According to investopedia.com, leadership is the ability to make sound decisions and inspire other to perform well. My definition of Leadership is the intrinsic ability to bring out the best in all team members by putting the group’s different talents to work for the betterment of a situation. Leaders are trustworthy, and demonstrate to their followers that they trust them. A leader is able to see a better world and convince others to join in his vision.
Leadership includes inspiration, confidence, courtesy, a clear mind, and respect to others. Empowering followers is paramount to success of the leader. Leadership also includes giving guidance, and consultancy. Leaders have the ability to share their vision, purpose and passion with others so that others can do remarkable things that they didn’t believe they could do. Some people have described this phenomenon as the reality distortion field. A good example is when Henry Ford directed his engineers to cast an engine with 8 cylinders in one block. The design was drafted but the engineers agreed, to the last man, that it was an engineering impossibility to cast an 8 cylinder engine in one piece. But Ford persisted and it led to the famous V8 motor.
Leaders have foresight to see the future needs of an organization and they have the commitment to move with the vision, making the leader greatly respected.
An icon of the 21st century that I greatly admire his leadership style is the late Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple computers. His resilience when odds were against him, his unrivaled work ethics, his humble upbringing, his ability to question the status quo, his vision to change the world, and his unwavering believe that whatever man can conceive, he can achieve. This is a man that had major carries setbacks, but he bounced back to the topmost positions in corporate America with indisputable financial and popular support to Apple products, with a cult following to boot. This is a man, according to his own words “put a dent on the universe” thought the revolutionary products he produced. He said “My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products”. Sarah McInerney of Sidney Morning Herald observed that Jobs was a passionate advocate for his vision and incredibly effective at communicating this to shareholders, customers and staff.
A statement I find great inspiration from was a 1997 advertisement by Apple Inc called Think Different where they refer to the leaders who change the world as “The misfits … The round pegs in square holes … The ones who see things differently, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people, who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”.
If you look at all the inspirational leaders of the near past, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jnr., Mother Teresa, and Henry Ford, you will see the same traits mentioned by the Apple Inc advertisement. These are People who believed they could change the world, and they did.
I have learned several leadership lessons in my line of work, and from observing successful leaders. My favourite lesson is never to stop learning. The more knowledge you acquire, the more you’ are able to solve life’s problems either in the organization or at a personal level.
Lesson two is that a leader needs to seek for advice. We should realize that we don’t posses the sum of all human knowledge, and when we seek for advice, we will see the world through another persons view. Consultations make other team members feel that they are appreciated and meaningful in the overall scheme of things. Good leaders are those that can listen. It’s puzzling how LISTEN is an anagram for SILENT!
Lesson three is being decisive because after you have lived the greater part of your life, you will only regret the things you never did. Decisiveness is based on the premise that better to try and fail than never to have tried at all. Decisiveness also means that there is no one way of doing things correctly. Different leaders can take different approaches and still arrive at the same goal.
Lesson number four is confidence which can also be termed as burning the ship. This is best espoused by the Spanish Warrior Hernán Cortés who is claimed to have burned his ships during battle so as to cut all sources of retreat for his troops. Confidence entails moving as if failure is not an option; as if failure does not exist. Confidence is the unwavering belief that you will succeed whatever the challenges you face.
Lesson number five is team work. Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said “We must all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall hang separately.” Team work is the principle that you will achieve more in the long run if you cooperate in tasks than if you work alone. If you go alone, you will go fast, but if you go as a team, you will go far. A good demonstration is a Marathon race where athletes run in groups, with pacesetters leading the pack. This way, the race is faster, covers greater distance, and the athlete that keeps to the group is likely to win the race which is a gruelling 42 kilometres. In the contrary, the 100meters race is very short, but the athletes run with individual effort, at super-human speeds. With such individuality, you cannot go far.
Lesson number six is having ambitious goals. Without ambition, man has no difference with other primates. James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies called this principle Big Hairy Audacious Goals “BHAGs”. A leader should understand reality but give hope to the team, dream big, and pursue those dreams. All the greatest inventions in the world from the Piano, to the light bulb, to the Airplane were all because of ambition.
Lesson number seven is concentrate on one task and give it undivided attention. When you are distracted from your goal, you will loose focus, your target might take forever to achieve, or it might be superseded by other events. Apple Computers have employed this lesson very successfully by concentrating on very few products, but at the same time ensuring that the few products they concentrate on have the best quality in the market.
Lesson number eight is encouraging growth within the team, and boosting others self esteem. When the team is empowered, it means that you can perform more since even with the absence of a key individual, others will be able to fit into those shoes, and the performance will not be affected. Encouraging growth also helps with succession. A company with good succession ensures Knowledge is transferred between team members.