Leadership is a term that all of us use very often without completely understanding the meaning of it. When asked who is a leader, most people take a moment to pause and recompose their ideas to answer. Is it an absolute term or is it dynamic? Does it have multiple definitions or one binds to all aspects and all situations? Let us find out.
Who is a Leader?
A leader is a specific individual who is responsible for influencing and guiding a group of people towards a certain predefined objective or set of goals. A leader is required to motivate all the others following him. In order to do that, the leader himself/herself must be committed to the job that he/she wishes to accomplish. Without personal commitment towards an objective, a leader will fail to motivate his/her subordinates thereby leading to a failed outcome. The leader also has a clear vision and effectively communicates it to his/her subordinates.
People make leaders. Without people, the leader would not be successful. Hence it is important for the leader to cultivate support and form a group of subordinates. In order to do that, a leader has to have excellent persuasion and communication skills. A leader must also assert his/her credibility. A leader will only cultivate followers only if the followers believe in the credibility and capabilities of the leader.
Also Read: Difference between Leader and Boss
What Does It Take to be a Good Leader?
Every leader to be where he/she intends to be must have a number of qualities that he/she must possess. Even though has varied roles in varied scenarios, some generic qualities of a leader are a must.
- A good leader should be able to gain the trust of his/her followers. Hence honesty and integrity are one of the most important traits a leader must possess.
- Good communication skills are what makes or breaks a leader. If a leader is not able to communicate his/her ideas clearly, he would not succeed.
- A leader must himself be committed to the cause that he is promoting among his/her subordinates.
- A leader must have quick decision-making skills. Since a leader is responsible for leading and motivating a group, unsurity from his/her end disillusions the entire group.
- A leader must be empathetic. He/she must take into account the problems of his subordinates and address them with importance.
- A leader who is arrogant and treats his/her subordinates the same never succeeds. Hence, humility is an important character trait of a leader.
- A leader does lead and influence but he also has to make his/her subordinates important and accountable for themselves. In this case, the leader must practise delegation in authority and empower his/her followers.
- A good leader should be transparent about all the information to the followers/subordinates.
Are Leaders Born or Made?
For years immemorial this has been a raging topic of debate. Is a good leader born or made?
Is it possible for a person to take birth with all the skill-sets and qualities of a good leader? Or is it possible for a person to learn all the skills that a leader is supposed to have and emerge victoriously? Numerous researches and studies have been taken up and conducted to come up with a concrete result. However, there still remain areas which are debatable, on a majority scale it has been established that leaders are made and not born.
A leader should possess a number of behavioural, personality and attitudinal skills that drives him to be the proper definition of a good leader. Most of these traits are learnt through vicarious learning. Vicarious learning is subject to constant development and change. The personality or attitudinal traits that a person acquires depends on his environment, his experiences and his/her willingness to learn.
It is not most likely that a person will have high-end skills in delegation, team-building, or good-communication. A person can only learn them through years of experience. Only when a person is exposed to different scenarios and understands the need for these traits can a person actually put efforts to acquire them. A good leader is made by a person’s drive to personal development and accomplishment.
However, it has been established by behaviour theorists that leadership is not completely but ‘mostly made’. It can be said that a good leader is two-thirds born and one third made. From a practical viewpoint, a leader has to work in various kind of scenarios. This will include, corporate organisations, educational institutions, intelligence bureaus and even military units. Leading these units can be significantly complex jobs and a person is not born with the traits to cater to these complex needs. Understanding these group dynamics play a major role in making these great leaders.
As already mentioned, assertiveness, risk-taking and empathy are the required characteristics to become a good leader. These are not inherent traits. Most researches show no relationship between genetics or heredity and for a person to have these skills. Through a person’s development either through childhood learnings, peer groups or adult self-development, a person acquires these skills.
However, intelligence is also an important parameter for measuring the effectiveness of a leader. Here comes the context of heredity. People generally have a significant amount of heredity contribute to his/her inherent intelligence. But even then there is a glitch in the matrix. A good leadership no wonder needs intelligence which is partly hereditary, but general IQ is not what is detrimental to it. A good leader needs social intelligence skills to cultivate humility and resilience in his lead and motivate his followers while also giving them a feeling that they are important.
Even the required emotional intelligence is developed through various life-experiences of a person. Hence it rules out the idea that introvert or less-assertive people cannot be good leaders. Everyone can be a good leader as long as the person is open to learning, understanding and self-development. Leadership in itself is not a trait. It is a self-acquired quality of individuals.
Numerous great leaders once started from scratch. They did not come to this planet as a great leader. They learnt to be one. They had experiences, worked on themselves, believed in their causes and were determined to give them definition. That is what gave their leadership recognition. However, it is true that some individuals would be more brushed up in their leadership skills than the other. But it only portrays individual differences in capabilities. It does not portray the disadvantage by hereditary traits determined by birth.