By Darrell Brown
“Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right,” said the late Warren G. Bennis, an expert on leadership and a distinguished professor of business administration at USC.
The word “leadership” brings to mind a variety of adjectives. A leader needs to be passionate, caring, empathetic, confident, creative, inspiring, dynamic, motivational, innovative, trustworthy, visionary, enthusiastic, transformational, a good listener — just to name a few important leadership traits. An exceptional leader should be a trailblazer, not afraid to take prudent risks and to be a “change agent” for his or her organization. Leaders help themselves and others in their organizations do the right things the right way. They set the tone and direction for the organization, their employees and their customers. Leadership is about inciting a team to reach and strive for newer heights while developing a win-win philosophy for all involved.
Although leaders set the direction and vision for an organization, they must use their management skills of organizing, coordinating, directing and planning to guide people in the right direction to achieve the organization’s goals. Leaders need to have good communication, collaboration, financial and critical thinking skills (the ability to solve problems under pressure logically while using meaningful data to draw the right conclusions), while building a solid foundation for their organizations to maximize efforts. Leaders bring about positive change to improve and maintain organizational and employee performance. A good leader needs to be efficient and effective while leading his or her organization to higher standards.
Leadership means different things to different people around the world, and it means different things in different situations. Although there are a number of leadership theories that have been espoused over the past century, I am personally a proponent of servant leadership.
Robert K. Greenleaf stated, “The servant-leader is servant first. … It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.”
We serve our families, our churches, our places of employment and our communities. Leaders enhance leadership knowledge and skills, if he or she is a servant first.
The Robert K. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership in Indianapolis promotes “servant leadership as a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and, ultimately, creates a more just and caring world.”
According to the center, servant-leaders focus primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities in which they belong. The servant-leader shares power while putting the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform to the highest levels they can. Leaders recognize this, and they work hard throughout the organization to connect their visions with people’s individual needs, goals and aspirations. This motivates people to work hard to achieve success, because they expect to enjoy rewards, both intrinsic and extrinsic, as a result.
A leader will also ensure team members have the necessary skills and knowledge to do their jobs and achieve their goals. Leaders can also motivate and influence people through their natural charisma or their position to pay bonuses or assign tasks. However, good leaders don’t rely on the power of their positions to motivate and inspire others; they lead by training and developing their people to improve both individual and team performance.
Good leaders also must look for others to lead by developing leadership skills within the organization and by creating an environment of ongoing success. That is a true measure of great leadership. It was Dwight D. Eisenhower who said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
Darrell Brown, Ph.D., is a clinical associate professor of management and director of diversity at Indiana University Kelley School of Business — Indianapolis.