It’s difficult to define an essence of great leaders, as well as to try to give definition of a charm, charisma or beauty, but when you meet the strong leader, you recognize him at once. Probably, the best way to understand that definition is in description of what leaders do, of their common features and the principles they follow.
The good leader is defined by various managing styles, but he should never try to operate by the principle of consensus, suggest Reichhel (1996). It is just a waste of precious time. Moreover, the way which leads to consensus will bring the worst results of all possible in the situation. As usual, the group gets pleasant feeling of “achievement of consent” and, at last, the progress seems to be here. However, the most artful consequence of management “by the principle of consensus” is that it suppresses an initiative and creativity. In this case the good offer in favor of an average which simply nobody hates to such an extent is often rejected resolutely to object to it.
At the same time, the consensus can be very important. For example, when the board of directors unanimously shows solidarity with the chief executive officer and his “team” to confirm their powers and to give them psychological support. However, such members of council who at least sometimes vote against the offer which they consider to be wrong are really wise. The consensus has to be reached at negotiations with external partners which aren’t included into your organization. In this case consensus — this indispensable condition: there is no consent — there is no transaction also. But in the organization it has no relation to management processes and work of the leader.
The aspiration to achieve consensus and performance of democratic procedures, which is usual for management style “by means of consensus”, reduces motivation and ties hands of the youngest heads. They can’t see any sense and opportunity to be leaders in the organization where uninterested, uninformed, passive supporters of the status quo possess the same opportunities to influence decision-making as those who seek for progress.
Being leader and being speaker
As Lutz (1998) writes, communicativeness is the property of the leader who gives the vision of problems or fundamental ideas to the team, so that they understood him just as he wants to. Sometimes leaders are good speakers, however elegance and reasonableness of performance aren’t so important as an ability of self-disclosure. The speeches of leaders who let the listeners see their mind are most effective, as they’re able to exchange pure ideas. They manage to enrich the managers of the following level with energy. It’s all due to the feeling that the leader listened to them and in turn they understand what are his aspirations and what visions he provides. The leaders who hide something insincerely irritate, don’t express the original opinion get absolutely unpredictable reaction in response to their proposals.
However, the ambitious leader should remember that most of the eloquent speakers are only speakers and not more. They can have excellent oratorical skills, they are capable “to drive” audience and to light up the ideas, having caused positive or negative reaction – it depends on the aim. If it is the only skill, the leader will never achieve success. The easy speech and success on a tribune are less important than other attributes of leadership, for example honesty and openness.
What about the written style of the leader (as well as his speech), it certainly has to be clear, so that people of any education background and intelligence level could understand them. It’s worth mentioning that the use of slang often causes misunderstanding or the wrong understanding.
In the late 1970s Fiat brought the new Ritmo model (in the USA it was called ‘Strada’) into the British market. As the company was very proud of the new automated assembly plant – the most developed for that time in Italy, – it was decided to remove the model with the slogan “New Fiat Ritmo: it is collected manually by robots”. Excellent slogan, nice advertizing and bad results. Why? The buyers are not interested who assembled the car — people, cars or both. They simply want to know how it looks, what are the capabilities, how much it costs and what is its quality. It was if, for example, a well-known restaurant would use such advertizing: “All food is cooked on our new plates of model “Ajax – zet-400!”.
Many leaders usually avoid reporters, as the last often present the information from the darkest side or write for cheap sensations. Even the press sometimes recognize they chase for sensations, caring not much whether they are buttressed up by facts.
You can understand the journalist motivation, if you listen attentively how he asks questions. “Are you sure your company will be able to dominate in mini-vans production, despite the fact that new competitors entered the market?” — is not the same question with: “Now, when your business on production of mini-vans has suffered the pressure of competitors, how are you going to compensate decrease in profits?” The majority of negative questions give the leader a chance to inform journalists on a real state of affairs and to help them to understand the situation in depth. If a leader is asked a question that sounds more as a statement, he should suggest the journalist discussion of pros and cons of such argumentation. The point in communicating with journalists is in treating them as colleagues, the professionals who just do their job. The leader should be able to discuss problems quite rationally. The interviewer will surely value it, especially if he feels that you speak sincerely and directly. (Lutz, 1998)
Finally, if the leader really got “under an axe” of the journalist-killer, he should accept the challenge. If there is an article or the reporting, which leader has to disagree, he should challenge statements and the journalist’s conclusions publicly. Usually, the specialists in public relations can advise the leaders not to pay attention to such performances. Sometimes it is a sound advice, but quite often it is necessary to fight: it is the leader prerogative to protect the company. When, for example, a TV show of Dateline NBC accused GM corporation of the fact that gasoline tanks of cars of the company blow up, GM not only managed to disprove these charges, but also proved that Dateline specially made changes to the design of gasoline tanks, so that they exploded and it could be shown in the telecast. The GM corporation got sympathies of TV viewers and reports of Dateline NBC would hardly gain trust.
