Leadership is inspiring, empowering, and leading people so they can create the future they care about.
Leadership does not emanate from a surname, the color of someone’s race, or the dominance of one’s religion. We have the seed of leadership in us.
Most people think they don’t have what it takes to become a leader. But this is not true. Leadership isn’t the monopoly of a few.
In this guide, we will explore what leadership is and how to inspire, empower, and leader people.
What is leadership?
As an artist, every leader is unique. Contrary to popular belief, there are no 10 characteristics that will make one a perfect leader for everyone has unique gifts and talents.
As a scientist, every leader has opportunities to acquire knowledge, build skills, learn strategies, and master disciplined execution to get things done and make things happen.
Leadership can be found in business, politics, sports, education, and community organizations.
Effective leadership maximize productivity, build morale, and promote innovation and growth.
Kinds of Leadership
Another way to understand leadership is to identify the various kinds of leadership. Some experts call these leadership styles, models, or types.
It is tempting to say that there is the right kind of leadership.
But soon you will learn about great leaders who do not seem to use the right kind of leadership.
It is wrong to place a leader in a box for no box can really contain leadership.
Let’s understand what people mean when they see they follow this kind or that kind of leadership.
Adaptive leadership is a practical framework for dealing with rapid change and tough challenges. It involves helping stakeholders adapt to new situations and promote sustainable growth.
This was first introduced by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky. It relies on the leader’s ability to facilitate and enable the team to address and solve their issues, rather than providing solutions directly.
Adaptive leadership is especially significant in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world. It fosters an environment of learning and experimentation, where problems are seen as opportunities for innovation.
This encourages the team to develop new skills and capacities.
Agile leadership is a style that revolves around leaders empowering their teams to make decisions and work independently. Agile leaders have a keen sense of flexibility. They understand that the workplace is not static and changes may be necessary.
This leadership style is often used in the tech industry, specifically in project management scenarios such as software development, where Scrum or Agile methodologies are used.
Agile leadership fosters a highly responsive, efficient, and innovative work environment.
This allows the team to respond quickly to changes and deliver high-quality results.
Appreciative leadership focuses on leveraging the strengths of team members and recognizing their contributions.
It’s an approach that emphasizes positive interactions, optimistic thinking, and the belief that every individual brings unique value to the team.
Appreciative leaders foster a positive organizational culture by focusing on what is working well, rather than what needs to be fixed.
It encourages a positive and supportive work environment, which can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved team morale, and higher levels of productivity.
Appreciative leadership can also nurture creativity and innovation, as individuals feel valued and confident in expressing their ideas.
Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a style characterized by individual control over all decisions and little input from group members.
Autocratic leaders typically make choices based on their ideas and judgments and seldom accept advice from followers.
This style can be beneficial in scenarios where decisions need to be made swiftly and decisively.
It’s often seen as efficient, particularly in high-pressure environments.
However, the downside is it can lead to high employee turnover and low morale due to a lack of empowerment and creativity in the workforce.
Democratic leadership involves the active participation of all team members in the decision-making process.
Leaders using this style encourage and value team members’ opinions and inputs before reaching a conclusion.
This style often results in higher levels of job satisfaction and productivity due to increased team involvement and morale. Nevertheless, it can also lead to slower decision-making and potential inefficiency, particularly in situations where rapid action is needed.
Transformational leadership is a style where leaders inspire, motivate, and stimulate their team members to exceed normal levels of performance. They focus on transforming others to help each other, to look out for each other, and to be more harmonious.
It fosters an active, passionate, and creative work environment. It can often require a lot of energy and commitment from the leader, and if not managed properly, it can lead to burnout.
Servant leaders prioritize the team’s growth and well-being over their own convenience. They share power, put the needs of others first, and help people develop to their fullest potential.
This leadership style can lead to strong team cohesion and high morale. However, it can also be challenging in terms of establishing authority and can lead to potential exploitation if not managed with clear boundaries and expectations.
Situational leadership suggests that no single leadership style is “best”. Instead, it all depends on the situation at hand and the workforce’s level of competence and commitment. The leader adjusts their style to fit the development level of the followers.
It’s flexible and considers individual team members’ needs. However, it can be complex to manage different styles for different individuals, and it can also lead to perceived favoritism if not handled carefully.
Heroic leadership is a leadership style where the leader is viewed as a hero and carries the entire responsibility for success or failure. They make all the decisions and are often admired for their courage and determination.
This style can lead to quick decision-making and strong direction. However, it can also create dependence on one person and stifle the development of other potential leaders in the team.
It also carries a high risk, as the failure of the leader often equates to the failure of the project or organization.
