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Which Way Did They Go? I'm Their Leader!


Preston J. Leavitt, Ph.D., J.D., C.P.M.
Preston J. Leavitt, Ph.D., J.D., C.P.M., 8533 West Rice Avenue, Littleton, CO 80123-1131, 303/973-2625

81st Annual International Conference Proceedings - 1996 - Chicago, IL

Abstract. Leadership means leaving a mark. It is initiating and guiding and the result is change. By ideas and action, leaders show the way and influence the behavior of others. If you're an effective leader, then you have more people and power behind you to make things happen.

Definition. Leadership involves influencing others to act toward the attainment of a goal. It's the act of motivating people to perform certain tasks intended to achieve specific objectives. Leadership is the act of making things happen.

Leadership vs. Management. Leadership focuses on interpersonal processes, not administrative activities. There is a profound difference between leaders and managers. A manager does things right. A leader does the right things. Doing the right things implies a goal, a direction, an objective, a vision, a dream, a path.

Managing is about efficiency. Leading is about effectiveness. Managing is about how. Leading is about what and why. Management is about systems, controls, policies, procedures, and structure. Leadership is about trust. Leadership is about innovating and initiating. Management is about copying. Leadership is creative, adaptive, and agile. Leadership looks at the horizon, not just the bottom line.

Core Competencies. The basics of leadership include five core leader competencies. These are empowerment, intuition, self-understanding, vision, and value congruence. Empowerment occurs when a leader shares influence and control with followers. In doing so, the leader involves employees in deciding how to achieve the organization's goals, thus giving them a sense of commitment and self-control. Empowerment helps to satisfy the basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, and self-esteem. When employees have positive feelings about their work, the work itself becomes stimulating and interesting, and the leader has done a good job.

Intuition includes the abilities to scan a situation, anticipate changes, take risks, and build trust. Competent leaders have an intuitive feel for changes that will occur around them. They move quickly to serve new customers, find new competitive advantages, and exploit organizational strengths.

Self-understanding is the ability to recognize a person's own strengths and weaknesses. And then stretch and develop these through challenging opportunities.

Vision is the ability to imagine different and better conditions and ways to achieve them. Having vision doesn't always mean coming up with a striking, original goal or method. Vision may involve a simple, realistic corporate strategy that serves the interests of customers, employees, and shareholders.

Value congruence is the ability to understand the organization's guiding principles and employee's values, and reconcile the two.

Principles of Action. In order to be effective, leaders rely on five principles of action:

  1. Leaders challenge the process. They are pioneers and innovators. They encourage those with ideas.
  2. Leaders inspire a shared vision. They are enthusiastic.
  3. Leaders enable others to act. They are team players.
  4. Leaders model the way. They show others how to behave as leaders.
  5. Leaders "encourage the heart." They openly and often celebrate achievements.

The Importance of Power. The ability to influence the direction and strength of other people's motivation is an important quality of leadership. One may influence others in many ways, but all forms of influence are based on some type of power - the ability to control others by successfully influencing the strength and direction of their motivation. By exerting power the leader influences motivation.

There are five key sources of power: legitimate, reward, coercion, expertise, and reference. The first three are a consequence of the leader's position, and the last two result from personal characteristics.

  1. Legitimate power results from a person's position in the organization, This is power that is sanctioned by the organization, by law, by custom, or simply by common sense.
  2. Reward power depends on the leader's ability to control the rewards given to other people. Also, not giving someone something they do not want has a psychological effect similar to a positive reward.
  3. Coercive power depends on the ability to punish others. This comes by giving things that are not sought or withholding things that are.
  4. Expert power results from special skill or knowledge. People will often follow the advice of someone with considerable knowledge of a particular subject.
  5. Referent power is that which depends on appeal, magnetism, and charisma. This subtle source of power is often based on an individual's desire to be like their leader.

Leader Characteristics. Warren Bennis, management guru and leadership expert has identified four characteristics successful leaders possess. These traits include:

  1. Management of attention. Leaders have the ability to draw others to them, not just because they have a vision, but because they communicate an extraordinary focus of commitment. Leaders manage attention through a compelling vision that brings others to a place they have not been before.
  2. Management of meaning. To make dreams apparent to others and to align people with them, leaders must communicate their vision. Communication and alignment work together. Leaders make ideas tangible and real to others, so they can support them. The leader's goal is not mere explanation or clarification but the creation of meaning.
  3. Management of trust. Trust is essential to all organizations. The main determinant of trust is reliability or constancy. People would much rather follow individuals they can count on, even when they disagree with their viewpoints, than people they agree with but who shift positions frequently.
  4. Management of self. This is knowing one's skills and deploying them effectively. Leaders know themselves. They know their strengths and nurture them.

Summary. Leaders base their vision, their appeal to others, and their integrity on reality, on the facts, on a careful estimate of the forces at play, and on trends and contradictions. They develop the means for changing the original balance of forces so that their vision can be realized.

A leader is someone who has the capacity to create a compelling vision that takes people to a new place, and to translate that vision into action. Leaders draw other people to them by enrolling them in their vision, What leaders do is inspire people. Leadership can be learned. Becoming a leader is not easy, but learning to lead is a lot easier than most of us think it is, because each of us possesses the capacity for leadership.

Whatever your leadership has been, it is a good place to start. In fact, the process of becoming a leader is much the same as the process of becoming an integrated human being. For the leader, as for any integrated person, life itself is the career. Leadership is a metaphor for centeredness, congruity, and balance in one's life. Discussing the process in terms of "leaders" is merely one way of making it concrete.


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