What Is Leadership?

Leadership: A Definitionwomen-business-leaders

According to the idea of transformational leadership  , an effective leader is a person who does the following:

  1. Creates an inspiring vision of the future.
  2. Motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision.
  3. Manages delivery of the vision.
  4. Coaches and builds a team, so that it is more effective at achieving the vision.

Leadership brings together the skills needed to do these things. We’ll look at each element in more detail.

1. Creating an Inspiring Vision of the Future

In business, a vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve.

To create a vision, leaders focus on an organization’s strengths by using tools such as Porter’s Five Forces  , PEST Analysis  , USP Analysis  , Core Competence Analysis   and SWOT Analysis   to analyze their current situation. They think about how their industry is likely to evolve, and how their competitors are likely to behave. They look at how they can innovate successfully  , and shape their businesses and their strategies to succeed in future marketplaces. And they test their visions with appropriate market research, and by assessing key risks using techniques such as Scenario Analysis  .

Therefore, leadership is proactive – problem solving, looking ahead, and not being satisfied with things as they are.

Once they have developed their visions, leaders must make them compelling and convincing. Acompelling vision   is one that people can see, feel, understand, andembrace. Effective leaders provide a rich picture of what the future will look like when their visions have been realized. They tell inspiring stories  , and explain their visions in ways that everyone can relate to.

Here, leadership combines the analytical side of vision creation with the passion of shared values, creating something really meaningful to the people being led.

2. Motivating and Inspiring People

A compelling vision provides the foundation for leadership. But it’s leaders’ ability to motivate and inspire people that helps them deliver that vision.

For example, when you start a new project, you will probably have lots of enthusiasm for it, so it’s often easy to win support for the project at the beginning. However, it can be difficult to find ways to keep your vision inspiring after the initial enthusiasm fades, especially if the team or organization needs to make significant changes in the way that they do things. Leaders recognize this, and they work hard throughout the project to connect their vision with people’s individual needs, goals, and aspirations.

One of the key ways they do this is through Expectancy Theory  . Effective leaders link together two different expectations:

  1. The expectation that hard work leads to good results.
  2. The expectation that good results lead to attractive rewards or incentives.

This motivates people to work hard to achieve success, because they expect to enjoy rewards – both intrinsic and extrinsic – as a result.

Other approaches include restating the vision in terms of the benefits it will bring to the team’s customers, and taking frequent opportunities to communicate the vision in an attractive and engaging way.

What’s particularly helpful here is where leaders have expert power  . People admire and believe in these leaders because they are expert in what they do. They have credibility, and they’ve earned the right to ask people to listen to them and follow them. This makes it much easier for these leaders to motivate and inspire the people they lead.

Leaders can also motivate and influence people through their natural charisma and appeal, and through other sources of power  , such as the power to pay bonuses or assign tasks to people. However, good leaders don’t rely too much on these types of power to motivate and inspire others.

3. Managing Delivery of the Vision

This is the area of leadership that relates to management  . According to theHersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Model  , there is a time to tell, a time to sell, a time to participate, and a time to delegate. Knowing which approach you need to use, and when you need it, is key to effective leadership.

Leaders must ensure that the work needed to deliver the vision is properly managed – either by themselves, or by a dedicated manager or team of managers to whom the leader delegates this responsibility – and they need to ensure that their vision is delivered successfully.

To do this, team members need performance goals that are linked to the team’s overall vision. Our article on Performance Management and KPIs   (Key Performance Indicators) explains one way of doing this, and our Project Management section explains another. And, for day-to-day management of delivering the vision, the Management By Wandering Around   (MBWA) approach helps to ensure that what should happen, really happens.

Leaders also need to make sure they manage change   effectively. This helps to ensure that the changes needed to deliver the vision are implemented smoothly and thoroughly, with the support and backing of the people affected.

4. Coaching and Building a Team to Achieve the Vision

Individual and team development are important activities carried out by transformational leaders. To develop a team, leaders must first understand team dynamics. Several well-established and popular models describe this, such asBelbin’s Team Roles   approach, and Bruce Tuckman’sForming, Storming, Norming, and Performing theory  .

A leader will then ensure that team members have the necessary skills and abilities to do their job and achieve the vision. They do this by giving and receiving
feedback
  regularly, and by training and coaching   people to improve individual and team performance.

Leadership also includes looking for leadership potential   in others. By developing leadership skills within your team, you create an environment where you can continue success in the long term. And that’s a true measure of great leadership.

Note:

The words “leader” and “leadership” are often used incorrectly to describe people who are actually managing. These individuals may be highly skilled, good at their jobs, and valuable to their organizations – but that just makes them excellent managers, not leaders.

So, be careful how you use the terms, and don’t assume that people with “leader” in their job titles, people who describe themselves as “leaders,” or even groups called “leadership teams,” are actually creating and delivering transformational change.

A particular danger in these situations is that people or organizations that are being managed by such an individual or group think they’re being led; but they’re not. There may actually be no leadership at all, with no one setting a vision and no one being inspired. This can cause serious problems in the long term.

Key Points

Leadership can be hard to define and it means different things to different people.

In the transformational leadership model, leaders set direction and help themselves and others to do the right thing to move forward. To do this they create an inspiring vision, and then motivate and inspire others to reach that vision. They also manage delivery of the vision, either directly or indirectly, and build and coach their teams to make them ever stronger.

leadership 2

Becoming a Better Leader

Have you ever thought about the steps you can take to improve your knowledge and expertise in order to become a better leader within your company, within your industry, or within your community?

