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Leadership and business

Leadership, Business and your Career to Success

`Move Your Business and Career in the Right Direction`

Leadership for Business and Personal Success

Leadership is not just for the elite


Leadership and business... Most people, at some points in their lives, are leaders. They assume leadership in family situations (children need leading!), on the sports field, in the Rugby Club and in many other situations, including work. Leadership is just not about the qualities of an elite few, although the leadership skills of Chief Executives and their teams are of fundamental importance. In the context of work, what is leadership, how does it differ from management, and are leaders born or can they be developed? This factsheet seeks to provide some answers to these questions to help you.

UK leaders fall behind - Why?
Leadership is important for success and the UK seems to be lagging behind other developed countries on a global scale. A survey carried out by the CIPD1 compared UK leaders with those elsewhere in the world. It suggested that:

* Leaders in the UK often lack dedicated attention from their superiors to help them develop in a planned fashion through continuous learning, both from job experiences and more formal training activities. Hence:
- they tend to arrive in leadership positions less well
prepared than their counterparts elsewhere
- they inspire less confidence in their ability to
execute strategies successfully.
* Fewer places in the UK are filled by internal candidates, also suggesting a issue (problem) in leadership development.
* HR professionals elsewhere in the world are quicker to express confidence in their leaders at all levels, and particularly first-line managers, than are those in the UK.

What is leadership?

Leadership and business! Leadership is currently much discussed; academic studies have multiplied like amoeba since the 1970s. Entering ‘leadership’ into Google provided around 503,000,000 entries worldwide, and around 16,500,000 for the UK alone. A similar search on Amazon UK gave 18,741 books on the topic.

There is no single definition that satisfies everyone. John Adair, the leading British authority on the subject, says ‘leadership, like all personal relations, always has something unknown, something mysterious about it’.2 But there is a clue in that comment - the phrase ‘personal relations’. To attempt a partial definition, leadership is very much about the ability to influence people by personal attributes and behaviours.

But most people would say that even successful leaders they have known, do not behave in identical ways. They may, in fact, act very differently even in similar situations and they may have quite different personalities. Moreover, different leadership qualities may be needed in different circumstances. The classic example is perhaps Churchill, who was a great war leader, but less successful in peacetime. Similarly, CEOs who excel in turning round ailing companies may perform less well when things are on a more even keel. All this may lead to the conclusion that there is no single template of leadership behaviours, which in turn poses the question of whether leaders can be developed: what are the qualities (or competencies) of leadership, and how can they be brought out? There is more on this later.

However, before people can become successful leaders, they do need certain attributes:

* General intelligence, although not necessarily being very much brighter than the people they are leading.
* Technical or professional knowledge and competence in their particular fields – how otherwise would leaders be respected?
* Personality: leaders should be energetic and committed, maintain contact with their people, and understand their strengths and weaknesses.
* The ability to inspire, although this quality may be rarer than some of the others and is perhaps the most difficult to develop.
* Listening, sharing and delegating skills (and not interfering unnecessarily), because in groups of more than around five people it becomes impossible to know all the necessary detail.
* Self-knowledge, to understand their own strengths and weaknesses, which in turn will enable them to turn to others in their group to compensate for their own biases or deficiencies.

All these attributes will help to develop trust, without which leaders will not command loyalty. The last four, ‘softer’, non-technical attributes might be summed up as ‘emotional intelligence’, a subject which now seems to be gaining a place on management and leadership development programmes.

Adair has developed what he calls a functional approach to leadership based on three overlapping circles of needs (see figure 1):

* to achieve the common task
* to work as a `team` to achieve that task
* to meet individual needs, because people need each other socially, and work is an important social activity.

Each circle exerts an influence for good or ill upon the others, and the circles therefore overlap. These are areas of leadership responsibility that leaders need to understand. They emphasise that leadership is essentially an interaction between the leader, group members and the situation.

Figure 1: Adair's three circles of needs. Taken from: Effective leadership development 2


How does leadership differ from management?

The idea of management that evolved in the nineteenth century, and was later developed into theories by F W Taylor, was based to a large extent upon the military principles of command and control (although the armed forces have always recognised that the sorts of personal attributes described above are central in any officer or NCO). So management was, and to some extent still is, about the planning, organisation, co-ordination and implementation of strategies, tactics and policies imposed from the top in an impersonal and apparently rational manner. Although, career ex-armed forces officers are not very successful in a commercial business environment!

Administration is the word that sums this up, and it is worth noting that postgraduate management degrees are still entitled Masters of Business Administration. Thus, a manager would derive authority from his or her position in the organisation, which also implies power. Promotions were likely to be based on technical abilities, and interpersonal skills had very little to do with the theoretical idea of management.

From around the 1960s (when, ironically, MBAs began in the UK) the idea of leadership started to gain ground. It was realised that there was more to managing than simply administering. The idea of influencing people by virtue of personal attributes and behaviours gradually grew, admittedly forced by the need to survive in a more competitive and less predictable world.

All managers, including first-level supervisors, need to be leaders and to understand the concept of leadership, although the higher up the organisation one goes, the more complex leadership becomes and the more it is concerned with broader and long-term aims. But of course it should be borne in mind that while some organisations may have visionary leaders in their lower and middle ranks, their Chief Executives and management teams may be still following the traditional managerial model!

