According to Oxford’s English Dictionary, leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this”. Leadership is an important skill that not everyone has naturally, but most people can develop if they work on it. However, not everyone wants to be a leader: some people prefer being followers. And it is fine. Leading a group of people can be hard and time consuming, and some people don’t have the mental strength and patience to do it.
Leadership is needed to run groups of people in settings such as workplaces, schools, organisations, councils… It is also imperative when comes to managing projects, mainly your own projects, such as business ideas to gain profit or social campaigns to raise awareness. In addition, there are other situations in life in which leadership appears, sometimes unconsciously. For example, in most groups of friends, there is a leader. Someone that keeps the group together, makes plans, makes sure everyone stays involved… Normally, this leader isn’t deliberately chosen. A lot of times, leaders won’t even realise they are leaders. Nor will their friends. But they are. It just happens naturally.
Moreover, leadership is an ability that can be used right or can be used wrong. In theory, this skill is neutral, but in practice, when people talk about great leaders, they often talk about people that strived for success and accomplished things, things that benefited others. Examples of notorious people who showed remarkable leadership skills include historical figures such as Hatshepsut, Indira Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. Many people reach high positions, but not all of them flourish. I always say there is a difference between being a boss and being a leader. Bosses give orders. Leaders give guidance. Bosses supervise people. Leaders work with people. Bosses act as superiors. Leaders act as equals. Bosses worry about their goals. Leaders worry about the goals of the whole group. Bosses just rule. Leaders actually achieve. Bosses control. Leaders influence. Bosses walk alone. Leaders walk with the masses. Bosses have power. Leaders are powerful.
However, it is important to know that there are different types of leadership. There are various ways of leading and succeeding. It all depends on the personality of the leader, the people that are being lead and the aim of the whole group. In many cases, leadership is divided in three styles:
- Directive: carried out with authoritarian attitude. Directive leadership involves creating structures and activities to keep the group engaged. Under this style, leaders choose and provide tasks for group members. They also offer positive/negative feedback and they may give rewards or punishments. Directive leadership is about taking the full command. It may be needed if a group is poorly motivated to work, if a group doesn’t reach a decision, or if a group doesn’t function well due to lack of discipline.
- Democratic: carried out with an egalitarian attitude. Democratic leadership involves creating open discussions, asking questions to the group before making decisions and encouraging the active participation of others. Under this style, leaders run polls to make decisions that everyone agrees with. Democratic leadership is about making sure every member of the team feels heard and important. It may be needed when a group is motivated to work, if a group can make decisions easily, and if a group has a good discipline and work ethic.
- Delegative: carried out with a “laissez-faire” attitude. Delegative leadership involves deferring important tasks to group members. Under this style, leaders don’t like to make decisions for the whole group, they use non-verbal gestures and movements to show support and agreement, and they often rely on silence during meetings and brainstorm moments, till another person in the group has something to say or add. Delegative leadership is about waiting for other sub-leaders to appear in the group, which in some cases can lead to the disappearance and replacement of the leader for another person more capable. It may be needed when a group is very motivated work, if a group can make decisions without consulting the leaders, and if a group has a very good discipline and work ethic.
These three styles of leadership are not mutually exclusive: they are more linked to the type of situation in which leaders find themselves. Sometimes you need to direct, sometimes you need to be democratic and sometimes you have to delegate. A great leader is able to adapt to each style depending on the needs of the group and always with the purpose of improving performance.
Another aspect about leadership to talk about is what type of qualities a good leader has. In my opinion, good leaders should have passion, ambition, strength, ethics, understanding and extrovert personalities. Passion because it translates into motivation. Ambition because it means desire for success. Strength because it helps to cope with problems. Ethics because they prevent illegalities and corruption. Empathy because it ensures that all members of the group feel understood and heard. And extrovert personalities because they keep the group engaged.
Nevertheless, I think this aspect of leadership is a subjective topic, which is why I headed to Spring.me to ask my followers about their opinions. My open question was: “Can you tell me a good quality every leader should have?”. And here are the answers.
“Meekness, compassion, honour, strength, charisma, love.” -Mealltaaingeal
“It’s a bit cliché to say this, but one of the best traits in a leader is someone who doesn’t want to BE the leader. They are more likely to do the job that needs doing rather than using their position for personal gain.” –Eediot
“Universal compassion.” –Genosidoh
“Personally, I find the best leaders are ones who lead from the back. It’s a style I use in my work life and my day to day. People can usually do things well with only guidance.” –MisterWhoX
None of these responses are wrong or right: they are mere opinions, which to me, compliment what I said. If you have your own ideas on good qualities that leaders need, I invite you to leave your opinion below.
To sum up, leadership is without doubt a prodigious skill, which not everyone is born with, but many can be taught. It is required in many life situations, either formal or informal, and it can be either voluntarily or involuntarily: visible or invisible. Leadership can be used for the good or for the bad: however, to go down as a memorable and loved leader, you must accomplish things that impactl positively on other’s lives. Always try to be a leader: avoid being a boss. Bosses are cherished but leaders are respected. And don’t worry if your way of leading is different to other people’s way of leading. Different styles exist. Just learn how to adapt to different environments.