The world we live in is called the VUCA world – unstable, indefinite, complex and ambiguous (VUCA is an abbreviation of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity). I would add – this is a world of rapid change. Often we do not keep up with trends, fluctuations in consumer mood jump in currency rates, and variability in political moods — increasing competition in all areas – for employees, finance, resources, customers. A tsunami of information falls on us daily. Sometimes there is a feeling of uncontrollable chaos.
That is why the issue of the emergence of a new generation of strategic leaders able to see through the fog, act proactively, create trends and lead companies through the turbulence of the modern world is a topic for discussion more and more often. This topic is devoted to scientific research, many of which are obsolete by the time of their publication. The best minds are trying to figure out who is the ideal leader, what are his main qualities, skills, management styles. Besides, the most crucial question is can you teach someone to be a leader?
There are several myths about the topic of leadership.
The first is related to the fact that we often use the concepts of “management” and “leadership” as interchangeable. Thus, we demonstrate a lack of understanding of the differences between functions. Does a manager have to be a leader, and is a leader always an effective manager? Have you ever had to work with a manager who ideally manages the process, but who do not know how to see the prospects and inspire his employees to do the work?
The second delusion appears when we call leaders only those who are at the top of the management pyramid. Just below we put the managers, and all the others are called employees, specialists, line staff. Is it always right? Have you had among the specialists a secret leader who organizes changes and even attempted coups in the company? Were there any leaders among department heads or advertising managers?
And finally, the third – almost mystical-enthusiastic attitude toward the very concept of leadership. We say – this is charisma, exclusivity, leaders are born. A leader is some steep and inaccessible peak for an ordinary person. Thus, we deny our opportunity to learn and deny ourselves the chance of leadership.
I like the guru of leadership theory Warren J. Bennis: «Leaders are the ones who do the right things, and the managers are the ones who do the right things,» which clearly defines management as tactics, and leadership as a strategy.
Thanks to the management, the organization gets the opportunity to do what is its main activity, to cope with routine and difficulties. It is what helps us, day after day, year after year, to produce our goods and services that are in demand by the consumer and bring profit. It is a very difficult and often underestimated task for companies of different sizes and forms of ownership.
Leadership is primarily associated with changes, determining the place of the company in the future. It is in the ability to see opportunities for development and the ability to realize these opportunities.
One without the other is impossible. Active management and lack of leadership will eventually lead the company to stagnation and quiet disappearance. At the same time, strong leadership with weak governance will not allow realizing brilliant strategic insights. There is another remarkable statement by Sun Tzu, the author of the famous book «The Art of War» – «A strategy without tactics is the slowest path to victory. Tactics without strategy are just vanity before defeat. »
Therefore, the task of the company, which is interested in both short-term and long-term success – building a system of strong governance and strong leadership.
Despite his famous aphorism, Warren Bennis believes that two qualities can get along.
There is nothing mystical about leadership. Yes, the modern business world is full of challenges. However, any problem is, after all, new opportunities for those who can evaluate them and have the necessary qualities for their implementation. So what is this mysterious list of essential attributes?
There are many studies and opinions on this subject. For example, in a recent study by Harvard Business Publishing. «Leading now: critical capabilities for a complex world» provides a list of 21 qualities of a modern leader, grouped into three groups: management of oneself, others, and business.
In his book How to Manage People, Joe Owen subdivides management into rational, emotional, and political.
If we open the studies of IchakAdizes, then we will see such a magical function as «integration» – mandatory for any leader.
If you look through the book «From Good to Great: Why some companies make a breakthrough and others do not» by Jim Collins or the increasingly popular bestseller «The Leader on the Couch: A Clinical Approach to Changing People and Organizations» Manfred Kets de Vries, we will see other styles, opinions, lists, quality.
However, they all agree on one thing – there is no ideal leader, we are all people with our personality traits. Something is up to us; something is not. But first and foremost, true leadership begins with the integrity of character, high level of emotional intelligence, ability to adapt and learn, strategic thinking, ability to manage change, analyze and draw conclusions from one’s own mistakes, think globally and creatively, take over and manage talented employees. All the strength of a leader is in an appropriately selected and effectively functioning team, creating an atmosphere of respect and trust in it, combining all the elements into one living, developing, learning organism, striving to live long and fruitful.
The question arises – is it possible to learn this all? Of course, otherwise leading business schools would not offer a Global or Executive MBA program. There would be no training and seminars aimed at developing leadership qualities and strategic thinking. They would not extend the Presidential Program.
What we see now is a trend for leadership. And judging by the rate of change of the world around – this fashion has come for a long time.
As a writer, Melisa Marzett reads a lot and is very interested in many things including leadership. Currently writing for online class helpers – great mentors, she accomplishes different tasks and keeps an eye on the latest trends in the areas of human performance.
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