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Leadership and management

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Three words leaders have trouble dealing with: 'I don't know'. I think good leadership will often start with questions whose answer is: 'I don't know, but we're going to find out'

Warren Bennis

leadership.pngLeadership is exercised not only in the commercial environment, but in virtually every area of life by the primary school head and the prime minister, within the church and the multinational, from the military to the charity. Leadership isn't the exclusive preserve of those at the top - it can be exercised in a myriad of situations. Whatever the environment or organisation, leadership is the art of influencing people so that they do tasks willingly and enthusiastically and more importantly, in an efficient and effective manner. In other words, it is about getting the best from other people. Leadership is vital in inspiring and motivating a workforce. Excellent leadership can see a firm prosper and grow, poor leadership can see it sink and burn!

What is perhaps strange is that it is so difficult to isolate and categorise the key features of leadership and to identify the traits that make for good leaders. Over the centuries and into the modern day, writers and commentators have argued over whether good leaders are born or made, and whether physical skills and traits are more important than intelligence and personality.

The management writer, Warren Bennis identifies four critical aspects of leadership:

  1. Adaptive capacity - For Bennis, this is most essential and central aspect of leadership. It means a sense of resilience and creativity, seizing opportunities and learning to learn.
  2. The capacity to engage followers in shared meaning to align the organisation and its employees around a common, meaningful goal - providing a clear vision of where the organisation is going.
  3. Learning their own voice - Leaders learn how they affect other people and discover emotional intelligence (the capacity to manage one's own emotions and the emotions of others).
  4. A moral compass - Leaders need to develop and maintain a set of principles, a belief system and a set of convictions.

The questions asked by writers on leadership are:

  • What is the essence of leadership?
  • What are the characteristics of the effective leader?