"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Harold R. Macalindon (Author of The Little Book of Big Ideas).
Name a few people that exude leadership qualities.
At the top of your list of leaders, you may have thought of our late Tata Nelson Mandela. You may even have names like president Cyril Ramaphosa, captain of South Africa's rugby team- Siyamthanda Kolisi or Miss Universe- Zozibini Tunzi.
All of these leaders display such exemplary leadership qualities that it is almost impossible to see one of those bully types of leaders at your workplace as having the same type of leadership skills.
Gone are the days where social hierarchies exist and no one should be treated as inhumane as peasants were in those days. While structural hierarchies still exist in the workplace and leaders are seen as leading his or her employees, all people within an organization are respected because they add value to the organization.
Having said that, leaders are people who can effectively communicate with others. As a leader, you must be able to motivate people to take action and achieve goals. A good leader is able to articulate what goal he or she wishes to achieve and correctly communicates what the employees are expected to do in order to help achieve this goal.
A good leader is not one who bosses people around but rather one who inspires others. An inspirational leader is one who sets a good example and gains followers simply because he or she can remain calm under pressure.
If you wish to climb up the corporate ladder and get promoted to a leadership position, perhaps you need some guidance for developing leadership qualities.
Let's look at what skills you will need to display at your workplace to be considered for a leadership role.
Displaying Leadership Skills in the Workplace
To be considered for a leadership role in your workplace, you must show that you are committed to your work and be passionate about it. The more energy you show at work, the more you will energize others to feel the same. Have a positive outlook on the tasks that you are given at work. In this way, your boss or the head of your department will notice your optimism and consider you fitting for any leadership role that will be required in the future.
As an employee wanting to step into the shoes of a leader, you must show that you are capable of decision making. One of the main facets of a leader's role is their need to make decisions at the drop of a hat. You must show your employers that you are capable of taking decisions (irrespective of how tough the decisions are) and you must even show employers that you are fully able to stick by your decisions.
Another essential quality that you must have before you become a leader and after you assume a leadership role is your ability to be and stay humble. As a leader, you must be able to showcase your ability to lead selflessly. Humility is part of being a good leader.
So eventually you get rewarded the leadership role, now what?
Once you step into the shoes of a leader, you need to leave your footprint on the hearts' of your employees by leading with a leadership style that is best for all the workers and your company.
Different Types of Leadership Styles
You would have become acquainted with the different leadership styles during your years of completing your undergraduate degree. While the theory behind the different approaches you can take as a leader was quite easy to grasp, knowing what the adoption of a specific style of leadership means in practise is not at all easy.
This type of leadership occurs when the leader takes charge entirely of decision making without consulting any of the employees. As much as employing this type of leadership means that only your say matters, it creates a very hostile hegemonic culture within an organization. You cannot decide something like the change of employees work hours without consulting them as they might not be able to make it to work earlier than their appointed times. In practicality, this approach is never ideal and you acquire the disrespect of employees rather than gaining their respect.
Unlike the autocratic leader, a bureaucratic leader is one that is more archaic in his or her ruling. The leader does, however, tolerate opinions from employees and only reject employees' suggestions should they contrast entirely with company policy and practises. This is a more dated form of leadership and you won't commonly find modern leaders employing principles from the style. Employees under the rule of a bureaucratic leader still feel like they are controlled and less free.
On the contrary, the Laissez-Faire type of leadership is where you put the ball entirely in your employees' court and make them responsible for making their own decisions. While it may certainly be an appreciated form of leadership by your employees, there is never any actual growth for employees. When your employees know that they can do what they want and that they will never be checked up upon, they will never feel the need to grow.
This form of leadership is somewhat like coaching. The leader takes on full responsibility for coaching employees and helping each individual employee grow. The emphasis is placed mainly on employee growth above all else.
For some reason, transformation leadership is heard more often than not in the 21st century. This type of leadership involves the constant transition towards adopting new conventions in lieu of the need for change. Employees are handed out a list of goals that they need to achieve and they have to take it from there.
A leadership style that is most likely to work in any organization is the democratic leadership style. Employing this type of leadership style means that as a leader, you consider the input of each and every member within the organization. A leader who leads using core principles from the democratic leadership style basically allows decision making to be seen as a collaborative task and every vital matter is left open for discussion.
While it can be assumed at transformational or democratic leaders are the best type of leaders, knowing which leadership style you will need to adopt depends entirely on your organization. In fact, a Phase Head at a school or the Head of Department will generally adopt the laissez-faire type of leadership assuming that all the teachers within their department can be accountable for their own work and uphold professional standards at all times. Whereas the laissez-faire leadership style will not work at all in a start-up company where people are looking for guidance on what they need to do and when they need to do it.
So while theory does help leaders, it is the actual practise of leading that sets the tone on how to lead and what attributes you will need to possess as a leader.
Attributes of Good Leadership
In South Africa, the mere mention of the word, "good leadership," automatically makes you think of Nelson Mandela. Using our former president as a guide, we can establish a few attributes that all good leaders need to bring to the table.
"A leader who relies on authority to solve problems is bound to come to grief." Nelson Mandela
Using the quote as a starting point, it becomes clear that as a leader you must use other tools such as respect, humility, consideration and knowledge when it comes to problem-solving. By using your power and authority to justify every action, you won't get anywhere. Again Nelson Mandela advocated for a selfless type of leadership which was not in any way self-serving.
"It's better to lead from behind and put others in front, especially when you achieve victory." Nelson Mandela
Being a leader means taking a back stand sometimes and letting the employees who work under you shine. You need not always have to be the only one making decisions and enforcing rules, sometimes let employees decide and let them reap the benefits of a good decision.
"A winner is a dreamer who never gives up." Nelson Mandela
To be able to succeed at leading, you must remember to uphold your dreams and encourage your employees to dream too. The more inclined you are to achieve your dreams, goals and hopes the more you will create a culture within your organization of reaching goals and meeting objectives. Never give up on dreaming by thinking you have achieved enough, there is always more that you can achieve.
Improving Leadership and Management Skills
So you are a leader! Congratulations! Being a leader doesn't mean that you don't continuously have to work on improving your leadership and management skills. There are many avenues that you can take when you want to improve your ability to lead.
One way that you can get inspired to lead better is by listening to podcasts that may have that effect. The Matt Brown Show is a leading podcast for South Africa's business leaders and entrepreneurs. You can pick up so many helpful hints and tips by listening to this podcast.
You could also learn more about the compassion, integrity, empathy, connectedness and Ubuntu needed to be a good leader in South Africa by reading books such as Attuned Leadership by Reuel J Khoza.
The icing on the cake would be becoming a leader who constantly strives to become a better leader.
What is developing leadership all about? Read here to find out!