Leading others is ability to engage, energise, and enable the team to excel. Leadership is influencing, motivating and enabling others to contribute towards the effectiveness, achievement of goals and success of the organization.
To be a great leader, one needs to have the right skills to lead others. This means having the knowledge, skills, competence and understanding of how to engage, motivate and manage people. One also needs to be able to formulate a vision, set a strategy and motivate people towards common organizational goals (MCE, 2020).
Early research investigated leadership traits where scholars worked to understand what special traits such as mental ability, physical and social skills a leader must have to be effective at leading their organization. Later research focused on leadership behaviours, i.e. what leaders actually do so they can be effective in their organizations. Following that, contingency theories of leadership suggested that contexts determine which leadership trait or behavior might be appropriate (and effective) in leading an organization. At the same time, another line of leadership research focused on leadership styles where researchers investigated how a leader works to decide what style of leadership is best. This research led to a focus on two distinct, yet contrasting styles of leadership, commonly referred to as transactional and transformational. Transactional leaders influence employees primarily by rewarding their efforts through material means, clarifying task and role (work) requirements, using rewards to reinforce behavior, and intervening when work is below standards. By contrast, researchers suggested that someone using a transformational leadership style motivates subordinates to work for the collective goals of the organization by going beyond expectations, and inspiring subordinates to extend beyond their self interest for the sake of the organization. Central to both of those leadership styles is that leaders exercise intentional influence over people (Fossey, 2020).
Leadership should be seen not only as position and authority but also as an emergent, interactive, dynamic when people come together to meet the challenges they face.
Leadership focuses on the strategies that promote organizational creativity and adaptability. It is an emergent, interactive dynamic that can produce adaptive outcomes, while leaders are individuals who act in ways that can influence this dynamic.
No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings.
- Peter Drucker
The archetypal qualities desired from leaders are undoubtedly opportune in dire circumstances. However, “old paradigm” trait approaches and notions of situational, contingency, transactional, and even transformational leadership - all of which smack of command and control more or less overtly - cannot serve the miscellany of organizations that need leadership in the workplace in the twenty-first century. Certainly, all over the world, “ordinary” people work with remarkable success in extraordinarily challenging circumstances yet do not advertise superhuman characteristics in their leadership styles.
The challenges that organizations face in their efforts to perform owe to the rapid spread and connectedness of production, communication, and technologies across the world, and attendant changes in perceptions, expectations, opportunities, requirements, and workforces.
Leading Change in the Public Sector, released by the Chartered Management Institute (Charlesworth et al. 2003), gave a reality check on the pressures from public reform agendas in the United Kingdom that is quite suggestive of what is still being experienced there as elsewhere. Importantly, the research project also presented a sober assessment of what attributes and skills survey respondents desired from their leaders and saw demonstrated. It revealed a clear perceived cultural shift in terms of the (then) new focus on delivery and working through partnerships. But, it made clear that resources and manpower levels were the greatest hindrance on reform. Clarity of vision was placed firmly at the top of the list of desired leadership attributes, followed by integrity and sound judgment. Yet, the survey respondents reported that the top three qualities their most senior management team demonstrated instead were those of being knowledgeable, strategic, and committed to people. The three top desired public leadership skills were communication, engaging employees with a vision of the organization, and creating an enabling culture. That said, the gap was considerable in all three instances, notably regarding the third (Serrat, 2017).
The leader is best when people are hardly aware of his existence, not so good when people praise his government, less good when people stand in fear, worst when people are contemptuous. Fail to honor people and they will fail to honor you. But of a good leader who speaks little when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, the people say: “We did it ourselves”.
- Lao Tzu
Recent developments in theory and practice have emphasized the growing complexity of leadership. Organizations are not machines and should not be treated as such. Since they are communities (of communities), we should want them to share the flexible, resilient, and adaptive attributes that characterize living systems. Learning organizations, much as living systems are able to self-organize, sustain themselves, and move toward greater complexity and order when needed. They can respond intelligently to the imperatives of change without awaiting directives from the outside.
Despite the abundance of trust, however, the learning organization is not necessarily a comfortable place for conventional leaders: much of the power resides at the edges of these organizations, and imposed authority (even when subtly disguised) no longer really works - rather, it must be earned. A learning culture is born of beliefs, values, and principles that are shared by people who are committed to one another and to a common goal. Therefore, running it requires a powerful theory: many suggest that this should be founded on questions, ideas, tests, and reflections in a wheel of learning (Serrat, 2017).
Organizations cannot be just endlessly "managed," replicating yesterday's practices to achieve success. Conditions change and yesterday's assumptions and practices no longer work. There must be innovation, and innovation means change and change is nothing new to leaders, or their constituents.
In years past, perhaps, leaders could simply order changes. Even today, many view it as a straightforward process: establish a task force to lay out what needs to be done, when, and by whom. Then all that seems left for the organization is (what an innocent sounding euphemism!) to implement the plan. Many leaders imagine that to make a change work, people needed only to follow the plan's implicit map, which shows how to get from here (where things stand now) to there (where they'll stand after the plan is implemented). "There" is also where the organization needs to be if it is to survive, so anyone who has looked at the situation with a reasonably open mind can see that the change isn't optional. It is essential. But then, why don't people "Just Do It"? And what is the leader supposed to do when they Just Don't Do It - when people do not make the changes that need to be made, when deadlines are missed, costs run over budget, and valuable workers get frustrated.
