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Understanding Leadership in 2024 – A brief overview

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There are thousands of books and millions of web pages available on the topic of leadership. This implies that the topic itself has much importance in people’s lives. In this article, we have tried to give a brief overview of leadership to help you in understanding leadership from different aspects.

In these busy times, no one has spare time to read books of hundreds of pages. Especially those who are or want to be in a leading position in near future. Therefore, we have tried to keep things as concise as possible. This article will hardly take one hour of your precious time.

We have taken the questions and answers approach for this article. Tried to answer every question that you might have related to leadership.

Important note: This article is written without gender bias ness. For ease, we just take a masculine image of a leader. However, a leader can be male or female or both.

1. What is Leadership?

Sometimes we come across phrases like “That man has amazing leadership skills.”

But we never give it a thought about what leadership actually is. It is not as simple as it seems. To be a leader is a huge responsibility. But before we discuss further, let’s talk about what leadership actually means.

We won’t tell you that leadership is a skill of a person to lead others. It’s something obvious from the term itself.

Leadership in the actual sense is the ability of an individual to extract the maximum potential of a group of people to make them able to achieve their target. 

Does it seem easy enough? No, not at all. It is not a child’s play to become a leader. A true leader keeps on developing his leadership skills. He tries to polish the qualities and leadership traits to be able to understand the strength and weaknesses of his team.

Here another question arises: “Are the leaders born or made?” It’s one of the questions that always remains under debate and the theorists present their own opinion about this question. We will also throw our insight into this question later in this article. But first, let’s cover some aspects of leadership.

2. Why is leadership important? 

We need a model or footsteps to follow in order to complete a task. Don’t we?

We want to see someone inspiring and more experienced than us who walk ahead of us on the way towards our goal.

When in a difficult situation, we get demotivated and decide to drop our mission in the middle.

Here comes the main job of a leader. The one with great leadership skills can bring the unmotivated people back to their goals.  

Effective leadership keeps the followers encouraged and makes sure that their vision is always clear towards their objective so that they get success in their mission.

3. Can leadership be measured? 

When it comes to measuring leadership, we need to consider some important qualities and abilities of the leaders. Leadership can easily be measured by looking at the progress of group members and their potential to reach the goal. It’s the sole duty of a true leader to supervise his teamwork and keep good communication between the team.

Leadership can be measured by looking at the following parameters of leadership.

  • How does the team progress under the commands of their leader?
  • How much is the team motivated and morally active?
  • The productivity the team is working on according to the given time slice.
  • Crisis handling and the ability to quickly change the strategies to tackle the problem.
  • How does a leader address team issues?
  • How much do team members trust their leader?
  • What bonding team and the leader have?
  • Efficient usage of organizational resources by the leader.
  • Is a leader able to extract the best from his team?
  • How much helping hand does a leader give to his followers?
  • How visionary a leader is?
  • Attainment of goals before the deadline.

By evaluating the above-mentioned postulates, one can measure leadership. A great leader always gets a feeling of something challenging is coming and he always prepares himself to face that challenge before it collides. Such efficient leaders are hard to be seen but great leaders possess these qualities which can be used to measure leadership.

4. Are leadership and management different?

The two terms can sound similar but they are not. The key difference between leadership and management is influence and motivation. The manager mainly manages things and commands the people underline, to work according to the defined outline and then he waits for the consequences.

Whereas, a leader shows his group members, how things are to be done before he orders. A leader also seeks out the weaknesses in his people and works on them to make his team’s performance up to the mark.

Leadership is more about influencing the people and persuading them to work for the betterment of the organization with honesty, passion, and zeal. Everyone can easily learn management, but not everyone can easily deal with effective leadership.

