What is the one thing that all prosperous organizations like Amazon, Apple, Zappos etc. have in common?
Good leadership. They’re all managed by great leaders.
As explained by Warren Bennis “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Therefore, you cannot overestimate the importance of leadership.
The Importance of Leadership
Leaders including company founders, CEO’s or mid-level management set a direction in which the company is supposed to go. They define business goals and make sure that all employees are aligned in reaching these goals.
They make a lot of important decisions which can have a massive impact on their company’s future. I guess that’s why we say that leaders can make or break organizations.
Great leaders are really hard to find, and even though they have certain characteristics in common (which we will discuss later in this article) their leadership styles can vary.
Different Leadership types
There are many different leadership types, but for the purpose of this article, we will stick with Lewin’s.
He is considered a pioneer in the leadership discipline and although many theories have emerged since his research has proven very influential.
According to Lewin, there are 3 main leadership types:
1. Authoritarian leadership type
Authoritarian leaders have an absolute decision making power, and a total control over their co-workers.
Best applied to situations where the leader is the most knowledgeable individual in the group, and where decisions have to be made quickly.
This leadership style tends to function well in industries like construction, manufacturing or military.
It’s got many drawbacks, and authoritarian managers are often perceived as overly bossy, which might have a negative impact on the relationship with their subordinates.
2. Democratic leadership type
Democratic leadership type is described as the most effective leadership style.
Democratic leaders encourage involvement from their co-workers, value their opinion and input. Unlike in the authoritarian leadership case, employees have a real impact on a decision-making process.
Although it can slow down the process itself, it has got a positive effect on employee motivation and might improve the decision’s outcome.
3. Delegative Leadership type (Laissez-Faire)
Delegative leadership type is probably the most relaxed, but not necessarily the most effective one.
Delegative leaders minimize their involvement in the decision-making process and let their subordinates decide on issues themselves.
It works well in an environment where employees are very competent and where the leader doesn’t have a deep understanding of the discussed issue.
The best leaders are able to switch between different leadership styles, depending on the situation they are in.
How not to suck as a leader.
There is a set of characteristics that great leaders tend to display. They include but are not limited to:
I don’t know about you, but I love working with wise people. Not only because there is a lot I can learn from them, but also because often wisdom generates trust.
You believe that wise people will make wise decisions that will benefit you and the business, don’t you?
That’s why it’s so crucial for leaders to be wise because decisions they’ll make, will not only impact them but the entire organization.
The best leaders are the experienced ones, those who have “been through” a lot in their careers. They held various positions, so they know what it feels like to be an intern, a specialist, a senior manager etc.
It makes communicating with different stakeholders/employees way easier.
Since they were in a similar situation in the past, they can empathize with them, and better understand their needs.
Also, as they have a “long career path”, high chances are they’ve been in many different sometimes difficult situations before.
Hopefully, they learned lots from them, and now they’re able to make better decisions.
Experience builds authority, and you can’t call someone a leader if they lack authority.
A lot of people think that it’s a must-have trait. And while a moderate amount of charisma is definitely required in a leader, too much of it creates nothing but trouble.
A leadership study done at Ghent University has discovered that “Leaders with both low and high charismatic personalities were perceived as being less effective than leaders with moderate levels of charisma”.
Too much charisma might constitute an attempt to cover up a lack of experience, and that’s dangerous.
It’s never good to blindly follow a leader, and overly charismatic leaders tend to create a large following pretty easily.
The right dose of charisma, however, will help inspire and motivate employees.
You can be the smartest and the most experienced leader but if you don’t know how to communicate your ideas:
- They will never get executed on
- Noone will be able to appreciate your “genius”
- People won’t be able to learn from you, which sucks massively, because you’re preventing collective learning which definitely will have a negative impact on your entire business. Smarter employees = a better prospering organization.
Don’t keep it all in your head, as you’re the only person who has access to it…
How you communicate your ideas and your vision will influence your employees thinking, behavior and their willingness to follow your vision.
Commitment and motivation
A good leader is committed to the cause and genuinely believes in it.
How motivated company’s leadership is will affect employee morale, as leaders should be the driving force behind achieving company goals.
I know we’re all human, and that sometimes we go through a motivational crisis, but (and you can hate me for it), good leaders can’t afford it.
Leave your mood swings at home, or try to find a way to deal with them. Because if your employees start to notice your drive has gone done, they will stop fighting, just like you did.
They will start looking elsewhere because everyone deserves to work in an environment where their motivation is nourished. Plus, a lack of motivation is highly contagious.
Ability to admit to mistakes
Making mistakes is unavoidable. If you stopped making mistakes it means you stagnated.
While making mistakes is fine, not being able to admit to mistakes is not. So when something didn’t go according to plan, don’t try to pretend as nothing happened.
If you do, not only won’t you learn anything from your mistake as admitting to it is the first step to improvement, but you’ll also breach your employee’s trust.
They’re smart. And even though, they’re able to figure it out on their own, they would much rather hear it from you.
Is there something we forgot about? Please let us know in the comments.