Leadership is one of the key issues of the modern world, and yet it is rarely understood. For the most part, modern organisations tend to think of leaders as souped-up managers, roles made onerous by the weight of attending to minutiae. The reality is that leadership is not the same as management, at least not in my view. In fact, leadership is primarily about motivation.
Now, I am biased, of course. I created a tool called the Motivational Map, after all! However, it is my belief, based on my research, prolonged thinking, and experience, that the primary role of a leader is to motivate their staff (or following / peers), not anything else. This is aligned with what is called ‘transformational leadership’. High motivation not only leads to happier, healthier people, who are driven by what they do and committed to it, but also to a better bottom line, as productivity levels soar. If you can motivate staff, the other management stuff is trivial by comparison. This is to say nothing of increased retention, engagement, and more.
However, being an effective leader (rather than merely an efficient manager) is not easy, otherwise, why are there so many books on how to do it? The reality is, truly great leaders are like truly great Prime Ministers: exceptionally rare and subject to shifting perception. As our culture changes, we re-evaluate leaders. Churchill would be a good example of this. Once viewed as a saviour by the British people, he is less palatable to a society which places greater value on equality than they did in the past. However, leaving retrospective analysis aside, part of the issue of leadership is the issue of authority. In the Bible, the Pharisees question Christ, saying: ‘By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?’ In Mapping Motivation for Leadership, written by myself and co-author Jane Thomas, I note:
‘A leader has to have authority from somewhere in order to function at all…if this is true at a religious level, so it is true at a political, social and even domestic level.’
So, how do leaders acquire this authority? Well, I believe there are four principle sources:
Positional, Reward, Expert and Charismatic. Please note that one type of power is not inherently superior to another. Context determines what type of power might be best applied to a situation or team. Again, quoting from our book (Jane Thomas, co-author):
‘A ‘perfect’ leader (and try imagining a ‘perfect’ person, never mind a leader!) would effortlessly be able to deploy all four types as was suitable; but the reality is, most leaders have a preferred type or style or way of operating, and usually with one or two other back-up styles.’
So, let’s look at these four types in slightly more detail:
…comes from the title or role of the individual, and which holds them accountable for results. It can, negatively, be too hierarchical, traditional, top-down, command and controlling.
…comes from being able to reward people for their efforts, often in ‘carrot or stick’ ways. Negatively, its power can diminish rapidly when rewards are not perceived as valuable or relevant.
…comes from having advanced skills and knowledge that others either respect or defer to, and so is a source of authority and being authoritative. Negatively, over-reliance on experts can disempower others and lead to over-reliance on one or a few voices.
…comes essentially from the individual: others give you this power because of who you are, and the respect they feel for you. Negatively, this can lead to the ‘cult of personality’ and blind followership.
Think about what type of leader you might be, what other aspects of leadership you might embody, and how you can correctly deploy these traits to lead in a more effective way.
And, if you want to find out more about leadership, then look for Mapping Motivation for Leadership at https://bit.ly/2O9yO42