5. What qualities a leader must have? 

Since we are talking about leadership, it’s a must-discussed question that what qualities should be found in a great leader. We already know it’s not easy to lead and it takes time and effort to become a good leader. But if someone wants to become a great leader, the following qualities should be present in his personality:

i- Visionary: 

Have future intuition and remains prepared for challenges

ii- Personality:

Keeps an inspirational personality and attracts people towards him.

iii- Strategy developer:

Able to develop strategy immediately for difficult situations.

iv- Critical Thinker:

Brings all critical points under consideration before making a decision.

v- Interpersonal Communicator:

Willing to talk about the team’s personal issues.

vi- Self-Aware:

Knows his internal abilities and weaknesses.

vii- Open-Minded:

Remains ready to work in every possible situation and walks with the team side by side.

viii- Creative and innovative:

Develops new ideas and takes creative routes to reach the goal.

ix- Flexible:

Shows flexibility to his team in times of crisis and be ready to go down the level of the group members to enhance their qualities.

x- Responsible:

Never forgets his responsibility towards his organization.

xi- Dedicated:

Remains true to his work and devotes himself to his mission.

xii- Civilized:

Knows ethics and never shows a bad attitude to his team. Well-mannered and knows to communicate politely in every circumstance.

6. Can leadership skills be learned? 

This question remains under debate and every philosopher presents his own opinion about it. Some people say that leaders are born and have charismatic characteristics by birth. Whereas, some people negate this perspective and say that leadership skills are developed with time.

We can consider both concepts and think leadership as a skill that is learned or it can be a gift of God. People who want to be a leader but don’t know anything about it can learn the art of leading and ruling time by time. They can develop leadership qualities, pick a leadership style, and can practice their skills until they achieve their goals.

It is not impossible to learn leadership skills. Even people who are born with such skills are not always good leaders. They have to polish their skills and learn to deal with people of different mindsets. If you are a born leader or a leader by choice, you will have to learn and practice it in both cases.

7. What is a leadership style? Which one to choose?

Every leader has his work ground and set of rules and principles, which he follows to get his people determined. The methodology he uses is called Leadership style.

There are different leadership styles a leader can choose, that are related to his nature:

i. Authoritative or Autocratic Leadership Style

When a leader follows this leadership style, he only orders his team to fulfill what he commands. He never wants to listen to others’ opinions in critical matters and puts his commands on top. This approach is useful only when the leader has a transparent vision and a clear picture of the targets. Also, the leader following this strategy must have strong knowledge of procedures and techniques that are supposed to be followed by his team.

ii. Transactional Leadership Style 

This approach focuses on short-term goals and employs the use of reward and punishment strategies. More precisely the leader who emulates this style of leadership assigns separate short-term tasks to every individual and when a member follows the instructions given by the leader, he gets a bonus or reward for it. On the other hand, the team member who fails to achieve his targeted goal eventually receives punishment in terms of penalty.

iii. Charismatic Leadership Style 

Every leader must know how to get his desired work done by his followers. But for a charismatic leader, it must be the top polished skill to persuade his team to work according to his style. A leader following a charismatic methodology can support a falling wall of the organization by making strong connections and alliances.

A charismatic leader must keep an influencing personality and must master communication skills. He must have a series of successful projects to talk about, to make people inclined towards him so that they would easily follow his footsteps and abide by whatever he speaks of.

iv. Democratic or Participative Leadership Style 

This method is the opposite of autocratic leadership. As its name implies, democratic leadership focuses on the collaboration of the leader and the team members. Thus it can be also referred to as participative leadership as everybody gets the chance to speak the word.

The leader who follows this methodology believes that his apprentices have a complete understanding of the big picture and can put forward something unique when making critical decisions. That’s why he always listens to the team’s perspective before announcing the roadmap of their goal.

This style is very much useful when the team is true to their ambition and quite experienced in their work area.

v. Pacesetting Leadership Style 

This style is considered somewhat challenging because the leader who follows this strategy wants quick results and high goals to be completed perfectly within a specific short time slice.

Pacesetting style can be efficiently emulated where the team members strictly follow their leader’s orders and are enthusiastic towards their aim. This method can be inefficacious in such an environment in which the workers are not quite experienced and need assistance and guidance on every step of their path.

vi. Coaching Leadership Style

The coaching leadership style focuses on improving and polishing the skills of workers in an organization. It’s the sole responsibility of a coaching leader to seek out the weakness of an individual and provide the set of possible solutions to tackle that problem.

