This article is written by guest author Bob Mason, Managing Partner at The Daedelus Group
Leading a team can be challenging, but it’s easier when leaders know basic leadership skills and how to apply them in their own situations. There is certainly plenty of information available about leadership and how to be a good leader. (In fact, a quick search for “leadership books” on Amazon will return more than 60,000 results).
That’s both good and bad. It’s good because there is lots of information available. It’s bad because there is lots of information available. Let me explain.
The inconvenient truth is that leadership development is a business with lots of practitioners. To be considered a thought leader or have a best-selling book, it seems to be necessary to present something new or different.
And that’s the problem.
Leadership Development- the Basic Skills
There is really nothing new in leadership. In fact, a good primer on leadership is a book called Cyrus the Great. Written about 100 years after the fact by the Greek historian Xenophon, the book chronicles the rise of Cyrus the Great who created the Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE.
Still relevant and still available, it presents a good narrative of leadership skills and techniques that we teach today. This book should be on the shelf of anyone serious about effective leadership.
In an effort to find something new and different, it is easy to make things more complicated than they need to be. The fact is that the basic skills needed to be an effective leader haven’t changed much in thousands of years.
HOW each leader applies those skills to their own situation to meet their own challenges does change, though.
The skills are the same.
Leaders must develop a clear understanding of leadership skills so they can adapt those skills to unique challenges.
What is Leadership?
A review of those 60,000 some books will provide a wide variety of definitions and models of leadership. Some definitions are quite involved, and models are often very complex, even artistic.
That’s it! From the first-line supervisor to the CEO of the company, all leaders are tasked to accomplish something. The only way they will be successful is by working with other people. Therefore, they get things done through people.
Is that too simplified?
Academics spend considerable time studying the deeper nuances of leadership. If you are a serious student of leadership their deep analysis is certainly interesting. But if you are trying to lead a team when things aren’t going well or you’re trying to put a failing company back on track, all that will not help much.
What will help is recognizing that you have a task to accomplish and your ability to work with and lead the people on your team is what will make you successful at that task.
Who is a Leader... and Who is a Good Leader?
There is a considerable amount of ink, both real and virtual, spent on the topic of management versus leadership, and who’s who.
Popular, but incorrect comments such as, “He’s a manager, he’s just not a leader,” and “Managers and supervisors are not leaders, leadership is a function of the executive level” are far too common.”
Such attempts at making a distinction between management and leadership are just a silly waste of time and can be harmful. Remember that leadership is getting things done through people. Therefore, it follows that any person who is responsible for what others do is, by default, a leader.
The question then is not if they are a leader-- they are. The only question is, are they a good leader?
This is where another unfortunate discussion revolves-- WHO can be a good leader?
Do certain people have talent that will result in effective leadership while others do not? The answer to that is an emphatical ‘no’!
In more than 40 years of leading teams and developing leaders, I’ve become convinced there is no particular genetic makeup, no specific strand of DNA that will ensure leadership success.
In fact, I’ve found there are really only two requirements to become an effective leader.
- A real desire to be an effective leader
- A willingness to learn the skills of good leadership
That’s it. Anyone who can meet those two requirements will likely become an effective leader.
Leadership is getting things done through people. Anyone who is responsible for what others do or produce is a leader and should strive to learn leadership skills and then apply them to their own leadership responsibilities.