What Leadership Is and How Understanding The Meaning of Leadership Will Make You a Better Leader
Leadership is an art but the skill to be a good artist takes knowledge and practice just like any other art skill. This is about improving your knowledge of leadership.
General Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander, in Europe in June 1944. He was responsible for the decision to launch the invasion of Europe on 6th June 1944. In one day 175,000 allied troops and 50,000 vehicles landed on 5 beaches in Normandy - a logistical, military, and leadership triumph.
Ike was elected the 34th President of the United States of America on January 20th, 1953, and served two terms as President. He was a very considerable leader of both soldiers and civilians. So what he has to say about leadership is worth listening to. Let’s study and analyze his description of leadership.
“Leadership is the art…”
By describing leadership as an art Ike is drawing our attention to his opinion that leading well requires a similar emotional commitment as creating great paintings or meaningful poetry.
I will return to the theme of the need for emotional commitment to leadership in other sections of this essay.
The point I want to make here is that you need to be prepared to put your feelings on the line if you want to be a good leader. This means that you have to commit to both the emotional rewards and the emotional pain that leaders experience.
Leadership, therefore, requires a high degree of emotional resilience.
“getting someone else to do….”
Leadership is about other people - perhaps the members of your team.
Far too often we come across leaders who are too invested in their own importance, Their egos dominate their thinking and their performance. Ego has no place in good leadership.
Good leaders are concerned about the issues, feelings, and needs of those they lead. They take the trouble to get to know and understand those for whose welfare they have responsibility.
Leadership is about inspiring and creating positive energy in the beings of those you lead.
In this sense leadership is a, “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” contract.
“what you want done…”
It’s clear that leaders have to know what they want to be done by those they lead. There should be no doubt in either the mind of the leader or that of the doer.
Clarity of objective and also clarity in describing objectives are of the essence here.
The question of strategy, how the objective is to be achieved, is often best left to the discretion of the worker who has to complete the task. They are the ones who know their capabilities and their commitments, so they are usually the best ones to decide how and by when tasks can be completed.
“because they want to do it.”
This is where a number of different relationship factors come into play.
Let’s just analyze why we ever want to do anything:
Because doing it will lead to an emotional or physical reward i.e. make us feel good (it plays to our values) or win a prize or earn money.
Because we believe that doing it is important in some way. A team’s mission or vision can strongly influence belief in the importance of what we’re doing.
Because we trust the person who is asking us to do it and believe they know what they’re doing and they feel sure they wouldn’t ask us to do it unless they knew it was important.
Because we respect the person asking us
The challenges of being a good leader
What is clear from what I have just said is that outstanding leaders must:
Be clear about their objectives.
Be good at communicating their needs in ways that are both clear and inspiring.
Create, probably by working with their team(s), an inspiring and meaningful vision or mission for what they’re doing.
Earn the trust and respect of those they lead by being clear, fair, and consistent in their communications.
Invest themselves emotionally, (with passion?) in the team’s vision or mission.
Are you up for the challenges?
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