A strong bond between the leader and the follower is needed to achieve this leadership style because the leader must be willing to listen to his subordinates and he shouldn’t feel bothered with the queries of his team members. As a result of this leadership style, a team with good skills is born who later needs no regular assistance while dealing with a crisis.  

vii. Servant Leadership Style 

When this style is followed, the leader works alongside his subordinates. Servant leadership ensures that the workers get every possible guidance from their leader and when the workers feel that they are unable to complete the mission, the leader takes the charge and lifts the burden on his shoulders to reach the objectives.

Servant leadership is quite beneficial where the leaders are down-to-earth and don’t make a line of demarcation between positions and titles. But there is a downside of this methodology. This style can make the followers lazy and dependent upon their leader and they always know that their leader will make up things correct if anything goes wrong. This doesn’t improve their creativity and they don’t thrive to learn more.

viii. Laissez-faire or Delegative Leadership Style

A laissez-faire leader is very flexible with his team members and he provides full freedom to his followers. He never interferes in the matters of his subordinates and leaves them with their roadmap and work strategies. He doesn’t impose his orders on his members and let them work on their own after explaining a clear motive of their journey.

A team with remarkable qualities and creativity can be handled with this style. The team must have the ability to deal with critical situations and they don’t need to bother their leader to guide them in every setting.

ix. Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic Leadership is the one in which the main focus of everyone is the rules and principles set by the leader. This method is suitable for such an organization that is regulated under strict commands and follows a set of rules.

This style usually doesn’t need collaboration among the team members as every team member has his task to perform within a dedicated deadline by following certain objectives without any mistake.

The leader who uses this style to lead his subordinates must be a strict follower of his own rules. Else this strategy can fail where the team members are not willing to follow the commands and rules or the leader himself doesn’t prioritize his own rules.

x. Transformational Leadership Style

A leader who goes after this style of leadership shows a clear picture of the goal and he makes it clear to his members that the topmost priority is to improve the efficiency of their organization. He shows his achievements and productive behavior to his members to motivate them and make them fully oriented towards the work.

The transformational leadership style is perfect for the environment where the team believes in their leader and they blindly follow his commands. The team must know the mission is just to make their organization better.

xi. Visionary Leadership Style 

A visionary leadership style shows the true quality of a leader. What makes a leader, a leader? The vision he keeps. A visionary leader plans everything before the upcoming events and challenges because he knows what lies ahead.

The group members respect their leader because they know their leader is much more experienced and insightful than them. The team follows the leader’s commands and footsteps blindly. This type of leadership is favorable in those areas where the leader is focused on the mission and the team is also responsible and willing to abide by their leader.

8. Why is leadership style important? 

To adopt a leadership style that matches the leader’s personality bears significant importance in leadership. It’s said that a leader is incomplete without a leadership style. How will he lead a bunch of people without having a method of leadership?  

Every style is not suitable in every situation. It depends upon the team, the work area, and the situations they are dealing with. Leadership style is adopted by looking at the salient features of the work.

For example, autocratic leadership cannot be used in an environment where the team is equipped with a strong and clear understanding and knowledge of their targets and technical issues. Ordering those experienced workers can raise attitude and ego issues among them.

On the other hand, it is the only style that can be emulated when dealing with the low-level workers who can just pack the things and put them in the basket. There is nothing they can discuss with the boss about matters of business.

We can say that it’s crucial to choose a favorable leadership style before you get into the ground. Or else it might result in a broken team or incomplete tasks. Let’s look at the uses of autocratic leadership in detail.

9. When autocratic leadership is used? 

There can be some specific situations in which this style can be used:

i- Type of members you are working with. 

– This method is mostly used by those leaders whose subordinates are less experienced and don’t have much understanding of how challenges are to be taken down. Such workers can be commanded with the tasks they’re supposed to perform without interfering in decision-making.

Workers who have no idea how the organization is working, only follow the set of rules as their job. Sometimes the team members lack the skills and power of deciding things along with their leader. In such an environment the autocratic leadership is highly effective.

– Team members with less motivation and self-esteem can also be handled with autocratic leadership. Such employees only need commands to follow and they don’t want to be indulged in complex decisions.

ii- Type of tasks needed to be done.

