Are leaders made or born? Research scientists have explored this question and have found that about one-third of leaders are born with attributes that are integral to becoming a leader.
What are those qualities innate with leaders? They include extroversion, emotionality, agreeableness, conscientiousness and being open to experiences.
Learned skills for leaders are: having a vision, personal commitment, confidence, role-modeling, community outreach, setting high expectations and organizational and inspirational skills. It takes formalized training and engaging in experiences that expose them to the essence of leadership.
Is there a difference between management and leadership?
Management consists of controlling a group or a set of entities to accomplish a goal. Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success. Some of the qualities are overlapping like: communications, motivation and delegation. But, leaders have focused characteristics like: positivity, creativity, feedback and commitment.
Leadership doesn’t always entail having a title. It has more to do with what actions are undertaken. So what are the qualities of a small business leader?
- Integrity. Integrity in leaders refers to being honest, trustworthy, and reliable. Leaders with integrity act in accordance with their words (i.e., they practice what they preach) and own up to their mistakes, as opposed to hiding them, blaming their team, or making excuses. They are transparent in their communications, presenting an authentic, believable individual that generates enthusiasm and loyalty. They take the “high road” when addressing values based on decisions and therefore set the example for their team.
- Having and sharing a vision. Leadership vision is the ability to concentrate on the most important aspects of self or business, such as what you want to achieve and what type of leader you aspire to be. Your vision can incorporate lessons from your past and present realities that must be addressed and your future aspirations. An organizational vision statement identifies the objectives of an organization and helps define what they hope to accomplish over the long term. It is aspirational. Having a vision gives teams purpose and direction.
- Use of influence for good. This means applying one’s influence to create collaborative environments where the strengths of various organizations can be applied to a given objective. Influence leadership is having an impact on the beliefs and actions of the people that are being led. Leaders understand what motivates team members, using that knowledge to create constructive work environments. This use of influence begins with trust and trust commences with accepting constructive feedback.
- Use of power to influence organizational direction. Leading and guiding one’s team is the primary responsibility of leaders and the application of power creates the trajectory. The concepts of power and leadership are closely linked. Power is used by leaders to reach group goals, and if you have knowledge about the operation of power in an organization, it enhances your capacity to be an effective leader.
- Praise. Genuine recognition rewards efforts along with accomplishments. It reinforces positive behaviors, builds self-esteem and confidence, and boosts motivation and enthusiasm. Praise is not always top down, but it encourages employees to praise teammates. The best part of praise is that it is free. There is no cost associated with it.
- Self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with your internal standards. Key areas for self-awareness include our personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions and the psychological needs that drive our behaviors.
- Listen first, speak last. Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” said it best. Listen with the intent to understand, not just reply. When leaders listen first and speak last they take in team member inputs before communicating. This approach creates trust in leadership.
- Empathy – The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people’s emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.
Leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization. The key word is “guide.” The role is to create a roadmap for organizational success. Are you leading your organization to the next level of performance? You can do it if you have a plan to acquire the skills needed to lead, not just manage.
Marc L. Goldberg is a Certified Mentor for SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands.