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Leadership Development

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s incredible what they can accomplish. - Sam Walton

What is leadership, and what is the difference between being a manager and a leader? Definitions of leadership, there is not a single definition that everyone agrees on. Manfred Kets de Vries, a professor at INSEAD, says that leadership is a set of characteristics, behavior patterns, and personality attributes that make specific individuals more effective in achieving a goal or aim.

Another way of describing leadership is to say that to get the best out of people, individuals, teams, and organizations, they need to be led, guided, persuaded, motivated, inspired, committed, do their best, and work together to achieve a common aim. This is rather than the pure management approach of being told, directed, ordered, and treated as subordinates.

True leaders are recognized as leaders, and their followers accept that they need to be guided by that leader, but they do not feel they are mere subordinates. A good example is the captain of a sports team - hockey, baseball, netball, cricket, soccer, football, athletics - these are individuals who have an individual role to play yet find time and ways to motivate and encourage others to do their best, to use their unique skills, knowledge, and experience (scoring goals, defending, winning races, hitting home runs) while at the same time working together as a member of the team to achieve team objectives.

There are other ways of defining leadership, managers perform transactions, and leaders bring about transformations.

The transactional manager influences others by appealing to self-interest, primarily through exchanging rewards and services. The relationship between this type of manager and the follower is seen as a series of rational exchanges that enable each to reach their own goals. Transactional managers supply all the ideas and use rewards as their primary power source. Followers follow the leader when it is in their interest - the relationship continues if the reward is desirable to the follower. The manager and the follower see the exchange as a way of achieving their ends.

The transformational leader inspires followers to not only perform as expected but to exceed expectations - transformational leaders motivate followers to work for goals that go beyond immediate self-interest, where what is right and good becomes important - these leaders transform the needs, values, preferences, and aspirations of followers. They do this so that the interests of the wider group replace the self-interest of individuals within that group.

Interestingly, research has shown that how women leaders describe how they behave and lead is in line with the transformational style. In contrast, most male leaders use words and phrases that describe the transactional style when describing themselves. There are exceptions, of course, and in some situations, the leader can be viewed differently by diverse groups. Many people in the UK would not describe Margaret Thatcher as transformational in style, but more likely, they would use words such as dictatorial, domineering, and riding roughshod over opponents, yet others, in her close team, for example, describe her as charismatic, motivational, inspirational, kind, supportive.

We can see from this look at Leadership that there are diverse ways of describing what a leader does and how, at least in some ways, this is different from how a manager behaves. Individuals recognized as leaders make it clear that there are significant differences in how certain confident leaders behave. On the surface, there are substantial differences between the leadership style of Prime Minister Thatcher and that of the Indian industrialist Rajiv Bajaj. Yet both are widely acknowledged as phenomenally successful leaders. The common factor, it seems, is that all can persuade others to follow them to achieve success in their field. They all have something that brings diverse people together, to work as a team, to aim for and work hard to achieve a common goal. It is an exceptional talent, characteristic, personality trait, set of circumstances they find themselves in, or a combination. Leaders are born with this ability, which can be, or must be, learned.

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