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Good, bad or indifferent, the everyday behaviours of leaders set the standards and continuous reference-points for others.
But relatively few appointed leaders actually define what they mean by leadership or can point other than vaguely to the practices that constitute it. Most have no current plan for developing their leadership practices. They don't ask for feedback from those they lead, in order to monitor and evaluate their effectiveness. Through misunderstanding or under-estimating the significance of their role-modeling, they miss opportunities for improvement and positive influence. The negative influences of unhelpful modeling compound.
Leaders sometimes confuse leadership with directing or coercing people into supporting policies and initiatives. Some attempt such open-mindedness and democratic niceness that they fail to inspire confidence or followers. Others believe it requires extensive academic study of complex concepts and cutting-edge developments.
To motivate people towards high collective accomplishment, leaders must make participation safe, collaboration easy and congenial; they must provide opportunities for recognition, responsibility and growth. But commonly, leadership focus is imbalanced in favour of task, business or service-provision targets. Development of the desired culture and of individuals' capacity for the organisationís Primary Purpose go largely unattended. Team effectiveness is usually measured solely by the team's task efficiency or throughput, rather than with equal emphasis on how well the team realises its capacity as it works on the Primary Purpose.
There are many ways of defining leadership and management. The merits of one view are no greater than another except to the extent that it is based on actual effective practices and we find it useful. How useful a definition is, depends on our purpose for defining it. Five good reasons for defining leadership (and incidentally, management) are:
- How leadership and management are defined can provide clarify of role and responsibilities. It then becomes possible to assess current effectiveness, and to close gaps between what is ideal and what exists in reality.
- Leaders often confuse leading with managing, to the extent that managers' capacity to manage (or even non-managers' capacity to do their jobs) is compromised or frustrated through unwelcome interference. People learn dependency and helplessness, and become powerless.
- There are times when managers need to lead and when leaders need to manage. Clarity of purpose and role can help ensure the right practices are exercised at the right time.
- Many managers do not appreciate how great their potential is for leadership in their everyday behaviours. Others believe that they are giving leadership when in fact they are not.
- Sometimes leadership is mistakenly seen as higher level management, allowing a leadership vacuum to exist. Others may try to fill the gap but fail without the authority to do so. Commitment to direction and focus weakens. Energy drops. People tire.
All leadership has a component of management, as all leadership projects need to be managed. All managers are capable of leadership and have a duty to give it. Leadership is everyone's business: we should all give leadership over what matters to us and over what our employing organisations require of us.
Attaining leadership skills has become so important that Masters in Public Administration and MBA programs have made it a large part of the programs' curriculum.
EncourageMentors can provide mentoring support and publications to strengthen your leadership practices. We can help you:
- Find a useful definition of leadership and determine the specific, measurable practices that constitute inspirational leadership.
- Clarify your capacity for leadership.
- Identify whatever obstacles exist to your exercising the quality of leadership you desire.
- Get fast, safe and useful feedback on your current competence as a leader through use of our Survey of Constructive Influence (SCI) or the Kouzes and Posner Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI).
- Review and understand the results of the SCI or LPI.
- Develop a plan for your development as an inspirational leader.
- Provide ongoing support to monitor your continuous progress.
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