overall vision.
Embrace Divergent Thought
A leader does not outcast individuals who do not subscribe to the same school of thought as herself. A leader welcomes diversity in debates and embraces divergent schools of thought. A leader understand that by fostering an environment where everyone feels comfortable in sharing their opinions whether those opinions are isolated, opposite or congruent with the most popular thought streams is a key criterion for growth. Some of the best decisions are those which are taken by the collective wisdom of highly talented individuals who feel comfortable enough to contradict each other while collectively working towards solving a problem.
Hearty in Approbation and Lavish in Praise
This one is straight out of Dale Carnegie school of thought and in my personal experience this is one of the best advice I could ever give anyone. A leader understands that there will be situations where she must give back unpleasant feedback. She would ensure that her reasons for taking the position she is taking are genuine and not out of personal spite. She ensures she has done her due diligence and if needed consulted the subject matter experts in the domain and finally when she must deliver the approbation she does so genuinely and in private. Praise on the other hand along with recognition is delivered openly and publicly.
A semicolon here not a period.
I pause this post here to welcome your thoughts and comments on what I have mentioned above. I will follow this up with more thoughts on leadership and organizational growth in my next few posts.