“Leadership is a lot like love. Everyone thinks it is special, but hardly anyone agrees on a definition.” (Peltier, 2010)
Are leaders born of bred? An endless chicken vs. the egg debate. Up-to-date research extensively holds the view that good leaders tend to possess a set of similar and essential qualities, but they can also be developed. The concept of leadership has intrigued many students throughout history including the notable Plato, Socrates, Confucius, and Shakespeare, and it is a frequently manifesting topic in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as well as in the Koran. Modern-day leadership and leader development research is derived from popular business books and academic (empirical) research. Nonetheless, millennia of research has not been able to formulate one perfectly descriptive or universally accepted definition of the concept of leadership, due to the fact that it has been impossible to identify traits or behaviors that make leaders equally successful in all situations. Leaders who are effective in one organization or context may not be as successful in others, which makes concluding universal qualities of great leaders virtually impossible. On the bright side, researchers have been able to draw out trends among good and bad leaders. Gaining a better understanding of what makes an effective leader can help organizations in several aspects, such as in selecting or placing a leader, or even in developing one. Many organizations lack the leadership they need at various levels, which may be the cause behind mediocre or even failing performance. Hence it can be of great interest for businesses to understand what leadership qualities may make or break an organization.
Due to the lack of a clear definition for leadership or the qualities to be assessed, measuring leadership effectiveness is challenging. The most commonly used measure is thus whether the organization has achieved its goals and to what extent, which of course is not a bad starting point. However, it can result in erroneous assessment of the leader. When organizations perform highly, in the majority of industries leaders tend to enjoy most of the credit, and when performance is poor leaders are often labeled as the culprit. Thus poor leaders sometimes wrongfully gain merit for a team’s performance, or vice versa, they do not receive the praise they should for their team’s success. The cause behind results may be difficult to pin down, especially in large organizations where there is a great distance between executives and front line employees. It may not be easy to determine who is to be celebrated or blamed. On that account, as well as in many other quests regarding leadership decisions, it can be extremely useful for organizational leaders and the board of directors to know what researchers have discovered.
Today’s leadership literature elicits specific patterns of effective leadership qualities, including traits and competencies, of which most involve a strong social influence and an ability to effectuate and guide change (by moving large groups of subordinates and other resources). However, as per abovementioned, no universal leader traits or behaviors will guarantee success across all contexts. Therefore, it is important to understand the qualities that a good leader in general should possess, but to keep in mind that a leader-situation fit is essential. A leader with favorable qualities should be matched up with the leadership demands of the context in which he/she is to lead. By conducting a thorough assessment of the right leader-situation fit prior to launch, a company can increase its likelihood for success and avoid unprecedented fiascos. What works in one relationship may not work in another, because it is more than just math, it is advanced chemistry.
Personal qualities of a successful leader:
• “An ability to establish strong collaborative relationships
• Integrity and the ability to create a climate of trust
• High practical intelligence (more is better, to a point)
• Strong motivation to lead other people
• Self-confidence and a sense of independence
• Capacity for vision
• Ability to articulate a vision and influence others
• Adaptive flexibility
• Extraversion and outgoingness
• High energy, capacity to work a lot
• Emotional maturity, emotional intelligence (ability to notice and manage emotions and reactions)” (Peltier, 2010)
• Stress tolerance
• Listening skills
• Empowerment and respect for others
• Strategic thinking
• Effective risk-taking and accountability for risks taken
• Various additional skills such as ability to negotiate, delegate, run effective meetings, and stamina to attend regularly occurring after-work social events on a business agenda (Peltier, 2010)
Six essential competencies:
• “Create a sense of mission
• Motivate others to join you
• Create an adaptive social architecture
• Generate trust and optimism
• Develop other leaders
• Get results” (Bennis, 2007)
According to Bennis (2007), not everyone is apt to lead, and he goes on with postulating that possessing the necessary energy and motivation to lead other people is actually quite rare. However, they are out there, and our satisfied international clients can assert that Awara certainly knows how to find and place them. A strong leader paired with the right situation can be a match made in heaven, and that is what our mission consists of.
Bennis, W. (2007). The challenges of leadership in the modern world. American Psychologist, 62(1), 2-5.
Peltier, B. (2010). Leadership. In The Psychology of Executive Coaching, Theory and Application (2nd ed.). (307-338). New York, NY: Routledge.
If you want to discuss this article, please contact the author:
Helenika Hellevig, Executive Consultant of Awara Group