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By Steve Mueller
Day after day we are confronted with all different types of leaders throughout our lives, may it be the charismatic leader that is ruling our country or the autocratic leader that is our boss. But what is leadership precisely and how to define leadership?
Leadership is the activity of leading, inspiring and motivating a group of people to accomplish a common objective or goal. Furthermore, it is the process of social influence, which shall inspire and guide the followers of a leader to perform specific tasks. In order to succeed the person who guides needs to have characteristics of a leader such as excellent supervising, communication and listening skills.
The good news is that noone is born as a leader (except the heir to the throne of a king) and absolutely nobody is born to be a true leader with charismatic leadership skills. While there seem to be a lot of people that are naturally endowed with excellent leadership abilities and communication skills, it takes a lot of practice and experiences to achieve authentic leadership skills. Every person can learn how to become a leader and how to develop leadership skills, if provided with the right instructions. In fact: one key to leadership success is to concentrate on the improvement of particular leadership skills that merge to essential leadership qualities, if perfected.
As mentioned previously: we meet in our daily lives all different types of leaders, but what are the different leadership characteristics and the styles of leadership precisely?
The autocratic style of leadership is characterized by its decision-making powers, which are centralized in the person of the leader. This enables the autocratic leader to make quick decisions, without having to involve team-members and subordinates. The cons of an autocratic style of leadership outweigh the pros in my opinion, as this type of leadership style discourages the team members to make helpful suggestions or any kind of initiatives in general.
The democratic style of leadership can be characterized, similar to the autocratic style of leadership, by its decision-making process, which involves several people. At best all team members are involved into the decision-making process and are allowed to make suggestions and can communicate their own ideas. Nevertheless, the final decision will be made by the leader. The democratic style of leadership is very motivational for the team, as they consider themselves to be an important part of it.
A free rein leader cannot even be considered to be a true leader, as he leaves the team entirely to itself with a maximum of freedom to make own decisions. This allows each team member to develop innovate problem-solving solutions and to make their own decisions, but it also increases the burden of responsibility on everyone drastically.
The very best leaders combine different styles of leadership according to the situation, which allows them to make quick decisions in urgent situations or in emergency’s, but involves the whole team in the long-term decision-making. Furthermore they support the creativity and the development of ideas and suggestions by their subordinates and are therefore able to create a motivational work climate.
#1 – Leadership secret: Every leader that is now at the top has started as a follower from the bottom. With this in mind you can start to break through all limitations and limiting-beliefs that have prevented you from becoming a leader. In fact: there is only one limitation that is able to prevent yourself from becoming a leader: YOU!
#2 – Gain knowledge, continuously! This key to leadership success is a very important one, as it is essential, even if you aren’t a leader, yet. Gaining more knowledge helps you to improve yourself, your skills and your abilities. The fact that you graduated from school or university does not mean that you never have to learn something. You will only be able to develop leadership skills and be considered to be a true leader if you are good at what you are doing! Or would you honestly follow a self-proclaimed leader that is not excellent at his work, or does not even know what he does?
#3 – Be committed! Commitment is not only necessary to be an excellent example for your subordinates, but it is also an important key to leadership success. A leader will only be able to surround himself with ambitious followers if he is totally committed to what he is doing.
#4 – Have a plan! The utmost important key to leadership success is having a precise plan. A leader points the direction to his followers, but having no plan or not being able to communicate the objectives will create confusion and demotivation amongst the team-members. A great leader is clear about the goals and objectives he wants to achieve and sets his goals as specific and clear as possible. Additionally, it is important that the leader is able to identify possible obstacles and potential problems and solves them before they can affect his team.
#5 – Be innovative! Successful leaders are the ones that are doing things differently. To be more precise: their innovation and the ambition to improve certain procedures might just have enabled these persons to become true leaders. Their innovation might even be characterized by the creativity to find better and more effective ways to overcome obstacles, remove constraints and to deal with upcoming problems.
#6 – Become solution-oriented! A person that is problem-oriented focuses on the question: “Why did the problem occur”, which is only helpful to avoid similar problems in the future. A successful leader instead asks himself the question: “How can we deal with the problem and make the best out of it?”, which is more effective.
#7 – Have a vision! Another very important key to leadership success is to have a vision. Every leader has a vision that embodies his passions and dreams, which he communicates to his followers. At best he will be able to peak their motivation and strengthen incentive amongst the team members. The vision of the leader provides direction for the team and creates a common objective.
#8 – Take responsibility! The next key to leadership success is the ability to ease the burden of responsibility from the followers, so that they can solely focus on their tasks and goals. While there are many people that can peak performance while being stressed and having a huge responsibility, others might not be able to do so. In fact: a lot of employees can achieve better results, when not having the burden of responsibility on their shoulders.
Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results. ~ George S. Patton
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. ~ Theodore M. Hesburgh