The trouble is, most leaders imagine that transition is automatic - that it occurs simply because the change is happening. But it doesn't. Just because the computers are on everyone's desk doesn't mean that the new individually accessed database is transforming operations the way the consultants promised it would.
No leader can effectively lead change - which is what leadership is all about - without understanding and, ultimately, experiencing - the transition process. Once you understand transition, you begin to see it everywhere. You realize that many of the issues commonly addressed as leadership, learning, or organizational development challenges are really an inevitable part of transition. Indeed, in today's organizations, without experiencing and successfully managing a difficult transition, no leader can be effective for very long. That suggests reinventing most models of leadership development. The best leadership development programs implicitly address the challenge of understanding change - they are experiential, tailored to the needs of the leader, and based on delivering real-world results. But most could be strengthened by explicit attention to transition management.
The kind of leadership most effective today is similar to the kind of service that the best consultant gives a client: collaborative assistance that is both problem-solving and developmental. Its target is both the situation and the professional capability of the person. Today's leader, in a fundamental sense is a coach, and the leader can best learn that role by being coached (Bridges & Mitchell, 2000).
Tata companies under the leadership of JRD Tata recorded growth of 53.52 times from a 280 crore company in 1938 to becoming a 15,000 rupees one in 1993. JRD Tata is a great example of collaborative leadership. He had a leadership style which was not controlling for control's sake. He didn't control his CEOs with a sense of control but a sense of collaborative control. In his entire career as the chairman of many a company, he had to interact with 100s of directors with whom it was only natural for him to have had serious differences. He took in everybody's opinion and decides on his own, not that he did not listen to others' ideas. He had respected the opinions of others on all occasions and had even suppressed his own feelings while acceding to the ideas of others. He was particular about leading others with affection. When he was convinced that someone was talented enough, he bestowed responsibility upon him and gave him a long rope. It was up to that individual to see that the work was done to everybody's satisfaction.
IT in India would have never been the way it is without Narayana Murthy. He has a positive style of leadership i.e. a leader promotes his follower to work hard by offering them rewards. Mr. Murthy promotes his employee as per their ability. He always believes in Honesty and Loyalty. He as a leader has created a change not only in the profitability position of Infosys but also the lives of many. He has proved - true leaders are those who get through the difficult times with flying colors. He has demonstrated that businesses can be run legally and ethically that it is possible for an Indian company to benchmark with the global best and that any set of youngsters with values hard work, team work and a little bit of smartness can indeed be successful entrepreneurs. In fact, Mr. Murthy is a transformational leader par excellence.
Take away points
Still, keeping the wheel of learning in motion - without it stalling for too long in one quadrant - is no easy matter. In twenty-first century organizations, certainly in the public sector, that and not much else may then be considered to be the primary task of a leader and his community of servant-leaders. Each will find different ways of carrying it out, based on the mission of the organization, the distinctive context in which it operates, and the leadership attributes and skills that these demand - preferably to foster vision, give constant encouragement, and put on view personal examples. But all will ensure as they do so that the constituent members of the organization become and remain “change agile”. In an uncertain world, high-performance organizations will be those that continuously renew, reinvent, and reinvigorate themselves. To these intents, they will wisely identify, engage, and develop individuals who possess the “learning habit” and delight in the unknown. They will invest immensely in them and trust them in equal proportions. Leadership will be collective, irrespective of hierarchical position or authority: true leaders will be those who build the organization and its capabilities (Serrat, 2017).
“Strength comes from mastering others. True power comes from mastering oneself.”
– Lao Tze
Being a leader is a difficult task. To be able to lead others, one must first get a greater understanding of oneself. Self-leadership is all about influencing oneself and cultivating the self-motivation and self-direction to attain objectives. Understanding who you are, recognizing your desired experiences, and consciously guiding yourself toward them are the practice of self leadership. It encompasses the decisions we make about what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. It is the ability to look inside oneself and see clearly. It's the act of focusing attention on oneself while practicing mindfulness. It's another thing to figure out what kind of experiences one want to have (Garcia, 2021).
“You must be the change you want to see in the world”.
- Mahatma Gandhi
Mature leadership (Leisinger, 2018):
Leadership can be defined as complex and multifaceted where the essence of leadership in organizations is about influencing and facilitating both individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives. To that end, leadership (and leaders) is constantly making decisions to help improve the performance of an individual, team or organization. No matter the decision, all decisions are made in some sort of context so the importance of context cannot be overstated – context is everything (Fossey, 2020).
In times of high stress, such as in an emergency like a fire or flood, well-documented and practiced command and control procedures can be a good approach to leadership. Emergency systems such as the Incident Command System offer an excellent leadership structure for times of extreme stress such as wildfire or flood. When the situation is less stressful and time is less constrained, then viewing leadership as a bottom-up, interactive, emergent dynamic is suggested as a good strategy.
However, in today’s world, where leaders across the globe are responding to a backdrop of pandemic, economic collapse, and civil unrest, the context for leadership has been completely disrupted. Leaders are being asked to make decisions in contexts that cover all types of situations from full emergencies – to what might be considered (old) normal operations – to everything in between. Perhaps even more so today than ever before, leadership should be seen not only as position and authority but also as so much more where leadership taps into the interactive, emergent dynamic that enables people to come together to meet their challenges (Fossey, 2020).