On of the primary reasons leadership and for leaders to exist, is to get things done. There are political leaders and business leaders, but leadership is needed in many other areas of life. Families need leadership. Schools and universities need leadership. Non-profit and charitable organizations need leadership. In fact, whenever there is an opportunity for two or more people to collaborate in order to get something done, leadership is a key ingredient.
In light of this need for leadership, the first question many will ask is, “What makes someone a great leader?” and this should make you question why one person is better at leading and to work for than another and in turn, what it means to be a great leader?
Qualities of a Leaders
First, leaders have attributes—inner qualities that either help or hinder them as leaders. Characteristics such as personal integrity, confidence, creativity and energy help make an effective leader. Such attributes are likely to be a core part of a leader’s nature: the makeup of where their comfort zone lies. To a degree, such qualities can be developed by those who want to be leaders; however, such development may present challenges where there is a large gap. For example, those who have low self esteem could find it demanding to overcome this trait in becoming a good leader. Again, creativity may be hard to acquire, although this characteristic may also be developed.
Skills of a Leaders
Second, leaders have skills which add power to their abilities. In contrast to attributes, skills can be learned and therefore it is in a leader’s best interest to increase his or her skills based on the kind of leadership needed. For example, business leaders need the skills to build organizational capability, build teams, and provide tools and infrastructure to unleash productivity. Religious leaders need the skills to create a cohesive group where the values of the community are put into practice. Leaders of charitable organizations need skills in fund raising. Leadership training is available in a wide variety of settings for those who aspire to such a career or calling.
Courage of a Leader
A leader’s first job is to define reality. What’s the goal? What needs to be done? A leader takes fantasies, dreams, wants and needs, and infuses those under her with the vision and motivation to make them a reality. It has been said that no wind favors him who has no destined port. In contrast, a leader is one who knows where she wants to go, gets up, and goes. The task of the leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have never been; to blaze a new trail to the end of the journey.
It thus it takes courage to be a leader because he is the one who takes risks, who points the way through a sometimes murky and uncertain path towards the triumph of achieving the goal. Courage is built not by shrinking from the fear of failure, but by meeting such anxiety head on, and gaining strength, courage and confidence each time there is success. On the other hand, failure is not the end of the road. For a leader, it is not a failure to fall down; only to stay down. Therefore no matter how hard the loss, defeat shapes the leader as well as victory. A leader can’t be afraid to take a big step when needed. One can’t jump over a canyon using small steps.
Confidence of a Leader
A good leader inspires others with confidence in him; a great leader inspires them with confidence in themselves. When such a leader isn’t afraid to tackle a difficult problem, those following will be inspired to tackle hard problems themselves. Leaders take action while others hesitate; but the ones who hesitate may well realize what is possible when they see the leader in action.
An effective leader cannot say one thing and do another. If a leader is hard working and energetic, those who follow will be similarly encouraged. The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards she sets for herself. A good leader does not inflict pain, but bears pain, both for the sake of the goal and for those who are helping to achieve it.
It’s impossible to lead the charge from behind; a leader must get out in front and point the way. Leadership is action, not position. One can become a leader in name only, but the real leader is the one who trudges through the mud, climbs the mountain and reaches the top. Leaders don’t force people to follow, because true leadership is about motivation and not compulsion. People are more easily led than driven. Instead, leaders invite people to jump on the bandwagon—as long as they agree with the destination.
There are different styles of leadership which, though they contrast, can be equally effective in getting things done. To some degree, the style depends on the objective. For example, military leadership in time of war differs strongly from the kind of leadership needed to manage a charitable foundation. In some instances, a leader needs to coordinate the task at hand like a symphony: each member has his or her part to play and is told exactly what to do at the right time. In many other circumstances, a leader needs to unleash the creativity of his people, much like someone who runs a jazz band. If people are told what to do and not how to do it, they will often surprise their leader with imagination and resourcefulness. The leader’s job may simply be to ask challenging questions, and let the team figure out how to get the job done.
Responsibility of a Leader
The last responsibility of a leader is to say, “Thank you!”, for in the final analysis, a leader is simply a servant with a mission. If the mission is accomplished well, the leader and those led will have formed a bond as important and exhilarating as achieving the goal.