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Introduction to Leadership

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

You don’t have to hold a position to be a leader. - Henry Ford

Napoleon once said: “One bad general does better than two good ones.” It takes a moment for the sense of this to register, but it is the same as us modern saying that “too many cooks spoil the broth.” Even if they are flawed, having one set of instructions is preferable to having two sets of perfect directions that, when enacted together without reference to each other, cause havoc.

This is the principle of leadership briefly. It is all about keeping focus and creating positive outcomes.

The same can be applied to individuals who strive to become leaders. There needs to be focus and determination. The advice can be given but does not have to be heeded. History is full of leaders whose beginnings were disastrous, and had they listened to the naysayers of this world; the world would be a poorer place today.

Leadership can be learned. People are indeed born with leadership skills, but this is not a prerequisite for becoming a leader. More important is a dedication to the art of leadership. Leadership involves understanding how to inspire, influence and control how people behave. It is not a simple matter of shouting, having a deep and booming voice, or being great in physical stature: Gandhi had none of these attributes but managed to lead a nation and inspire millions worldwide.

Sometimes, leadership may be no more than having a poignant message for a receptive audience at an opportune moment. Leadership is neither good nor bad; the world has known more than its fair share of evil and

charismatic dictators.

In the business world, the feeling of leadership had changed from its early days when it mirrored the military model of leadership from the top-down, with influential individuals dominating large groups of less powerful people.

Nowadays, business leadership is far more knowledge-driven. The lowliest employee may effectively lead a vast corporation's direction through their innovative ideas. Anyone with critical knowledge can show leadership. This is known as thought leadership. In other situations, leadership can be about taking a stand for your beliefs and convincing people to think and act differently.

Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the? The accomplishment of a common task”; “creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen”; “the ability to successfully integrate and maximize available resources within the internal and external environment for the attainment of organizational or societal goals”; and “the capacity of leaders to listen and observe, to use their expertise as a starting point to encourage dialogue between all levels of decision-making, to establish processes and transparency in decision-making, to articulate their values and visions clearly but not impose them. Leadership is about setting and not just reacting to agendas, finding problems, and starting change that makes for substantive improvement rather than managing change.”

There is truth to all the above definitions, but they all apply to the ideals of leadership.

So, what of leadership gone awry?

Understanding the Dark Side

When allowed to go unchecked, the dark side of any individual can create a rigid and dysfunctional personality that stifles creativity and taints or ruins relationships. When such characteristics are given reign in a leader, a self-righteous and bombastic person can result, who alienates the very people they are meant to inspire.

The Compulsive Leader

Compulsive leaders feel like they must do everything themselves. They try to manage every aspect of their business, often refusing to delegate, and cannot resist having their say on everything. As they lack trust in others, they cannot let anyone else take responsibility. Therefore, they restrict personal growth in their team.

Compulsive leaders have other traits. They are perfectionists who must follow highly rigid and systematized daily routines and are concerned with status. Thus, they strive to impress their superiors with diligence and efficiency and continually seek reassurance and approval. This can lead to them becoming workaholics, and their team is viewed as failing if they do not keep pace. Spontaneity is not encouraged as these bucks the routine.

Despite this appearance of total control, such leaders can be fit to explode on the inside, and this can be the result of a childhood environment where unrealistic expectations are placed on them. Their attempts to keep control are linked to their attempts to suppress anger and resentment, which makes them susceptible to outbursts of temper if they perceive they are losing their grip.

The Narcissistic Leader

Narcissistic leaders are focused on themselves. Life and the world revolve around them, and they must be at the center of all happening. While they exaggerate their own merits, they will try to ignore the values of others or look to devalue them because other people’s accomplishments are seen as a threat to their standing. The worst type of narcissistic leader cannot tolerate a hint of criticism and disagreement and avoid undermining their self-delusions and fantasies by surrounding themselves with sycophants.

Where possible, they will try to use the merits of others for their advancement and think nothing of stepping on people to get ahead. Their self-importance means they cannot empathize with those in their team because they cannot feel any connection. Their only focus is on receiving plaudits that further bolster their sense of greatness. Such an attitude is often the result of a deep-seated inferiority complex, thus no matter. How much they are achieving; they will never feel it is enough.

Narcissistic leaders take on a sidekick, but this person is always expected to toe the line and serves only to reflect glory onto them and loudly approve of all they do. Clever sidekicks can subtly manipulate the leader into focusing on the operational outcome of their plans rather than just their self-aggrandizement. This type of leader can be phenomenally successful if their vision is strong, and they get the organization to identify with them and think as they do. Such productive narcissists have more perspective and can step back and even laugh at their own irrational needs.

The Paranoid Leader

Paranoid leaders are precise as they sound paranoid that other people are better than them, and thus they view even the mildest criticism as devastating. They are liable to overreact if they sense they are being attacked, especially in front of other people. This can manifest itself in open hostility.

This attitude results from an inferiority complex that perceives even the most constructive criticism incorrectly. The paranoid leader will be guarded in their dealings with other people because they do not want to reveal too much of themselves if they display their weaknesses and are attacked or undermined. They may be scared that their position is unnecessary. Therefore, they can be deeply suspicious of colleagues who may steal their limelight or challenge their work.

This is not always a negative trait, however. A healthy dose of paranoia can be crucial to success in business because it helps keep leaders on their toes and constantly aware of opportunities not to be missed. It is the opposite end of the spectrum to being complacent and can make for a phenomenally successful venture.

The Codependent Leader

Co-dependent leaders do not enjoy taking the lead and instead look to copy what others have done or are doing. They avoid confrontation and would instead cover up problems than face them head-on. Planning is not their forte. They tend instead to react to whatever comes their way rather than acting to alter outcomes or achieve goals.

Codependent leaders, therefore, are not leaders at all. They are reactionary and habitually keep valuable information to themselves because they are unprepared to act upon it. This can lead to poor outcomes because all the pertinent facts are unknown to those below the leader who may be charged with making decisions.

This type of leader avoids confrontation and is thus liable to accept a more significant workload for themselves rather than respond negatively to any request. They are also prone to getting the blame for situations they have not caused.

The Passive-Aggressive Leader

Passive-aggressive leaders feel they need to control everything; when they cannot, they cause problems for those in control. However, they are sneaky in their ploys and challenging to catch. Their main characteristics are being stubborn, purposely forgetful, intentionally inefficient, complaining (behind closed doors), and dodging demands through procrastination.

If they feel they are not firmly in the driving seat, they will jump out and puncture the tires when no one is looking, then feign horror and pretend to search around for a tire iron.

This type of leader has two speeds: full speed ahead and stopped. When situations do not go their way, they will offer their full support for whatever has been decided, gossip and backstab, willfully cause delays, and create upset. When confronted, they claim to have been misinterpreted. A passive-aggressive leader is often chronically late for appointments, using any excuse to dominate and regain control of the situation.

Dealing with passive-aggressive leaders is thus a draining and the frustrating affair that saps energy. They are not opposed to short outbursts of sadness or anger to regain some control but are fearful of success since it leads to higher expectations.

How to Lead and Influence People

Leading people has nothing to do with managing them. Too many managers try to micro-manage their staff while forgetting to show them effectively.

Suppose you want to become a strong leader. It would help if you led by example. This means you must show your team that you are competent to set criteria. Doing so will you earn their respect and create lifelong devotees who would move mountains to please you?

Conversely, a manager who hides behind his office door while commanding staff will not gain respect in the workplace.

The success of any business venture lies in the hands of its employees and NOT the managers. A manager's responsibility is to organize and manage business systems that will see to the successful finalization of projects.

If your staff is unhappy, it will soon show in their lack of productivity. This will influence your bottom line. Chances are, customer complaints will start to amass, and office gossip will run hot. This is counterproductive to running a well-oiled machine – your business.

It is All About Relationships

No organization can function for exceptionally long without the cooperation of its employees. Unfortunately, the necessity in any organization is that there are various levels of status within the team, which can lead to conflicts if not managed properly.

The effective leader must realize that the team under them is there because they must be. Most employees work to earn money, not because they enjoy the daily grind of a nine-to-five.

For this reason, there must be an effort to build healthy relationships, or life in the workplace can become untenable for everyone, and productivity will decline.

Leaders must make their workplace society function positively, with co-operation and respect. This way, everyone works for the common good and towards a common purpose. This demands that effective relationships are built upon understanding each other’s needs. It is no different from how things should be in the home; no personal relationship will last exceptionally long if there is a sense that one or both parties are being selfish.

The most effective way to understand how other people are feeling is to listen to what they have to say. This must be done without judging and not as though you are being forced to do so by some higher authority. Often, teams will have the same goals as their leaders but may want to know that they are not seen as automatons that have; they may want to know that they are not seen as automatons with no creative input.

