• Friday, July 12, 2024
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BusinessDay

What makes a great leader?

How to transition from technical expertise to strategic leadership

A great leader’s test is whether they can take people where they would not have got by themselves. This is true if you lead a big organization or lead a small team of 10 to 20 people. It would be best if you had an idea about how you will make a difference. It would help if you created a future that is different and better. There is nothing wrong with sustaining and gradually improving the situation you inherited; that is what all managers must do. But as a leader, you must do more than managing. Instead of sustaining a legacy from the past, you must create a legacy for the future.

Having a clear idea about creating a better future sounds obvious. However, it is often lost in the daily battle to survive. We may want to change the world, but right now, we have a client hounding you down with issues related to the project you are supervising. The month is ending soon. There is a report to review, emails to respond to, a presentation to prepare for, an article to write, and many other things that require your attention. As a leader, you must deal with the day to day battles, but you must never lose sight of the greater goal before you. No doubt achieving greatness in any life endeavour is genuinely difficult.

Northouse (2013) sees leadership as a complex process that consists of multiple dimensions and defines it based on varied components as “a process whereby an individual influence a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.” Leadership connotes an alliance between leaders and followers because authentic leadership is impossible without the total inclusion, initiatives, and cooperation of followers. Winston and Patterson (2006), considering the many variables that impact leadership, defined leadership as “one or more people who selects, equips, trains and influences one or more followers who have diverse gifts, abilities or skills to achieve specific goals and objectives, recognizing the diversity of the followers and achieving unity. Leadership and followership belong together as everything rises and falls on leadership. However, we cannot conceptualize a leader with a follower. Bennis (1999) views leadership as art with good disciplines that consist of the critical components of a leader, follower, and their contexts. No meaningful change can occur in leadership without willing and committed followers.

Hence, there is a consensus amongst leadership experts that great leaders are known to be flexible. They readily adapt to their surrounding environments and empower their team to succeed and achieve greatness and thrive together. However, certain principles are required for leading an organization to success. There are different perspectives on the methodologies and qualities needed for a reasonable degree of effectiveness in leadership. Stephanie Stephens (2013) stated that leadership isn’t merely a virtue possessed by the famous.

Former U.S. President John Quincy Adams, in describing leadership, mentioned that “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” When we look around us, some people are likely with whom we interact work, which fits that definition. Yadin David, an adjunct professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, described a great leader as a visionary. Thus, a great leader always starts with a vision. If you want to lead, you must understand where you are going and what you’re trying to accomplish. Then you must be able to communicate, organize, and put the team and its human resources behind the effort.

Bawany (2015) argued that increasingly, companies are recognizing that leadership factors are crucial to their organizational effectiveness. Why? Because ultimately, it is the people within the organization – leaders, managers, and individual contributors at all levels who must translate corporate strategy and business goals into action. They must understand the organization’s vision and make it their own. They must become its champion by influencing others to follow them and help them implement. This is the essence of leadership.

A great leader’s attributes are from showing respect and empathy to those who follow them. For a successful relationship with the follower, earning respect is crucial. It shows genuine care about the followers’ work and ideas. To buttress this point, Cattermole (2015) posited that; there are undoubtedly positions of authority or titles in life that automatically command respect; they tend to be the domain of royalty, war veterans, and Nobel Prize winners, not managers or team leaders in the corporate world. Respect is most definitely earned in the workplace and should never be assumed. You will not earn respect by positioning yourself on a pedestal or sitting in an ivory tower. Get to know your personnel, share your knowledge and skills, and empower people to do well, and you’ll find the respect will follow.

Great leaders focus on just three priorities, namely, Ideas, People, and Actions. And what people want from leaders is to create a future that is better and different. Randy Soderman, Founder of Soderman Marketing SEO, added that a great leader understands that it is the people they lead that ultimately determine its success or failure. Great leaders surround themselves with great people to cultivate into a team of competent, confident individuals who can work well. They then display the ability to guide the team towards a well-defined vision by clearly communicating short- and long-term goals, inspiring confidence, and trust among the team, and influencing joint efforts through character rather than by a position of authority.