What is Leadership in Business

We discuss the values of leadership in today's modern business

In my opinion, too much is written on this topic, and too little is really known about it. Many shout the word from the roof-tops; few understand the word or what it involves. It is not management, although that enters into it. It is not being “Mr Nice Guy”, although some of that may be involved also. Surely leadership is more than these standard platitudes. 

Respectful leadership

Whilst there are many quotes (although sadly few real examples or role models) from the political world about Leadership, would there be any argument that one of the greatest Leaders in recent times has come from the sporting world. No, not Set Blatter or Platini, but Sir Alex Ferguson, the retired manager of Manchester United. How does he define Leadership? A mixture of discipline, some fear, some tough love, but above all – RESPECT. In other words it is almost like baking a cake! Each time we try to get the recipe just right, something in the mix makes the final outcome a little different.

But let’s cut to the chase here. Leaders are not made, they are shaped and moulded – we would say developed.

Developmental leadership

I was advising a client recently on their Leadership programme. Their view – one that many would admire – was to test their people really hard, and if they showed strong potential, then they would be placed on a “fast track” – and kept within the central head office system, and given strategically important jobs and mentored by senior colleagues and managers.

Really? I say a firm NO to this concept. For those people to be able to lead the business in the future they need to be exposed to all aspects of it: clients, suppliers, contractors, other divisions, etc. We want Leaders to have vision, but all-round vision, not head office tunnel vision. Unfortunately it is a trend in some organisations to promote on length of service, not on ability. Perhaps this is why some organisations cannot change, see no need for it, and could not cope with even if hit them square in the face.  

Charismatic leadership

So what’s the point of all this? Well, Leadership is not an easy attribute to describe. But peculiarly enough, when we see it we recognise it and we are drawn to it. And I guess that’s why no matter how many definitions we search for, there is one thing that stands out above all, and that is CHARISMA. But that’s a whole other story, for another day, and another blog.

Oakwood offer a range of Leadership and Management professional qualifications as well as bespoke programmes

Dennis O’Donnell
CEO Oakwood International

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