Leadership  (Lesson 9)

Great things in a business are rarely done by just one person. They’re done by a team. What leaders do is build a team, inspire it with a vision then set it to work. A leader takes a group of people and harnesses their individual personalities and talents towards a shared goal. Leaders make things happen.

There’s no such thing as a perfect leadership style. Different styles work best in different situations. Some people respond well to one approach, others to something different. Good leaders are perceptive enough to see what’s needed and flexible enough to supply it. They have a golf bag of styles and techniques, and know the right time to pull each one out. I’m not going to give you a checklist of leadership characteristics to tick off, because that just doesn’t work. Instead we’ll focus on what leaders do – and what they don’t do.

Leadership and management – They’re not the same

One of the most common leadership failures in business is thinking that leadership is something it’s not – management. They’re both essential, and often they’re done by the same people, but they aren’t the same thing. Boiled down to essentials, a manager tells people what to do; a leader leads them in the direction they need to go.

“A good manager inspires people to have confidence in the manager; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves”

– Nelson Mandela

Mandela knew that great leadership was going to be essential for the task he’d set himself. His government was full of specialists who could handle the management of the economy, justice system and everything else. His own task was to show people a vision of a new South Africa and give them the enthusiasm to work towards it. As leader he was promoting an ideal, not a process.

It’s the same in business. You’re the leader and it’s up to you to generate enthusiasm and passion – not to keep track of weekly paperclip consumption. A manager looks after the mind of a business; a leader looks after its heart and soul.

Here’s a scenario: In one of the companies I work with there’s a team member who’s struggling a bit. He’s a very hard-working and competent person, but his current job has changed over time and he’s not a good fit for it anymore. The business doesn’t want to lose him but they need to resolve the mismatch.

A manager, faced with this, would give the team member a checklist of things he had to change. Instead the company has decided to adopt a leadership approach. They’ve put in someone to help him, with the aim of that person eventually taking over the job. Meanwhile they’re working to develop the employee and lead him in a different direction – one that will take him out of his comfort zone, but opens up a new and more ambitious career path for him.

To your success,