Leadership; one size does not fit all

28 Jul 2021 | News

The traits of a good leader

Certain industries require certain types of leadership, certain situations require certain types of leadership, there is no silver bullet. People must decide what type of leader they want to be, not what type of leader other people want them to be. First and foremost you must be an authentic leader, and that starts with being true to yourself, skills can be developed and the rough edges smoothed after that.

What is leadership?

When speaking of leadership, for most people many images come to mind of great leaders of the past and present and thoughts about what about them made them great leaders. But before this is examined, it must be asked ‘what is leadership?’ This appears to be a straightforward question, especially given the fact that it is well known in the world of business, that leadership makes a real difference for success (Abe, 2010). Although there are many definitions of leadership, the most simplistic and accurate definition is that ‘leadership is the ability of one person, or a group of people, to ‘lead’, influence and guide other individuals, teams or organizations to accomplish a common objective’ (Sharma and Jain 2013; McCleskey, J.A., 2014).

Other definitions suggest that there is an assumption that leaders are autonomous agents, wholly responsible for the behavior of their otherwise passive team members or followers (Anderson, 2013). This idea is supported by Carte et. al., who suggests that leadership is necessary for directing behaviors in pursuit of common goals (Carte et. al., 2016). Although in more recent literature there is a move towards more equal relationships between leaders and followers (Washington et. al., 2014).

Leadership theories

Implicit leadership theory tells us that people have a cognitive framework from which they interpret leader behaviors and this is based on exposure to social events and interpersonal interactions. Therefore, leadership is a process of being perceived by others as a leader (Berson et. al., 2006; Landis et. al., 2014). Much of leadership is the ability to motivate others. In line with this thinking, leadership was defined as the ability of an individual to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute towards the effectiveness and success of an organization (Hilson, 2019).

Academics propose competing leadership theories and research and many continue to research their favorite theory without integrating the findings of other theories (Latham, 2014). Some argue that leaders tend to be generalists rather than specialists because of the need to deal with a range of encounters in their day-to-day work (Masakure, 2012). Responsible leaders need to be able to clearly understand their role and the context of their actions in order to act as responsible stewards of organizations and society (Lawrence & Pirson, 2014).

It can be seen from the thinking on leadership definitions, there are some commonalities that seem to center on some common themes, but the overarching one is control (Houglum, 2012). After more than 50 years of academic research, there is still no consensus on the factors that constitute effective leadership (Latham, 2013). Whether it is through force of will in an autocratic style or a very different approach in servant leadership, the reality is that there is no common definition that can be used because different styles are used by different theories and these theories all have their own idea on definitions. In fact, Bass’ attribution theory suggests that every leader and follower has their own implicit theory of leadership (Landis et. al., 2014).

Decision Making & Leadership

As demonstrated, an abundance of research has been conducted on leadership in the past. Results indicate that there are various factors that influence the leadership abilities of an individual, a significant contributing factor being one’s decision-making style and capabilities. When thinking of how a person makes decisions, various things come to mind, the initial thought being what the individual places particular value upon. Another consideration may be how one was raised and everything that was taught to the individual through all the years of growth and development (Goldstein, 2015).

The mentioned factors are all related to one’s personality, morals, and beliefs. Personality is something one is born with. It is the unique and intrinsic makeup of the individual. One’s morals and beliefs are instilled from a young age, usually through direct teachers, such as immediate family members. However, the biggest influencer is one’s cultural background; how the environment around the individual influences the thought processes and ways in which the individual makes their decisions (Goldstein, 2015; Rowe and Mason, 1987).

Rowe and Boulgarides (1992) look at the cultural background as an integral part of individual decision-making. The authors present a Four Force Model which looks at the individual in a situational context. In this model, the person is placed in the center of the organization and all contextual variables, such as;

  1. Personal needs,
  2. Environmental pressure,
  3. Organizational interaction, and
  4. Task or function requirements are seen to surround and influence the decision-maker

(Rowe & Boulgarides, 1992; Rowe & Boulgarides, 1994).

These four factors describe the relationship between the individual, their organization, their peers/colleagues, and their environment. The authors propose that a person’s reaction to the above factors can determine their decision-making styles which fall under four distinct categories; Directive, Analytical, Conceptual, and Behavioural (Rowe & Boulgarides, 1992). Curious about your decision-making style? Take our StylUs survey today.

What leadership traits are most important for you?

You must first try to understand what is leadership in your eyes and appreciate that the person beside you will see it in a very different way and both views are perfectly fine.

Leadership is innate. Go and find people who display traits that you admire, work for them, work with them, lead them, and most importantly, learn from them, and always ask do I consistently exhibit those traits myself, am I being authentic to myself? If you are, you are on the way down the road to being a great leader but the road is rocky and twists and turns like you wouldn’t believe so in the word of the great Bruce Springsteen “keep your eyes on the prize, hold on”.

If you are interested in developing your leadership skills why not enroll in our online leadership development program.