Whether you realise it or not, and quite naturally when groups of people form, there will be someone who will stand out and look to lead the group forward.
Both in business and in the community the importance of leadership cannot be underestimated as it is essential to provide guidance towards a goal.
Take for example a group of people who want to cross a river and all jump in and hope for the best. Now consider if two of those people can’t swim, one is scared of water and the rest are strong swimmers. Then the river rises, and someone gets into trouble?
With all of those variables, there is every chance that someone will drown and not everyone will reach the other side. But, what if one of the strong swimmers realises the situation and starts to create a plan?
For instance, matching up the strong swimmers with the weaker, sending over a couple of stronger swimmers to test the water, and watching the others cross… all show leadership to meet the goal of reaching the other side.
Leadership is important in all situations when a common goal has to be reached when there are multiple parties involved. When you take all of the strengths and weaknesses, the personality types and needs, the leader’s role is to use their skills of negotiation, understanding, questioning, and planning to ensure all parties feel part of the process and are clear about how they work together in spite of their individual needs.
Anyone can be a leader at any time from school kids in the playground planning a soccer match to a team leader managing a project from start to completion. The importance comes from those involved having a central figure or figures to check progress against and to seek guidance and support as the circumstances move forward.
If we understand the role of the leader, it is also important to understand what they actually do in that role. While not a definitive list, as the role of a leader changes in each situation, the demands of a leader can include some of the following:
- A leader will initiate action, it’s in the name really. Humans are pre-disposed to follow, so a leader will by definition show the group where the starting point is.
- Provide motivation. Think about the not-so-confident swimmers trying to cross the river. A leader will seek to understand their fears and develop language and processes to support them across the water, especially when there is a sense of the unknown and potentially fear.
- A leader’s role when strong will primarily be about providing guidance, not orders or tasks, but providing a framework to operate within so that individuals can learn and grow.
- Great leaders both provide and share confidence. As humans, our greatest fear is that of fear itself. Leaders that show the way and step into discomfort can provide the opportunity for others to step outside their boundaries and grow. But more than that having awareness in their actions and language in their interactions will build confidence in those that they lead.
- Morale is one of the critical roles of any leader to be aware of. Creating an environment that under any circumstance will provide support for the team when times are tough, but also when goals are being hit. This can be a pat on the back from completing an essential task to compensation-based rewards on living values.
- A leader’s actions will determine the success of any group of people. The space in which you spend together, the language you use to communicate, the physical interaction. Every interaction should be considered important in creating a strong and robust culture.
- Vision. Once again it’s in the word, leaders lead towards a collective goal that is in the best interests of all of those involved. This means providing a goal that people can be part of, a structure of how they will get you there, and what the result will be if the process is followed.
One of the most important roles of being a great leader is to put yourself in the shoes of others through awareness and listening. Through those two key skills, you will be able to create a team that will support and help you deliver a vision.
Keep in mind there are differences between a manager and a leader, the main one being that a manager manages the process and a leader guides people towards something more than themselves. The lines between leadership and management can appear blurred at times so it’s important to be aware of the two different roles and what they entail.