The leader by birth
In the beginning of the 20th century the concept of the great leader gained popularity. It was considered that talents which can’t be taught are inherent in “the born leader”. There was an alternative approach – the theory of lines of the personality revealing key lines of the effective manager. That approach remains popular until our days. The behavioral theory considers leadership from the point of view of actions, but not personal features, investigating functions and roles of the leader.
The majority of the latest works are devoted to attempts to understand why one leader is more effective than the other, basing on researches of the environment which the leaders operate in. The situational theory considers leadership as derivative of a proper situation, but not as property of the personality. The cornerstone of the theory lies in idea that different situations demand different styles of leadership. The theory of circumstances, according to which the choice of the most suitable style of leadership for these circumstances, is final in the researches. (Reichheld, 1996)
Models of leadership replace each other, but until present days the ideas of leaders in one important relation remained stable. The image of the almighty leader at hierarchy top remained. Today we see changes. As traditional command and administrative structures of the organizations give way to “flat” models with smaller number of “layers”, old ideas are changed with new ones. In the modern, not hierarchical environment the question of leadership is more important than ever. Once, all researchers’ attention was paid to unique identity. Today we observe the withdrawal from so-called “the myth about the leading hero”.
The power from the employees
Some researchers prefer holistic approach, where the center there is not a leader, nor is he the forces for people to be driven by. In 1988 in “Harvard Business Review” remarkable article – “In Praise of Followers” was published. Focus of attention was displaced from leading machos on less bright party of the equation – a role of “followers”. The subject of transactional leadership was then up. The author began to speak about mutually beneficial relations between leaders and those who they lead. Followers submit to the authority of the leader only if they believe that he offers them real benefits.
Supporters of “the theory of followers” consider: to become the effective leader you should necessary learn to be the good follower. With rare exception it is right and for the world of corporations, and for military and political leaders. As Aristotle said, “the one who didn’t learn to accept, won’t be the good leader”.
Today more than ever CEOs have to act in the daily work both as leaders and as followers. Authors of books about leadership began to be interested more in “the psychological contract” between the leader and the followers. In other words, they started asking a question why people are ready to follow one leader, but don’t want to follow another. The theory of attribution studies relationship of the leader and his followers and tries to understand the reason of their readiness to follow it.
The transformational theory is the reverse of leadership. The transactional theory considers leadership as the transaction between the leader and followers and is guided by the concept of self-motivation. It concentrates rather on obligations of the leader, but not on voluntary submission of those who he leads. Transformational leadership assumes self-election.
It will be coordinated with other events in society and the organizations, including with transition to broader participation in management and democratization to the industries. Today the idea that leaders have to be present at all levels of the organization is being spread everywhere.
Interest in other ideas for example, to the concept of “emotional intelligence” grows. It isn’t less important for leaders of the future, than the high IQ level. The concept of emotional intelligence allows to explain why leader’s abilities of Richard Branson who was twice filling up school examination in mathematics where above, than at the average graduate of Harvard business school.
Communication in sake of education within a company
Unfortunately, the role of leaders in education of new generation was too often underestimated. If we want to develop further as society, it has to become our priority purpose. As Sir Adrian Cadbury, the former head of Cadbury Schweppes noted, “good leaders raise people, bad leaders make them calm down; good leaders serve the followers, bad leaders enslave them”.
Kelly (1998) describes leader as following.
Able to delegate. The leader can’t do everything. Successful leaders are able to share responsibility and tasks with the team.
Trustworthy and responsible for team. In spite of the fact that the successful leader trusts team and delegates tasks, he still bears responsibility. The team has to be sure, as in good and in bad times their leader remains being powerful. It isn’t about the leader considering all mistakes or points at the bad work of the team. Ben means that the leader finally bears responsibility for common cause and business.
Communicator. We all know that great leaders are able to communicate with other people effectively. However, it is important not to forget to inform for example, on household things to the new employee of the company in what a role of his part of work for all business. It isn’t less important to talk with the team about their progress, to confirm that they made a big and important task. Also, the leader should be accurate: it is inadmissible to leader to talk incorrect things. There’re certain phrases the leader shouldn’t speak: I criticized or praised someone from team, I set the purposes or I distributed a task – it has to plan, it is how in details necessary to speak about it and what order. The introduced ideas of the leader have to be short, accurate and concrete.
Attentive listener. To be able to communicate in many aspects and listen to the ideas. If the leader is concerned that his task is only to speak, he is definitely not a leader. Leaders are able to lead team and to motivate people due to that ability to ask questions, listen and understand problems of the team. If the leader listens and hears, he will address things quickly and directly. (Kelly, 1998)
Sustainability as the main feature of a leader
One of the most difficult things connected with leadership is to remain stable it in hard times, according to Yoskovitz.
