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What is a leader?
A leader is someone who provides an example for others to follow. They will work to high standards and see issues that need addressing or goals that should be achieved. Often they will be looking at projects in the long term and will focus on the overall goal of the business. Leaders will see the big picture and know where an organisation needs to be at a certain point in the future.
Vision is a key component of any leader and they should strive for high standards wherever possible. People are drawn to leaders automatically and will follow their example, usually without much hesitation, as they have a great understanding of where an organisation needs to be. Some key components required to be a strong leader include:
- Honesty and integrity.
- Communication skills.
- Ability to lead by example.
- Inspire trust and respect.
- Strong knowledge of the organisation or industry.
- Challenging the norm.
A leader does not necessarily have to be in a role that is high in an organisation and may even be at the lowest level. Being a good leader has nothing to do with the hierarchy of an organisation but most natural leaders will rise in a company as people realise their traits and follow their lead.
Types of leadership
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and the term leadership does not denote any personal characteristics. A good leader may be outspoken or reserved, friendly or bossy and many great leaders differ massively from one another on a personal level.
When it comes to leadership styles there are three main categories:
- Authoritarian- This leadership type will not take into account anyone elses opinion. It is very strict and controlling of people around the leader and does not seek the views of anyone else.
- Consultative- By discussing issues with staff, rather than imposing things on them, decisions can be made democratically. This allows staff to voice their opinions and have an impact on the way that the company runs. This type of leader relies heavily on relationships with others and will allow each person the chance to discuss ideas.
- Laissez-faire- This leadership style leaves the vast majority of decisions to the team. Minimal input is seen from the leader and the team are left to decide how things should be done.
Authoritarian leaders take on all of the decisions themselves. The obvious downside of this is that there will be no diversification in decision-makers. This can lead to bias in what is decided and this may not suit all of the staff or clients that work with the organisation. This type of leadership is usually seen with new and inexperienced staff- until the team has a good level of experience they will be told what to do to avoid mistakes and rely on the leaders expertise. In times of crisis a lot of leaders will rely on authoritarian methods as they will often have the best view of what needs to be complete and can act quicker without the input of others. Overuse of this style is bad for morale and an authoritive leader should allow their staff more control after they begin to gain experience with the company.
Consultative leaders will discuss things with staff in a company and gather opinions of other people. This is a great way to carefully plan changes and give each person a voice in a business. It will also allow for diversification in decision making so will likely help the final outcome. This type of leadership will involve various people and boost staff morale as each person feel that their opinion is valued and taken on board. The downside is that it can take a lot longer to use this method and discussions may be long-winded.
The Laissez-faire leadership style requires the decisions to be made by individuals in a team. This will give a lot of responsibility to employees that may not always be embraced as this can cause additional stress. Given the opportunity to make decisions, staff will feel like a key component to a company and increase their loyalty and dedication to a job. Some negatives of this could be that people make mistakes as they are not ready to decide certain aspects of business activities. This type of leadership is often reserved for employees who have been with a company for a long time and have a strong knowledge of the industry.
What do leaders bring to an organisation?
All businesses should have strong leaders and these people will naturally rise to higher roles within an organisation as people follow their example. Since a good leader will work with integrity and look out for those around them, co-workers will respect these individuals and work harder to help them complete tasks on time. This type of leadership has huge benefits for the workforce such as:
- Giving the company a clear vision- A leader may not always be in charge of everyday running of a company (this is often given to managers) but they will set out the vision for the organisation and try to ensure that the company is the best in the market.
- Motivating other people- By motivating those around them and helping others to achieve, the leader will help to push the company forward and ensure each person is working to their full potential.
- Gaining investment and entering new markets- Leaders will often be in charge of new openings for a business and will meet with lots of other organisations to form new partners.
- Ensuring loyalty and established business- Existing clients may deal with business leaders to ensure that their business is valued and that all parties can have an input in order to improve relations.
- Nurturing corporate culture- By ensuring that all employees are happy and content in their positions, leaders will be able to forge a togetherness with everyone in the company and boost staff morale.
- Boosting the overall company brand- Business leaders will often be seen as the ‘face’ of the brand and so are in charge of encouraging confidence in the company as a whole.