Charismatic leadership is a style characterized by the charm and persuasiveness of the leader. Charismatic leaders inspire and motivate their team with their charismatic traits such as high energy, sensitivity towards others, and strong communication skills.
This style can result in high levels of enthusiasm and team spirit. However, there can be risks if the charismatic leader leaves, as the organization may have become too reliant on their charisma.
Charismatic leadership can result in high levels of enthusiasm and team spirit.
However, the organization might become overly reliant on the leader’s charisma, causing instability if they leave.
If not managed properly, this leadership style could lead to neglect of duties or a lack of concrete direction for the team.
We can be the leaders that others want to follow. One way is to develop desirable leadership qualities.
Leadership qualities are the inherent attributes and characteristics that contribute to effective leadership. These qualities may include empathy, self-confidence, integrity, vision, and the ability to inspire and motivate others.
Cultivating leadership qualities is essential for managers and supervisors who aspire to become successful leaders.
Let me offer you four simple steps to develop your leadership qualities.
Step 1: Self-assessment and Goal setting
Conduct a thorough self-assessment to identify your existing leadership qualities and areas for growth.
Reflect on your personal values, behaviors, and communication styles, and seek feedback from your team members, peers, and supervisors to gain a comprehensive understanding of your current leadership attributes.
Based on this assessment, set clear, measurable, and attainable goals for enhancing your leadership qualities. This initial step lays the foundation for your leadership development journey.
Step 2: Learning and Personal Growth
Once you have identified your goals, invest time and effort in learning and personal growth activities that support your objectives.
This may involve reading books or articles on leadership qualities, attending workshops or seminars, participating in personal development programs, or seeking mentorship from experienced leaders who embody the qualities you wish to develop.
Expose yourself to diverse perspectives and experiences to gain valuable insights into the qualities that contribute to effective leadership and foster personal growth.
Step 3: Reflection and Self-awareness
An essential part of the development process is practicing self-reflection and cultivating self-awareness.
Reflect on your thoughts, feelings, and actions, and consider how they align with your desired leadership qualities.
Understand your motivations, strengths, and weaknesses, you can make more informed decisions and consciously work on developing the qualities that will enhance your leadership effectiveness.
Regularly engage in self-reflection to monitor your progress and stay committed to your development goals.
Step 4: Embodying and Modeling Leadership Qualities
As you develop your leadership qualities, make a conscious effort to embody and model these attributes in your day-to-day interactions with your team and colleagues.
Demonstrate empathy, maintain integrity, communicate your vision, and inspire others through your actions and behaviors.
Consistently exhibit the qualities you wish to cultivate, you will reinforce your own growth and set a positive example for your team and organization.
By following these four steps—self-assessment and goal setting, learning and personal growth, reflection and self-awareness, and embodying and modeling leadership qualities—managers and supervisors can nurture the essential leadership attributes that will enable them to excel in their roles and positively impact their teams and organizations.
Importance of Leadership
I don’t feel I need to convince everyone that leadership is important. We know that it is. That’s why we have high expectations for leaders.
But what really makes it important?
John Maxwell said that organizations rise and fall on leadership. Organizations that last are those with level five leaders. This is true for a small company. This is true for a nation.
Allow me to give you several reasons:
You need to engage and motivate employees. You do this by creating a shared vision, setting clear expectations, and providing the necessary support.
Engaged and motivated employees are more productive, committed, and likely to contribute to the success of the organization.
You are expected to make quality decisions. You are responsible for making important decisions that impact your team and the organization.
Strong leadership skills enable you to consider various perspectives, evaluate options, and make informed decisions that align with the organization’s goals and values.
You must improve team performance. Leaders play a critical role in driving team performance by setting goals, providing resources, and managing workloads.
You must foster a collaborative work environment, encourage open communication, and resolve conflicts, which contributes to a high-performing team.
Enable others to act. Managers and supervisors with strong leadership skills are invested in their team members’ growth and development.
Provide coaching, mentorship, and opportunities for skill development, resulting in a more capable and adaptable workforce.
You lead and manage change. Organizations often undergo changes, such as shifts in market conditions, technological advancements, or internal restructuring.
Effective leaders help their team members navigate these changes by providing clear direction, support, and reassurance, ensuring a smoother transition and minimizing negative impacts on performance and morale.
Shape organizational culture. Managers and supervisors set the tone for the organizational culture through their actions, communication, and leadership style.
A positive and inclusive culture fosters employee satisfaction, commitment, and collaboration, ultimately contributing to the organization’s success.
Retain and attract talent. Effective leadership results in satisfied and engaged employees, who are more likely to stay with the organization.