It is easy to be the leader when business goes well. When affairs go well, at your team everything is remarkable with motivation and everything that you need to do – to look that they moved in the correct direction, to help and “to bring cartridges for the guns”.
When things change for bad, many people become reserved and afraid to solve the arising problems. They communicate less, fall into a stupor, start perceiving feedbacks negatively and try to force affairs to go correctly by force of thought (that, of course, doesn’t work), instead of getting it together and to solve problems.
You should remain the leader in difficult situations. When your business fails you should communicate more. Invest time in communication with members of team, be direct and honest, don’t embellish a real situation. On the other hand – you keep the emotions under control – important not to make a situation worse than it already is. Most likely, the sky doesn’t fall also it not a doomsday. It is important to remain quiet and to tell team everything honestly.
The leader should communicate with employees, but even more with investors. It is very hard to admit to the investor “weakness” and that you met difficulties. If the leader doesn’t communicate with them, they will lose trust. Therefore, when your business or the project endures “Roller coaster” (and it surely will occur), communicate more.
Earlier, Ben writes, he shouted at people much more often than now. Now it still shows the discontent, but very much tries to remain constructive and focused on result, but not quarrelsome and angered. Leaders can be angry, they too people. But there is an important point. Leaders have to be fans of the business – if to you all the same why others have to worry? But there is a thin edge between devotion to business and a panic. The leader should be careful and don’t cross this line too often.
When things go terrible, the leader has to become an example for the others. To communicate, the leader should set accurate tasks in order to keep calm, to be constructive and to be guided by result and also to cope with problems as soon as possible. Achieve small victories to load team with energy. Remain up to the end. Don’t spend time for a reflection and experience about the incident, you will be able to be engaged in it later. And it isn’t necessary to be engaged in charge of people around. (Yoskovitz, 2007)
The prior factor of employees
Even the business model is not as important, as employees, who work in the company and naturally achieve the goals set by management top. Management itself is often confused with serving the customers’ needs. Primarily, it should organize the employees’ working process, because the satisfied customers are impossible without satisfied workers. That is the core of any management strategy.
Birkinshaw (2012) provides an impressive example:
“HCL Technologies has what it calls a “Smart Service Desk” (SSD) for its employees. This concept was borrowed directly from the world of marketing. Many companies use service tickets as a way of monitoring and following up on customer complaints. Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies, had the bright idea of applying this approach inside the company. As he explains, “Value is created by employees in their relationship with customers. So management’s job is to serve the employees. The Smart Service Desk is one of several tools we have created to help management serve the employees better.” As an employee at HCL, if you are unhappy about some aspect of your work, or need a problem resolving, you open a Service Ticket with the relevant manager, perhaps the head of human resources or the facilities manager in your office. It is up to that person to resolve the problem, and the ticket is only closed when the employee is satisfied. This IT-enabled system keeps track of the number of tickets being opened and how quickly they are closed. Unresolved tickets are then escalated to higher levels in the company. The SSD concept puts the onus on managers to become more service oriented, so that employees feel they are getting a good experience.”
This is an example of strategic vision and valuing the employees as the core source of being successful – “employees first, customers second” (Lutz, 1998).
Hierarchy is another controversial leverage in management. As a rule, the companies should have a director and clear logic of development. Thus, every employee knows his privileges and accomplishes very limited tasks. There’s little freedom and changes in such companies. The only means of staff motivation is money bonuses (as it is in many banks), but the workers are not ready to stay overtime and move the company forward with their creative ideas.
Valve is a good example of freedom and motivation. The company provides the workers with as much free time, as they want. There’s no such position, as a manager or CEO. Employees just vote every month for one of their peer to take the place of manager and implement his or her ideas. However, that is a very radical business-model, as the only thing to motivate employees is their common idea to contribute to the world of video-games. The strategy is very oblique here and the structure would face the need to be framed, sooner or later (Pink, 2009).
Manger and leader are often confused. A leader inspires, it’s a person that provides the vision and makes the employees follow his or her ideas. Nevertheless, a leader doesn’t perform any coordination job. A manager is that person, who really implements the ideas, based on deep insights and studies of the organization operational efficiency. However, it’s perfect to combine two in one for your company.
Birkinshaw, J., 2012. Reinventing Management: Smarter Choices For Getting Work Done. London: John Wiley & Sons.
Kelly, R., 1998. In Praise of Followers. Harvard Business Review. [online] Available at: <https://hbr.org/1988/11/in-praise-of-followers> [Accessed November 1998].
Lutz, R. A., 1998. Guts: The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World’s Hottest Car Company. London: Wiley.
Reichheld, F., 1996. The Loyalty Effect. Harvard Business Press.
Yoskovitz, B., 2007. 10 Essential Business Leadership Skills. [online] Available at: <http://www.instigatorblog.com/10-essential-business-leadership-skills/2007/04/16/> [Accessed April 2007].