Leadership could be defined as the ability to influence the actions of others in a systematic manner, and around a clearly defined and shared strategy, towards a common desired goal, in a timely fashion (Eisenhower Mkaka, 2016).
A leader must have aura and charisma to evoke and precipitate voluntary actions by those that have shared goals with him. The influenced could be those below, above and/or at the same level with him/her.
Leadership is commonly mistaken for position. It is a common fallacy to associate leadership with position. That said, those that have positions (to manage) also need to have leadership skills in order to be able to influence voluntary action in those that they lead, without coercion. You may hold a position without necessarily having leadership acumen/skills. Best leaders have people management/interpersonal skills. A leader recognises the fact that they need people to accomplish the shared and desired goal. A leader realises that no matter how sophisticated the equipment/tools (which are part of the strategy) is/are they still need people in order to accomplish the desired end.
A leader also realises that time is of essence. Actions must be timely if they will have impact on the overall strategy. Otherwise actions will be stale!
As a leader leads, using the shared roadmap, (strategy), they will need to have benchmarks that will tell them how good and close they are getting towards the common desired goal. If one is driving a car to some destination, say Blantyre from Lilongwe (in Malawi), they need to know the benchmarks along the Lilongwe-Blantyre Road that will tell them how well they are doing to their destination. They may be places, physical features etc . When one reaches Ntcheu, for example, they know they are on the right road and they have two more hours to reach their destination. Similarly as a leader leads, they must observe benchmarks. Otherwise they will lose direction and miss their destination.
One important thing that has to be said about leadership is that, sometimes the led may not see the desired end/destination with clarity. A leader must always have clarity of the destination. That’s what distinguishes the leader from the led. Someone said “Do not follow anyone if they are going nowhere”. Remember “Alice in Wonderland”? “If you do not know where you are going then any road will take you there”.
It must be said that as one leads, there will be problems. Yes, problems are inevitable! Creative thinking that will generate novel ways of dealing with ermergent problems becomes critical. Besides, a leader’s talent to identify talent in others well suited to deal with specific problems is a must have. A leader is not a “Mr Know-It-All”. A leader must be able to acknowledge their limitations. Thus they identify others, without feeling threatened, and build a strong team around them. A leader is as good as the team that they lead. The corollary is true!
Another fallacy about leadership is that you must be old in order to lead. Leadership has nothing to do with age. Of course experience is a plus in leadership. But the ability to influence others does not necessarily come with age/experience. Using experience to influence others would be manipulation!
Of course discipline is paramount for both the leader and the led to achieve their goals in a calculated manner. Discipline could be defined as agreed upon set of rules that will help both the leader and the led to achieve their desired end. No discipline no destination!
WHAT WOULD, THEREFORE, BE SAID ABOUT LEADERSHIP?
1. Common goal/shared end/common destination
5. INFLUENCE INFLUENCE INFLUENCE!
6. Team building