We have heard the saying, “Follow the leader?” This saying has been around as a basis of how of lives since childhood. We express the interaction in classrooms, play, and application of tasks in work. This paper provides the association between infancy through adulthood that is necessary to answer these age old questions: “Who are leaders?”, “Can I become a leader?”, and “How do I become a leader?”
What is the correlation between a leader and leadership?”, “Why do we need leadership?” A clear foundation can be derived based on the establishment of the skill sets that our society places as the characteristics surrounding a leader in correlation their anticipation represented by effective leadership qualities. Effective leadership can be looked at from the aspect of the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals?6
Who are leaders? “We all lead at some point in our life.5 Leaders are learners. Leaders, in our society, continue to try, fail, and learn. Through the circular pattern process that they evolve into for gaining leadership, leaders have established their life as a laboratory. These exemplary leaders use it to conduct as many experiments, as possible.4 Remember “the best leaders’ face enormous setbacks; you’ll gain perspective and come to see that one failure does not mean the death of a man’s capacity to lead.5 A leader; therefore, can be seen as somebody whom people follow, somebody or something in front of all others, somebody in charge of others, such as the head of a nation, political party, legislative body, or military.6
To expand on this aspect of a leader, many leaders are those individuals that challenge the process. “Luck” or “being in the right place at the right time” may play a role in the specific opportunities leaders embrace, but those who lead others to greatness seek and accept challenge. Therefore, leaders are pioneers. They are willing to step out into the unknown. They search for opportunities to innovate, grow, and improve.4
Leaders understand that the command-and-control techniques of traditional management no longer apply. Leaders enable others to act not by hoarding the power they have but by giving it away. A leader’s ability to enable others to act is essential.4 This foundation is what a leader is in respect to the goals of an organization, but the controversial perspective surrounding leadership extends to the relevancy of re-defining their task challenges regardless of the odds.3
Can I become a leader? Anyone can become a leader. Based on “The Five Traits of True Leadership, it acknowledges that we all lead at some point in our life.2 Whether we serve as leaders in our jobs, in our communities, and in our families, anyone can be a leader even if they are on the bottom of the totem pole.5 This affirms the fact that leadership is a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task/goal.2
How can you tell if you have what it takes to be an effective leader? One way is to use the ten (10) basic skills of outstanding leadership skills which are:6
- integrity related to treating others as you would wish to be treated,
- vision/strategy which focuses on a clear idea of the future perspectives of an organization,
- communication which informs and seeks out information (gives leader and constituents a voice),
- relationships which develop good interpersonal skills when dealing with people issues,
- persuasion which applies the ability to influence others and cause them to move in a particular direction,
- adaptability which allows the leader to move easily from one set of circumstances to another even when the circumstances are unexpected,
- establishing teamwork that builds and nurtures other individuals,
- implementation of coaching and training development processes which encourages others to expand their capabilities and take on additional assignments,
- shared decision-making which allows for interchange of information to be compressed from their constituents for the comprehension of relevant facts so that leaders and constituents can make a well-informed decision;
- and, to take action based on the decisions and planning strategies which leaders use as guides and to maintain focus on the purpose (what-are-good-leadership-skills.com).6
How do I become a leader? This search for the characteristics of leaders has been ongoing for centuries. Why? People define what they believe are characteristics/qualities for an effective leader based on society standards. For example, history’s greatest philosophical writings from Plato’s Republic to Plutarch’s Lives have explored the question of “What qualities distinguish an individual as a leader?7
“Leading is primarily about the relationship between the leader and the led, and trust is at its core. It’s the contract you make with your followers by holding yourself to account and then following up with strong ethical actions. Your accountability includes the faith others have in your reliability.1 Accountability is about doing what’s right. It’s the backbone of any successful organization and continually speaks to the integrity and ethics of your organization and you as a leader. What type of leadership contract do you want to make as a leader?1
1Bethel, PhD, Sheila Murray. (2009). A New Breed of Leader: 8 Leadership Qualities that matter Most in the Real World. New York: Berkley Brooks, 27-29, 68-69, 110.
2Chemers, M. M. (20002). Cognitive, social, and emotional intelligence of transformational leadership: Efficacy and Effectiveness. In R. E. Riggio, S. E. Murphy, F. J. pirozzolo (Eds.), Multiple Intelligences and Leadership.
3Locke, et.al. 1991 Leadership Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
4Kouzes, J., and Posner, B. (2007). The Leadership Challenge. CA: Jossey Bass.
5McKay, Brett and McKay, Kate. August 17, 2008. Five Traits of True Leadership. http://artofmanliness.com/2008/08/17/5-traits-of-true-leadership/.
6Ten Basic Skills of Outstanding Leadership: Definition and Explanation of the Example Leadership Skills List. http://www.what-are-good-leadership-skills.com/example-leadership-skills.html.
7Zaccaro, S.J. (2007). Trait-based perspectives of leadership. American Psychologist, 62, 6-16.
Posted by: Rhonda R Canady, Masters of Science, Training and Development, MS Training and Development, United States (04-Aug-2012)