Quality workplace relationships make people feel happy. One of the primary reasons employees move on from a company is because of relationship clashes with leaders or colleagues.

Leaders should also ensure that they create the circumstances for understanding within their team, which means asking questions. If your team will simply pipe up and express their feelings is not enough. People will not feel it is their place to speak up unless they are specifically asked to do so.

Listening should be done attentively, not glancing at your watch every couple of minutes or trying not to look bored. This means you listen without interrupting or fidgeting and with the correct expression. Your expression should be genuine, or you will be found out quickly, and the situation would worsen if you had not asked in the first place.

An excellent way to foster healthy relationships with your team is by regularly meeting them in a more social environment. Companies choose to send their staff to regular golfing outings, while others prefer to host a monthly

BBQ or weekend trips.

Regardless of your choice, the key lies in giving your team a chance to connect away from the daily grind.

Building effective relationships means that neither party must make any assumptions. As a leader, you cannot expect people to understand precisely what you want and why you want it. Sometimes it is this lack of comprehension that causes problems. As much as you must trust your team members to have intelligence, they can become resistant if they are not a party to the goals you are working towards. As far as possible, your team should be conversant with your goals and how their actions contribute to their successful outcome. Humans are curious and function better when not kept in the dark.

Respect is the key ingredient of any good relationship, which means respect for yourself and others. Genuinely listening and understanding show that you respect the person you are talking to.

Quickly judging based on preconceived ideas or prejudice is the opposite of having respect. Remember that not everyone will respond in a 100% perfect fashion to all that occurs in the workplace. Although it is not the leader’s job to be a permanent shoulder to cry on, it is essential to accept that your team is made up of individuals whose lives may not be as perfect as their coffee-

break banter might lead you to believe.

While creating a healthy working relationship is a crucial goal, the innovative leader will never forget that conflict is inevitable and must be managed rather than ignored for apparent peace.

Relationships can never improve unless problems are found and confronted. Differences between people are inevitable, and hearing their air can lead to beneficial resolutions that produce ideas beyond the expected. The alternative is highly detrimental: to let problems fester and build and ruin the atmosphere in a workplace, if not productivity levels.

Keys for success in working relationships:

1. One party at least should value the relationship – This may start as a one-way street, but this can lead to a meeting of minds later.

2. Listen effectively, without judging – This will promote mutual understanding and respect.

3. Have informal chats – Chatting over a coffee can encourage a franker exchange of views than meeting officially with a desk between you.

4. Create an open culture – Your team should know they can speak freely, expressing happiness, joy, contentment, anger, irritation,

Sadness or fear. Negative feelings that are hoarded cause significant problems.

Changing Mindsets by Empowering Others

Leaders must take responsibility for their team’s performance, which means leaders must be happy that the direction of their team is one that the leader thinks is best. Although it is helpful to have creative sessions with team members to bat around ideas, the overarching goals that the team must fulfill are often set by the leader or authority above the leader.

The challenge is, therefore, to get the team “onside” with the given aims, even when some team members may wholeheartedly disagree with them or balk atthe idea that these have been imposed on them from above.

Despite the accepted hierarchy of any workplace, for a team to work most efficiently, its members – especially higher-level ones – may want to feel they are contributing more than the spade work; they may like to think that they have chosen where the plots should be dug.

This challenges leader who cannot just let their subordinates have free play. The team must be made to feel involved and motivated. Or the situation worsens, and your team begins to show a little disobedience. How than to provoke a positive response in them?

The answer is to empower your team as far as possible. Short of handing over the reins and heading off home, the motivational leader must be able to create a sense that their team is actively involved in the process and contributing a real reason to the project's overall outcome. This can include learning how to make your suggestions appeal to them. This may mean you ask for their opinions and take the best ideas on board. Or you may convince them that your goals are shared, and their futures are tied to your overall success. It may be simple to make employees understand that their job will be safer if they perform well, reminding them that they are working for themselves and their families, not just for a company.

However, empowering others does not just mean employing tactics to persuade others toward your own opinion or goals. It can also mean proving leadership qualities that inspire others to act at their absolute best, no matter what they ask. Such leadership qualities would be most in evidence in the armed services, where the result of potentially being killed rarely elicits a whoop and a cheer. Soldiers are empowered to greatness by the examples set by their commanding officers.

Sometimes, it is just a matter of being an admirable and inspirational human being. Of course, some are born with more of these qualities than others, but we can all strive to lead by example so that others will feel empowered to make beautiful things happen.

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