Leadership is about interacting with the people as distinct from making use of machines and other resources. Everything connected with and concerning the people in parts or as a whole, is the leaders main business
In an organization quest for creating optimum capability and maximum performance, leadership plays the most important role. It is the power engine that pulls everyone through the rough and tough to the organization goal. The quality of leadership is critical to its performance.
Leadership is about interacting with the people as distinct from making use of machines and other resources. Everything and anything connected with and concerning the people in parts or as a whole, is the leader’s main business.
People are his domain. He connects and combines the head and heart at work in the most appropriate and balanced manner. It is not to suggest that a leader does not deal with the material wherewithal required for the performance. He makes use of those through the people by enabling them to utilise the machines, material and money in the most effective manner. As people are central to an organisation’s performance, a leader is its linchpin. There can be no leader, at any level, without followers or a team. Leadership cannot be practised in isolation. It is not a solo performance.
Whatever be his vision and concept; howsoever brilliant and innovative may be his plans; those can be turned into performance only through his people. A leader realises and proves his worth through the willing efforts of his team.
A leader does not lead by virtue of his appointment. In fact, a leader can not be appointed by authority. While an individual may be placed as a leader, he has to establish his competency and credibility among his followers before he can expect them to follow him. The leader-led relationship is developed as a result of mutual interaction and remains the followers’ choice. It is they who gauge the ability of an individual to lead them and decide whether or not they are willing to follow him. Therefore, a leader has to make himself worth following to his followers by coming up to their expectations.
What are those expectations from the leader? The answer would serve to crystallise the concept and serve as a guideline to the aspiring leaders.
The followers would expect the leader to be professionally competent and have the acumen to determine their goal (cause, purpose, vision, objective). Having done that, find the best way to its accomplishment as also fulfil their individual and collective aspirations (direction, planning, guidance, growth). Thereafter they would expect him to lead them on that path (execution, motivation, action, trouble-shooting, achievement of goals) while always being in the forefront (example, inspiration).
In every sphere, he would be expected to follow a high standard of ethical behaviour based on integrity. A leader is instinctively evaluated in these expectations by his followers or team members, the beholders. Consequently, he would be held in their esteem accordingly.
It is only logical that an individual who aspires to be a leader should be aware of these expectations and develop his leadership accordingly. In brief, a leader explores the way; finds the way; shows the way; and goes the way; – leading from the front, all the way.
In the light of these expectations, we may draw the portrait of a leader as a power engine in front; a visionary who can see far ahead into the future through the thick fog of surroundings, time and uncertainty; an explorer of possibilities; a guide who leads from the front; a motivator, facilitator, simplifier, catalyst and mentor.
He acts as a force multiplier creating synergy and skillful utilisation of resources. Overall, he adds value to the team performance through his leadership acumen. This portrayal highlights that a leader leads to serve. He serves the organisation and his team members by providing quality leadership keeping their interests uppermost. A high quality organisation culture propagates this definition and expects every leader, irrespective of whom he leads, to measure up to its spirit.
Why to be a leader?
During one seminar on leadership, a young participant raised a fundamental question. She wanted to know as to why should she aspire to become a leader which meant doing a lot for the team members and expect least rewards for herself. She would rather be a member where the leader would be responsible to motivate her, plan her work, do her trouble-shooting, help her grow and also get her the rewards.
The question related to the very fundamental of leadership development and its practice. It should be posed by every aspiring and practising leader to himself and get the right orientation towards leadership. A leader has the potential and the zeal to lead which he develops in two closely integrated plans in his quest for self-realisation. In one, he serves his organisation through adding value to performance of his team. In the other, he strives to help his team members towards their growth, realisation of their potential and self-fulfilment. He can transform ordinary people into champion performers.
This spirit of service and zeal to lead gets manifested as a passion like that of a mountaineer setting out to climb a peak; a diver to explore the deep ocean-bed; or those doing selfless social service for the cause of needy social segments. The ardour creates the aspirations and a surge in an individual to develop his potential of leadership as a perpetual process of learning and serving.
Leadership has to be a fire within an individual that drives and motivates him to don the mantle of a leader and sustain it. He strives to lead for his self-fulfilment and not for any extraneous reward. A leader measures his success by the joy and contentment that he derives from his interaction and accomplishment with his team. Every phase and milestone covered in his journey gives him the satisfaction of self-fulfilment.
While making others grow, a leader also has the satisfaction of growing himself. Leadership is a life-long pursuit of learning, service and growth along the path of self-realisation. He leads to serve and grow.