The online business space is pretty crowded these days, and one of the major ways you can stand out from the rest of the businesses in your industry is to be viewed as a leader. 

What being a leader means

Well, according to Google a “leader” is a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country.

I’ll take that, and add a bit to it:

A leader is someone who has a certain amount of expertise in whatever industry or niche they are in, and they are willing – and do – share their insights with those around them through writing, speaking and taking action.

They are good at not only sharing their lessons learned, expertise and insights, but also at teaching others how to apply that so they don’t make the same mistakes. A leader is trusted, holds authority and is viewed as a credible source by those who follow.

They deliver consistent value with integrity and passion, they learn to take responsibility for their actions, and they’re always willing to go the extra mile.

 

Sounds like a pretty good gig, right?

But how exactly do you go about becoming a better leader? Well, it takes time, patience, hard work and a lot of dedication.

7 steps to becoming a better leader

1. Follow leaders who you look up to

This is sort of like writers following the writers they admire. If you’re following true leaders, then you’ll have a lot to learn from them in order to become a better leader yourself.

Take Action: Pick out 2, 3 or even 4 leaders who you admire – either for their speaking abilities, their expertise in a particular industry or niche, their ability to teach others who can learn from their mistakes – and read their articles, follow their speaking engagements and check out their presence on social media and within online communities. You’ll soon find that leaders have an effective way of getting out there and being seen and heard.

2. Practice the things that make you uncomfortable

A lot of you who want to become better leaders probably know exactly what it takes to get there, but the reason you’re not a better leader right now is that you’re scared of those things.

These things might include becoming a better speaker, building stronger relationships, taking yourself out of your comfort zone for travel and other engagements… Guess what? All of these things will help you become a better leader.

Take Action: Start practicing those things that make you uncomfortable with a mentor or friend. Before you know it, you’ll not only become better at doing these things, you might actually grow to like them!

Anything that makes you uncomfortable WILL make you stronger after you’ve achieved it.

3. Tell yourself every day that you’re a leader (and believe it!)

You love staying on the negative side of things, right? You’re not good enough at this, or strong enough at that. It’s comforting to know these things because it means you can’t fail. How can you fail at something you’re not even good at in the first place?

If you already know you can’t do it, then it won’t be a surprise when you don’t.

To become a leader, you have to believe that you are a leader, and then start ACTING like one.

Take Action: Look at yourself in the mirror, and tell yourself every day that you are a leader.

4. Learn something new about your expertise, industry or niche every day

I don’t care what expertise you have, or what industry or niche you’re in; these days, things are changing by the minute.

In order to maintain your leadership level and your expertise – your ability to teach people things that will keep them from making the same mistakes you did – you need to stay on top of the changes that are happening around you.

Take Action: Do keyword searches for words and phrases that are trending in your business world. Then, find relevant articles, writers and publications who keep up with the latest and greatest and add them to your Feedly, (or whatever platform  you use to track your favorite feeds). This way, you’ll be able to go to a single source for updates relevant to your industry or niche. 

5. Gather resources you use and that you would recommend to others

If you’re being looked at as an authority figure by others, then you better believe you’re the one those people will be looking to for resources and advice. This is why it’s important to have a collection of resources that you not only have used and believe in yourself, but that you also feel strongly about recommending to others.

Take Action: Every time you use a new resource or tool, take notes on your experience with it. Once you have an ongoing list of resources, you can start to build out a resources page on your site to share with your followers.

Note: Your credibility depends on these recommendations, so choose wisely.

6. Read

In addition to following leaders who you look up to, and learning something new about your expertise, industry or niche every day, it’s also important to read, read, read!

Take Action: Make a list of the top 5 business books you want to read, and set a date that you want to have them finished by. Then, hold yourself accountable to that date.

7. Build and grow your relationships

Building and growing your relationships will no doubt, 100% help you become a better leader. The more connected you are, the more people you have to bounce ideas off from and share feedback with, the better off you’ll be.

I can’t think of a single leader who “went at it alone”. You need support and motivation, those who will hold you accountable and who will act as a sounding board for feedback and recommendations.

Take Action: Write down 10 names of people who you feel that – either by building or growing upon your relationship – both of you would benefit. Then, reach out to those people and connect. If they’re in your geographical area, then try to set a time to meet for coffee. If they aren’t in your geographical area, then send them a note and ask how things are going with their business, and whether or not there is anything you can do to help. You can also see if these people are planning to attend any upcoming conferences or speeches, and try to connect with them in person if you’ll be in the same place at the same time.

What becoming a better leader means

Becoming a better leader means growing your expertise in whatever industry or niche you’re in; being willing – and able – to share your insights with those around you; being good at not only sharing your expertise and insights, but also at teaching others how to apply them so they don’t make the same mistakes; and being someone who your followers can trust and view as an authority figure.

It also means big potential for your business.

Deliver value with integrity and passion, and your fans and followers will always be there.

Learn to take responsibility for your actions, and use your failures and missteps as learning experiences. You’ll be amazed by the lessons you can carry with your for years to come, and how those lessons can truly help others.

Make helping others achieve their goals through sharing the lessons learned, skills and knowledge you already have BIGGER than your own fears.

When the going get’s tough, keep on going.

It’s never crowded along the extra mile. – Wayne Dyer