Good Leadership Increases Productivity and Results
Dr. Brian Monger
Employees are an organisation’s major cost and second greatest asset (after customers). For this reason, people who can lead others are valuable to any organisation. Good leadership is worth more than modern machinery or new buildings.
What is leadership?
Leadership is an elusive quality that inspires others to perform. It is a quality that enables a supervisor to influence others to accept directions willingly. Leaders seem to have a special knack of getting others to follow them and do what they want done because the followers want to do it. Leaders get things done through people. Leaders, then, are people who can influence the behaviour of others for the purpose of achieving a goal.
There are three main schools of thought on leadership. They are called the trait, behavioural and situational approaches.
The Trait Approach
This theory says we can learn what makes a person a leader by studying the physical, intellectual and personality characteristics of leaders and comparing and contrasting them with the traits of their followers. If certain qualities can be found among all or most leaders, all we will have to do is find people with these qualities and make them leaders (or so the thinking goes).
Some studies have indicated that, on the whole, successful leaders are often taller, brighter, better adjusted and have more accurate social perceptions than non-leaders or poor leaders. They often display self confidence, a desire to influence others, abundant energy and high levels of job knowledge.
However, these traits do not hold true in all or even the majority of cases and this approach has, on the whole, been disappointing. Only 5 per cent of the traits that successful leaders had in common in over 100 studies appeared in four or more of these studies.
The three most commonly found traits are intelligence, initiative and self assurance. According to a number of studies, intelligence should be above average but not of genius level, and should include particularly good skills in solving complex and abstract problems. Initiative involves independence and inventiveness and the capacity to see what needs to be done and a desire to do it, while self-assurance has to do with self-confidence and setting high personal goals.
But possession of all the leadership traits identified by research is an impossible ideal. Furthermore, there are too many exceptions: people who do not possess the “necessary leadership traits” but who are nevertheless successful leaders. The trait approach is generally considered an oversimplification of a very complex subject. Most people are not “born” leaders.
A modern variation of the trait approach is called transformational leadership. Current research in Australia and overseas is indicating that a very different type of leadership, especially at senior levels, is required to lead organisations through these times of rapid change.
Today, we need transformational leaders who can develop a vision for their organisations which all employees can understand and commit themselves to. These leaders guide their organisations through “revitalising change”, redesigning them from top to bottom so that they are more efficient, responsive and effective and better able to meet the changing requirements of the marketplace and society. They drum up enthusiasm for these changes throughout the organisation. These are the three most significant functions of transformational leaders.
Transformational leaders appear to possess a number of important traits. They are strategic thinkers – people with excellent conceptual skills who take the broad overview and set clear visions and Missions for their organisations to attain. They are energetic and charismatic and are excellent communicators. They have the ability to inspire people throughout their organisation and are active in setting the pace for others to follow.
The Behavioural Approach
Whereas the trait approach looks at what effective leaders are, behavioural theories of leadership concentrate on what effective leaders do.
The Situational Approach
According to this approach, it is the situation which will determine which style of leadership to use. Each style is more effective in some situations than in others – that is, a style which works well in one set of circumstances will not necessarily work well in another.
Dr Brian Monger is Executive Director of MAANZ International and an internationally known business consultant with over 45 years of experience assisting both large and small companies with their projects. He is also a highly effective and experienced trainer and educator
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