– In dangerous situations when a single individual is needed to command everyone, can be the best example of emulating an autocratic leadership style. Army and military officers who move the whole platoon with an order are an obvious adoption of autocracy. This lets the group concentrate on specific tasks they are supposed to perform without having a headache about consequences.

iii- In critical situations

– Every business faces ups and downs in its time. It needs a very well-experienced brain that can fight such challenges. The leader is the one who is the most skilled person in the organization. Therefore it’s best to leave everything for the leader to seek out and untangle things for their business.

– Emergencies and contingencies also need a single person to control the circumstances. Most of the time it’s not possible to gather all the members and talk about things to be done. So autocratic leadership is best suited for emergencies.

Autocratic leadership is favorable in situations mentioned above and can reduce the risk of ambiguous results by giving authority to a single, visionary, and experienced leader. It’s not a bad idea to merge two styles and apply. But it must be studied and understood first before implementing any style of leadership.

10. Can a leader adopt another leadership style?

Absolutely. A great leader is willing to change his leadership style according to the circumstances. A single leadership style is not always favorable. Thus to address and resolve certain issues and challenges, a leader must change the style he keeps.

Changing the style of leadership bears a major role in the leadership. The flexibility of a leader to adopt a style that can be best suited for a particular situation is what makes him a great leader. Sometimes the group members are not experienced in the task they have to work on. In this situation, a leader can’t follow laissez-faire or Pacesetting leadership style because the team is not quite experienced in the specific task.

The leader must coach them or he must go for participative or servant style leadership to lead his team in that mission. If the leader can’t change his style in this situation, his team won’t be able to achieve the target in the given time or the consequences can be worse.

Therefore, a great leader is always flexible in choosing the right leadership style by pondering over the situation and his team’s performance.

11. How many leadership theories are there? 

The essence of leadership can’t be denied in any aspect of life. Whether it’s about business or dealing with people in any area of life, leadership has its significance. Many theorists have talked about it and they presented their views on leadership. There are mainly eight leadership theories that can define leadership completely. You may find some of them similar to leadership styles. Let’s check them out.

i. Great Man Theory of Leadership

This theory is the earliest of all theories. It tells that a great leader is born and can’t be made. Many contradictory theories deny this idea about leadership. It emphasizes the imaginary fact that leaders are born with the qualities and skills that can’t be developed and learned. The leaders are predetermined and no one can become a great leader if he’s not born with the innate skills.

ii. Trait Theory of Leadership

Trait theory emphasizes that a person’s traits are the reason which can make him a leader. Natural traits are part of an individual’s personality and his leadership skills depend upon them. Traits include a person’s physical features, vision, intelligence, problem-solving skills, and many other qualities that a leader must have.

iii. Situational Theory of Leadership

As the name implies, situational theory of leadership states that the true leader is the one who can change his leadership style according to the situation he faces. The leader doesn’t typically emulate a single style but he can walk along with the type of circumstances and tackle the challenges by adopting a different style that suits the situation.

iv. Behavioral Theories of Leadership

This theory contradicts trait theory. Since trait theory focuses on the inherent traits of a person, behavioral theory focuses on the behavior of a leader at times. It says that it’s the behavior of a leader that makes him a leader or that differentiates him from the others. It’s all about how a leader behaves in different situations. According to this theory, a leader’s behavior is what signifies him and takes him to other levels.

v. Contingency Theory of Leadership

Since the above three theories face criticism, the contingency theory of leadership found that true leadership comprises all three factors i.e. situation, traits, and behavior. This theory was supported by various models and many theorists tried to explain this theory. As this theory didn’t negate the importance of any of three factors, that is why this theory was considered as a fair and suitable theory of leadership.

vi. Transactional Theory of Leadership

The transactional theory states that the outcome of workers’ efforts must be dealt with by giving rewards or punishments according to the result. If the members produce a positive result, the leader must support them by providing rewards, and in case of failure to generate the required output, the subordinates are penalized.

vii. Participative Leadership Theory

This theory suggests that the members must be involved in the decision-making of the group. The employees and workers must participate in every activity and decision the organization makes. The leader is not the only one who decides things for their task. The team is equally responsible for it.  

viii. Transformational Theory of Leadership

Transformational theory, also called relationship theory, focuses on making good connections between the followers and the leader. It believes that the people happily perform their respective tasks when they are flexible and have good communication with their leader. A leader who keeps a positive attitude towards his members is a great leader and his people show high morals and enthusiasm to achieve their target.

