One way of defining leadership is to examine its outcomes. Some outcomes of leadership are getting people to work together and follow directives. Leadership produces an outflow from a group of people adherent to the leaders vision. Leaders instill “the why” of what people are doing, making a personal connection with their followers, leading to overall buy in of the leaders vision. Followers of effective leaders carry out their directives by second nature, through knowing and buying into the vision of the leader, which hopefully is also that of the organization. Leaders get their followers to take ownership of a unified vision in not only how they carry out their work, but in how they feel about it. According to Kotter (2014, 3min 17sec), leaders “take a group and [get] them to behave in new and different ways, producing much better outcomes.”
Leadership is different than management, in that management targets improving the quality and efficiency of production. Management’s goal is synergy, producing structures and systems that enhance production, getting more out of a group of people than they could by themselves. “Management makes systems of people and technology work well” (Kotter, 2013, p. 6).
How do you know leadership when you see it? You just do. Not to be redundant, but as Warren Bennis (1989) and many others have said, “you know it when you see it” (p. 1). I like to say you can not only see it, but also feel it when you are in a leaders presence and in their effect on others. Reflecting on leaders whom have been effective for teams and myself I have worked with, have inspired me individually, along with others motivating us to work for one another towards common goals. Regularly, effective leaders would pull me aside to motivate with ideas or topics often unrelated to direct tasks to make personal connections. Often times when reviewing performance, they would lead me to making my own conclusions about where I have been and where I want to go not just in an organization, but as an individual.
Personal leaders whom I’ve followed have often asked questions in search of deeper meanings for my personal reasoning’s or thinking processes. You could say they get real with you, down in the muck personally and dig out of it with you when problematic issues present themselves. Often they are engaged and interested in different points of view, but are effective in tying them into a unified vision for the whole team. When an individual can align someone else’s vision with their own, they are able to lead.
I would add that not all leaders are effective with everybody. Effective management pairs an effective leader with appropriate people around them. Placing leaders in the appropriate circumstances with the proper staff is often an overlooked skill that is essential for effective managers.
- Bennis, W. (1989). On becoming a leader. New York: Addison Wesley.
- Kotter, J. (2013). Change leadership: How can you accelerate results? Executive Excellence, January, Vol. 30, Issue 1 pgs. 6 – 7.
- Kotter, J. (2014, August 4). The difference between management and leadership video. Kotter International. Video retrieved from http://www.kotterinternational.com