Additionally, a reputation for strong leadership can help attract top talent, ensuring a pipeline of skilled professionals to support the organization’s growth.
Adapt and innovate. Your ability to adapt and innovate is essential for success.
Managers and supervisors with strong leadership skills can foster a culture of continuous learning, innovation, and agility, enabling their organization to stay competitive and capitalize on new opportunities.
Effective leaders can drive their teams and organization toward success in a dynamic and competitive business environment.
Leadership style refers to the way a leader interacts with, guides, and influences their team members. It encompasses the leader’s communication patterns, decision-making approaches, and overall demeanor in managing and directing their team.
Understanding one’s leadership style is essential for managers and supervisors, as it impacts employee engagement, team dynamics, productivity, and overall organizational success.
By recognizing your leadership style, you can leverage your strengths, address weaknesses, and adapt their approach to suit different situations and team members’ needs.
One example of a leadership style is democratic leadership.
Democratic leaders encourage open communication, collaboration, and active participation from team members in decision-making processes. They value diverse perspectives, foster an inclusive environment, and create a sense of shared ownership and responsibility for the team’s objectives.
When you involve team members in decision-making, you harness the collective knowledge and expertise of the group, often leading to more effective and innovative solutions.
In a workplace setting, a democratic leader might apply their leadership style by regularly holding team meetings to discuss project updates, challenges, and potential strategies. They would actively seek input from all team members, regardless of their position or tenure, and create an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions.
The democratic leader would then synthesize the feedback, involve the team in the decision-making process, and ensure that everyone understands the rationale behind the chosen course of action.
Foster a collaborative and supportive work environment, where team members feel valued, engaged, and committed to the team’s success. Recognize that different situations may call for different leadership styles, and a successful leader must be adaptable and versatile in their approach.
For a more comprehensive understanding of leadership styles, managers and supervisors can refer to the article on 11 Leadership Styles. This resource will provide insights into various leadership styles, their strengths and weaknesses, and guidance on when and how to apply them effectively in the workplace.
By understanding your leadership style and learning about others, you can refine your leadership skills, ultimately enhancing their effectiveness and impact on your team and organization.
Leaders at Work (examples)
Another way to define leadership is through examples. Getting one-sentence definitions do not always give justice to the essence of leadership.
A project manager assigns specific tasks to team members based on their strengths and expertise, providing them with the autonomy and resources to make decisions and complete their tasks.
This demonstrates trust in their abilities and fosters a sense of ownership, resulting in increased motivation and productivity.
During a team meeting, two colleagues disagree on the best approach to tackle a client’s problem. The team leader steps in, listens to both sides and helps them find a compromise by highlighting the strengths of each proposal.
By addressing the conflict constructively, the leader maintains a positive work environment and encourages collaboration.
A department head holds weekly meetings with their team to share updates, discuss challenges, and gather feedback. They also maintain an open-door policy, encouraging team members to come forward with any questions or concerns.
This transparent and consistent communication creates a strong connection between the leader and the team, fostering trust and collaboration.
Leading by Example
A sales manager consistently arrives early, works diligently, and treats colleagues with respect. They also actively participate in company-wide initiatives and follow established procedures.
By modeling the behavior they expect from their team, the manager sets a positive example and earns the respect of their colleagues, making it easier for them to lead effectively.
Adaptability and Resilience
During an economic downturn, a company needs to restructure and cut costs. The CEO works closely with the management team to develop a new strategy, keeping the long-term vision of the company in mind.
They communicate the changes clearly and empathetically to employees, and remain open to feedback and suggestions.
By demonstrating resilience and adaptability, the CEO helps the company navigate through difficult times, maintaining employee morale and engagement.
Leadership Is Influence
Leadership isn’t just about holding a title; it’s about the power to influence and inspire others. In the workplace, individuals without formal authority can still make a significant impact by exhibiting key leadership qualities.
Influence, within the context of leadership, refers to the ability of an individual to guide, inspire, and impact the thoughts, emotions, and actions of others, driving them towards a shared goal or vision, regardless of their formal authority or title.
Supervisors and managers have legitimate powers. They can compel their direct reports to follow. But their personal power, which includes influence, moves from good to great.
It is also important that they recognize the natural leaders in the organization. These are leaders who lead even without a title.
Let’s explore four examples:
- Gefe, an employee with strong organizational skills took the initiative to streamline communication and delegate tasks effectively. Because of what he did, the communication in his department become more efficient. It also results in the successful completion of their projects.
- When a disagreement arises between colleagues, Pau, an empathetic team member steps in, listens to both sides, and helps find a mutually beneficial solution. Pau understands that everyone can work for a healthier work environment.