So leadership is now a fundamental part of management. But people who are not nominally managers may also function as leaders, influencing others (even if in an informal manner) by their personalities and behaviours. Under a Taylorist model of management, this would be frowned upon and such people would be told to stick to their screwdrivers and not to think too much. Moreover, it is worth remembering that in some organisations – hospitals and research organisations are good examples – many people may be senior professionals such as Doctors or Scientists but not managers (at least in terms of the formal organisational hierarchy). It would be foolish, however, not to think of them as leaders or potential leaders.

Levels of leadership

But taking the formal organisation, it is useful to distinguish three levels of leadership, as follows3:

* Front-line or team leadership - in which one person (the leader) is responsible for creating specific outcomes usually within a given timescale and with given resources through their own actions and those of their immediate followers.
* Operational leadership - which is to do with day-to-day operations within the organisation and is a major determinant of its culture and climate.
* Strategic leadership - about ‘big picture’ issues such as change, vision, translating that vision into purpose, effective communication, and the behaviour of the CEO and senior management team (also see below).

Like Adair’s three circles, these levels relate to each other, as figure 2 shows.

Figure 2: Levels of leadership. Taken from: Developing effective leadership skills 3


Leadership for Business Development

People vary in their capacity for leadership. A few have innate capacity (but even born leaders will need to be developed further, question, are there born leaders?), some have none, but most potential managers have it in some degree. Selection of the right people, whether from inside or outside the organisation, is a good part of the battle, but then they will need training, yes, they will to be successful!. This may be only a small part of their development but it is important to get it right. Adair says the seven hallmarks of successful courses should be ‘simple, practical, participative, variety, enjoyable, relevant and short’.2

Then comes perhaps the most important part: development through experience. This is where management development, succession planning and leadership development overlap. For a full description of the various techniques, including the increasingly important mentoring and coaching, read books on `Management Development` and Succession Planning, visit the knowledge bank at http://www.cavendish-mr.org. All that needs to be added here is that, throughout the development process, leadership should be kept in mind just as much as the technical and administrative aspects of jobs. Coaches and mentors, who may be of a different generation that is perhaps less attuned to the importance of leadership, should also keep leadership to the fore. Take on board a Non-Executive Director to add value to your organisation.

Many organisations now run what they call ‘leadership programmes’. To the extent that they emphasise the idea of leadership through having the word in their titles, this is a good thing. However, how far they actually differ from what might have been called until recently ‘Management Development Programmes’, is open to doubt, as a glance at some of the headings and descriptions in a survey by Incomes Data Services (IDS) confirms. The difference may be that leadership now receives somewhat more emphasis than it did previously, and IDS says that most of the programmes ’we looked at included sessions on personal audit, work-life balance, self-awareness and contrasting leadership styles. Few of these elements would have been found on development programmes ten years ago.’

Strategic leadership

Although American authors in particular often emphasise the importance of the top leader almost to the exclusion of other leaders in the organisation (the CEO as super-hero), it is true that the Chief Executive sets the tone and his or her leadership role is crucial. Adair says that the strategic leader must have the ability to:

* see the point
* sense relationships and analogies quickly
* identify the essentials in a complex picture
* put two and two together
* find the salient factors in past experience
* be able to distinguish clearly between ends and means
* appraise situations readily
* see their significance in the total setting of present
and past experience
* get the cue as to the likely line of wise action.

Hooper and Potter distinguish seven core strategic leadership competencies:

1) direction, vision, mission, strategies and values
2) alignment
3) example and role model issues
4) developing people at all levels
5) effective communication
6) as change agents
7) action in crisis and ambiguity.

It is unlikely that all the qualities listed by both sets of authors can be found in one person. The notion of leadership teams therefore seems to be finding growing acceptance, but of course they do need to function as genuine `teams`, pulling in the same direction, rather than as individuals with their own priorities and agendas. Making sure that they do so is also a key role for the CEO to be successful.

Leadership Tips from Colin Thompson

Care about your people

To be effective, you need to care about your people. Getting the best out of others is essentially a selfless pursuit. If you do not have that altruistic streak, do not become a Manager.

Believe in yourself

There will always be others who question what you are doing. If you are affected by everything they say, you will be unable to execute a strategy fully.

Take the long-term view

There are no management `quick fixes` that will not have costly repercussions. Take the necessary time to accept the most appropriate strategy and to create the right culture. Success will eventually follow.

Recruitment is key to `team` spirit

If you get selection and recruitment right, a culture of hard work and togetherness will be borne.

Unthinking obedience is history

In the modern world, people will not just accept what you say just because you are their boss. You must always explain your actions and plans for success. This is why ex-armed forces officers have a problem in a commercial business environment to manage successfully.

Consistency and honesty earn respect

Do not let favouritism or self-interest compromise your decision-making. If your staff suspect you are thinking of anything other than the success of the team or organisation, you will lose your authority.

Do not be afraid to criticise

People will not improve without constant `feedback`. But, many feel uncomfortable with criticism. Make them understand that your criticism is evidence of your belief in them.

Learn from other`s mistakes


Aspiring managers should watch others at close quarters and receive in-depth management training before taking on too much responsibility themselves.

Life is all about learning and change, the day we stop learning and changing is the day we stop living and being successful!

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Note: About the Author Colin Thompson

Colin is a former successful Managing Director of Transactional/Print Manufacturing Plants, Print Management/Workflow Solutions companies and other organisations, former Group Chairman of the Academy for Chief Executives and Non-Executive Director, helping companies raise their `bottom-line` and `increase cash flow`. Plus, helping individuals to be successful in business and life in general. Author of several publications, research reports, guides, business and educational models on CD-ROM's/Software and over 400 articles published on business and educational subjects worldwide. International Speaker and Visiting University Professor.

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