12. How can leadership help me in the future? 

Leadership skills develop over time. Once you become a successful leader, it’ll become your strength and will benefit you throughout your life. Some of the advantages are mentioned below:

  • You will be able to practice and adopt leadership skills and knowledge in your career.
  • If you practice leadership in a true sense, it will make things easier for you. You will be able to handle critical situations calmly without panicking.
  • Leadership will enable you to negotiate and put forward your opinion. You will become a master of communication and will easily handle contradictory situations.
  • Your personality will be improved and you’ll feel more confident among people. You will easily stand out from the crowd and would be able to talk about your thoughts.
  • By improving your leadership skills, you will make yourself influenced and people will be impressed by your personality.
  • People trust you and look at you to guide them. No matter if you are dealing with your personal life or in any company, your guidance is what will make people satisfied and they will blindly follow your commands.

13. Are leaders born or made? 

We can’t say that some people are not leaders by birth. Some people can get leadership in their blood as it can come with family traits and genes. If someone’s father is a military officer, he can also have the nature of commanding other people. But it’s a rare situation. In most cases, people get their leadership skills by learning and practicing.

Leadership is not a limited subject that is once learned and understood. It’s a continuous process of going through every aspect of leadership and then applying it in real life. A person who is not born with such skills will find it harder to overwrite his existing abilities and nature.

Passion and continuous efforts can make great leaders.

14. When leadership goes wrong?

A leader can also commit mistakes. The leadership of an experienced and top-listed leader can also go wrong. There are always some factors that make it possible. Sometimes it’s the fault of the team or the leader who couldn’t bring some important things under his consideration when it was needed.

We can divide the cases into two sections.

  • Failure of the team
  • Failure of the leader

Let’s discuss both cases in which leadership can go wrong.

i. Failure of the team

Sometimes a leader does everything perfectly to handle the situation but it’s his team that turns out to be dishonest towards their mission. In such a situation the leader bears the loss and he has to sort everything out again from scratch.

When group members are energetic, experienced, and dedicated towards the goals, the leadership can also go wrong if any of the team members commit mistakes as it’s the trait of a human to make mistakes.

ii. Failure of the team leader

Usually, a leader thinks that he is a perfect leader and there is no scope for improvement in his skills. This thought brings a leader down due to the slight mistake that he makes when taking decisions. Sometimes the leader fails to establish successful communication between him and his members and consequently, he keeps his team behind when making critical decisions in which his team might present the best idea.

An experienced and visionary team leader can also make wrong decisions and this is where the leadership can go wrong. The results are sometimes unbearable. But if the leader is visionary and has an excellent ability to address the crisis, he can turn the table and reform his mistake.

15. How to become a true leader?

We assume that you have read the above answers and are now familiar with the different aspects of leadership.

Let’s make the path to becoming a great leader easily understandable by going through steps to be followed:

Understanding leadership - steps to become a true leader

Step 1 > Make necessary changes in your personality

Yes, of course. You have to meet the personality requirements that a good leader must-have. We have already discussed the qualities of a great leader. Adopt those qualities and practice them in real life.

Step 2 > Learn Leadership skills 

The next step is to learn and master leadership skills. This step can take time as it’s not easy to implement those skills in practical life.

Step 3 > Become proficient in leadership style

This step is very crucial in your leadership journey. As we already discussed the importance of leadership style, it’s the best practice to master every leadership style and learn to choose the best-suited leadership style according to situations.

Step 4 > Practice practice practice!

You can’t become a leader just by studying about leadership. Without practicing leadership you won’t be able to handle even a small team for a small project. It’s not possible to become a leader overnight. It requires practice and experience of years to reach a level where everybody would blindly follow you.

P.S: Another leadership challenge

Remote Workers Reluctant to Return to the Workplace
credits: Statista

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