- Romelyn, A proactive staff member, identified a recurring issue in her unit. She proposed an innovative solution. This inspired others to contribute their ideas and work together for continuous improvement.
- Pie, an experienced employee informally guides and supports new team members, boosting their confidence and helping them to adapt more quickly to their new role.
You can be a leader even without a title. What’s important is that you use your influence to help others.
Influence is an art for it is the expression of who you are. It is also a science for you can follow a proven process to help others become the best they can be.
In our deep-dive articles, we’ll delve into the strategies and principles that can help anyone become a more influential and effective leader, regardless of their title.
Become an Effective Leader
Digital advancement and the transformation of work will require leaders to evolve their capabilities.
40 Leadership Skills
Here, I have compiled a list of 40 leadership skills drawn from various reputable sources, including the World Economic Forum, the Korn Ferry Leadership Architect™, and other industry leaders.
These skills are designed to prepare you for the future, helping you to not only adapt but thrive and lead in 2023 and beyond:
- Strategic Thinking: Ability to envision long-term goals and plan ways to reach them.
- Emotional Intelligence: Ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions and those of others.
- Complex Problem Solving: Ability to solve new, intricate and ill-defined problems in real-world settings.
- Creativity & Innovation: Ability to conceive new ideas and strategies, encouraging a culture that values creativity.
- Adaptability & Flexibility: Comfortably coping with ambiguity and adapting strategies as circumstances change.
- Data-Driven Decision Making: Ability to leverage data and analytics to inform decision-making.
- Cultural Intelligence & Diversity: Proficiency in working with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures.
- Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility: Upholding ethical behavior and instilling a culture of social responsibility.
- Resilience: Capacity to recover quickly from difficulties and setbacks.
- Service Orientation: Anticipating, recognizing and meeting customers’ needs.
- Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to analyze complex problems and explore alternative solutions.
- Data Literacy: Understanding, interpreting and leveraging data to drive decision making.
- Technological Savviness: Understanding the latest technologies and their implications on work and business.
- Communication Skills: Conveying information and expectations clearly, and listening effectively.
- Collaboration & Teamwork: Building strong relationships and fostering a collaborative work environment.
- Leadership & Social Influence: Ability to inspire, motivate, and influence others to achieve a common goal.
- Active Learning & Growth Mindset: Encouraging a culture of continuous learning and self-improvement.
- Change Management: Leading and inspiring change within the organization while helping others to adapt.
- Customer Centricity: Focusing on meeting and exceeding the needs of customers.
- Negotiation Skills: Exploring alternatives and positions to reach consensus among all parties.
- Digital Transformation Leadership: Driving the adoption of new and emerging technologies in the business.
- Self-awareness: Understanding one’s personal strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for growth.
- Sustainability Leadership: Making decisions with long-term environmental and social impact in mind.
- Remote Team Management: Effectively leading and managing teams in a remote or hybrid work setup.
- Time Management: Efficiently managing one’s own time and the time of the team.
- Project Management: Planning, executing, and overseeing projects to achieve organizational goals.
- Coaching & Mentoring: Providing guidance, feedback, and support to help others develop professionally.
- Inclusive Leadership: Creating an environment where all team members feel valued and able to contribute.
- Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning: Understanding the implications of AI and machine learning for business.
- Conflict Management: Handling and resolving conflicts in a fair and effective manner.
- Empathy: Understanding and sharing the feelings of others.
- Crisis Management: Handling difficult or emergency situations swiftly and effectively.
- Risk Management: Identifying, assessing, and managing potential risks.
- Visionary Leadership: Inspiring and motivating through a compelling vision for the future.
- Entrepreneurial Mindset: Being resourceful and showing initiative, innovation, and willingness to take risks.
- Influence and Persuasion: Ability to shape key decisions, communicate effectively, and persuade others.
- Analytical Thinking: Ability to break down complex problems, identify core issues, and investigate effectively.
- Systems Thinking: Understanding how parts interrelate within a whole system, and the impact of changes on the overall system.
- Cross-Functional Collaboration: Ability to collaborate and build relationships across the organization, breaking down silos.
- Continuous Improvement Leadership: Driving continuous improvement initiatives, encouraging an environment of constant progress and adaptation.
Remember, while this list is comprehensive, different roles ad industries may prioritize certain skills over others.
Furthermore, these skills are not standalone – they often intersect and interact in various ways to define your unique leadership style.
Mastering these skills can help prepare you for the complex, dynamic world of 2023 and beyond, equipping you to lead with impact and effectiveness in the face of rapid technological advancement and societal change.