• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Are you a weak General?

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One of Napoleon Bonaparte’s favourite sayings went thus: “There are no weak armies; only weak generals.” Indeed the late 18th / early 19th century French war monger believed that a good cat could turn its family into a strong pride of loins. To him, nothing was impossible. He was obsessed with the “fact” that “impossibility is only to be found in the dictionary of fools” – another favourite saying of his.

How is it that some nations prosper under some leaders and decline under others; yet the nations under these two different leaders are inhabited by the same people and probably under similar economic dispositions both locally and globally? How come some corporations excel under some leaders and crumble under others within the same conditions? The missing link is good leadership.

Leaders are made, not born, insisted a former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Strong leaders need strong ideas: and the wisdom to know when to be flexible and when to be steadfast. Leadership is learned just like other skills, but only if you invest the time and effort. Managing and leading are not the same. Being a good manager is not, on its own, a guarantee that someone will become a good leader.

Peter Drucker described a leader, simplly and squarely, as “someone who has followers.” Followership means that the led would fall in line even when the leader is not there. Scholars call this political authority. It is above a habit of rabble rousing on the part of the leader and installing a culture of seige among the governed or the managed.

Researchers have since discovered that some characteristics are important for effective leadership – particularly intelligence and aspects of personality such as dominance, extraversion, sociability, self-confidence, high levels of energy and resilience. Essentially effective leaders are known to be accurately aware of themselves – their emotions, tendencies, strengths and weaknesses.

Effective leaders typically have higher than average levels of intelligence – specifically reasoning and memory. During World War I, the armed forces used IQ tests to select potential officers and they continue to be used as a recruitment tool in many contemporary organisations. A high IQ does not make one an effective leader. There are many case studies of leaders with high IQs who, due to a lack of personal or interpersonal competence have failed as leaders.

More recently social intelligence, previously considered a sub-part of emotional intelligence, has been shown to be the single largest factor impacting on leadership effectiveness. This is the intelligence that lies behind group interactions and behaviours. It refers to the ability to get along well with others and to get them to cooperate with you. And the traits in this type of virtue include a deep sense of personal purpose coupled with an unshakable self-confidence in the ability to realise this purpose.

Others are a sensitivity to how people are feeling and an ability to connect well with people at a personal one-on-one level, a willingness to take personal risks and make sacrifices in order realise their vision;  an internal locus of control, with a what-can-I-do-with-what-I have-now attitude; being able to communicate a clear vision of the future along with the gap between that vision and current realities, in compelling ways; helping people to find purpose and meaning in their life through pursuit of this vision.

Others are the ability to overtly model the values and attitudes needed in your own behavior; communicate clear and high standards regarding what you expect from those around you; empower staff with the authority create innovative ways of realising the vision, whilst helping staff align their ideas with the broader organizational solutions and engage others in strategic and creative thinking around the realisation of the vision.

They also include the ability to use a caring and coaching style of leadership in one-on-one settings, empathising with the situation of staff whilst drawing forth creative solutions from the staff themselves and to recognise staff achievements and desired behaviors in personally meaningful ways.

However in all these leadership finesse, the good leader must know when to put his foot down. He must know when to break eggs in order to make an omelette, and with no sentiments. Lenin in the early days of the Russian revolution, responding to a complaint about the brutality of the new Soviet Police, noted: “This must not happen. We must move away from the excesses of the Czarist Police… though there could be no revolution possible without terror.”

Chuba Keshi