|
|
Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients.
What is a Leader?
email print
About this blog
By Stephen Balzac
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful ...
X
Business Advice
Author Stephen Balzac offers ways businesses can increase revenue and attract more clients with his 7 Steps Ahead philosophy. Whether you're trying to hire the right people or get your team on track, this is the place for accurate, useful information. Stephen is an expert on leadership and organizational development, a consultant and professional speaker, and author of \x34The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development,\x34 published by McGraw-Hill, and a contributing author to volume one of \x34Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play.\x34 Contact Steve at steve@7stepsahead.com.
Recent Posts
June 3, 2014 5:05 p.m.
May 19, 2014 11:11 a.m.
May 15, 2014 11:11 a.m.
May 12, 2014 11:11 a.m.
May 8, 2014 11:11 a.m.
By steve
Aug. 14, 2013 5:05 p.m.



This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, Organizational Psychology for Managers

A question I get asked all the time is some variant of, “What is a leader?” The question may be, “How do a I recognize a real leader?” or “What do true leaders look like?” or any of a dozen other versions of the question. I created a stretch of dead air on a radio show one time by responding, “Whatever we think a leader looks like.” The host apparently didn’t expect that!

We are biased toward seeing as a leader someone who fits our cultural image of a leader. Conversely, we build our model of leaders in the image of other leaders. As we discussed in chapter one, James Kirk was John Kennedy in outer space. This bias can get in our way, though, when it prevents us from recognizing the real leader or from giving people the opportunity to lead because they don’t fit the image we’re looking for. We’ll look at some activities to identify real leaders when we discuss training in chapter 8.

Conversely, how the leader sees her role is shaped and reinforced through television, movies, books, and other media. It is also shaped by the cultural assumptions each organization makes about what constitutes appropriate leader behavior. As a result, leaders act according to those assumptions often without ever questioning them. This can trap a leader into taking on a role that they are not comfortable in but feel obligated to play. This becomes a serious problem when it interferes with the ability of the leader to accept feedback or when followers become unwilling to provide feedback. Without feedback, error correction cannot occur: if the leader misses the “bridge out” sign, and no one is willing to speak up, the results can be more than a little embarrassing.

At root, though, being a leader really means only one thing: you have followers. A leader without followers is just some joker taking a walk.

Fortunately, there are many ways to convince people to follow you; unfortunately, there are many ways to convince people to follow you. People will follow the leader because that leader is the standard bearer for a cause they believe in, or for a reward, or because that leader exemplifies particular values or a vision, or because that leader is providing structure and certainty. People will also follow out of fear or greed or as a way of hurting someone else. There is no implied morality in being able to convince people to follow you. Fundamentally, people follow a leader for their own reasons, not the leader’s. The art of leadership is, to a great extent, aligning other people’s goals with the goals of the leader and the organization.

Much of leadership is based on a purely transactional relationship: you follow and support the leader, the leader rewards you. While this is the basis of almost all forms of leadership, if that is all the relationship consists of, it is very limited. The best leaders build on the transactional element to inspire their followers to greater efforts than can be obtained only through rewards. This is commonly known as “transformational leadership,” which certainly sounds impressive. In a very real sense, the information in this book is really about to become that type of leader without getting trapped in definitions.

The other critical point of effective leadership is recognizing that being a leader is not a static enterprise. As the term implies, a leader must lead. Change initiatives fail when organizational leadership isn’t out there in front showing the way. People stop following when the leader stops moving.

Part of how the leader moves forward is by changing and developing their own styles and techniques of leadership. As we discussed in the previous chapter, the needs of the team dictate the approach of the leader. A leader can no more treat a stage 3 group like a stage 1 group than a parent can treat a fifteen year old like a three year old (despite, as many parents observe, certain behavioral similarities).

The key lesson here is that the external trappings of leadership are not leadership. Giving instructions, dividing up work, setting an agenda, taking questions, are all part of leadership, but they are not leadership. Those are tools which a leader might use to get a job done. Good leaders, like any master craftsman, learn to use their tools well.

Recent Posts

    latest blogs

    • Community
    • National