Whether it is around a bowl of "yaqona" a six pack of beer or a cup of hot tea accompanied by hot crispy "pakoras" whenever the topic of discussion veers to politics or one's job the general lament is that of a serious dearth of good leaders that can provide good leadership, be it for the country or for the company. Most of us have often heard the term good leader(politician or business leader) used in the context of the past. Does that mean that today we are bereft of good leaders all round? The question then that begs to be answered is "what makes a good leader?"
The leadership qualities that are required to make a good leader can vary in different environments, teams and situations.
This can be illustrated in both art and modern leadership models. For example, the fact that leadership qualities are dependent on context is demonstrated in the old English stage play "The Admirable Crichton" and the Hollywood war film of yore "Twelve O'Clock High.
"The Admirable Crichton" is a classic of sorts written in 1902.In it the Lord and butler swap their roles as leader and servant and go through many situations and finally are marooned on a desert island. Here the Lord's knowledge of English politics is of no value whereas the butler's practical skills are essential for survival.
The film "Twelve O'clock High", was produced in 1949 at the height of era of war films In Hollywood. In the film as a squadron starts to suffer increasing losses during the war, the squadron commander's soft people-oriented approach starts to fail. He is then replaced by a dictatorial bully who turns the squadron round and restores their pride (in a modern business setting, such leadership behavior would often be regarded as unacceptable).
Just like individual personalities, people too have one particular style of leadership that they are amenable to. This is fine if they can find a situation that requires that style of leadership.
Flexible leadership, however, involves being able to adapt your leadership style according to the situation and the state of the team .
Adaptability or the need to change one's leadership style according to the circumstances is one of the fundamental principles of good leadership. This is called Situational Leadership and there are many examples of this in modern history and also those that go much further back, to biblical times and other periods of recorded history.
How you approach leadership qualities will depend on whether you are looking at the subject from the perspective of a business organisation or an individual.
Great political figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and entrepreneurs like Dhirubhai Ambani(founder of Reliance Industries), Narayan Murthy (founder of Infosys) all are acknowledged for their leadership ability however all have very different qualities, in fact they are as different as chalk and cheese. However there is a common thread that runs through them that makes them true leaders. In the context of these leaders they all gave up something that they were doing to chart a different course and the rest as they say , is history!
From the examples above, we can safely infer that leaders are people, with a clear vision of what they want and why they want it. They are also gifted with the ability to express themselves completely to others in order to gain their co-operation and support to achieving their vision.
Therefore the answer to "what makes a good leader?" depends on the context. In the context of ordinary joe blogs like you and me, the companies need to find people who have what they are looking for and Individuals need to find organizations who are looking for what they have to offer.
Businesses aim to improve their performance by selecting and developing individual potential. At the outset, the needs of the organization are usually well-defined but the individuals, who may become leaders, are unknown. The organization's task is therefore one of identifying the people who will enhance the company's performance;selecting individuals whose character, skills and potential closely match the company's vision or plan and developing those individuals so their potential becomes a reality.
An individual's perspective, however, is very different: You are who you are, and if your profile does not fit that of the organization you are working for, then your task is to:
- understand your own attributes or potential
- find a new role or organization where your profile will be valued