"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." – Ronald Reagan
What Is Leadership?
There are as many definitions of leadership as there are leaders. Each leader has a unique style and strategy, influenced by personality and the challenges faced in the leadership role. While styles of leadership vary, there are qualities that all great leaders share. These include:
The Importance of Good Leadership
People look to leaders to guide them in their actions. Good leaders are role models for the people they lead, motivating them, supporting them and facilitating communications among them. In business, good leadership translates to long-term success with high morale and a high rate of employee retention. In the military, stakes are high for leaders. Successes and failures are not measured in dollars but in lives saved and lost. The importance of leadership in society should not be underestimated. People need laws and rules to govern their actions. Organizations of any size take on the personalities of their leaders. Good leadership helps shape a positive attitude, promotes harmony and facilitates maximum productivity.
Are Leaders Born or Made?
Certain people are born with characteristics that make them natural leaders. Intelligence, drive and an outgoing personality are early indicators of potential success as a leader. However, it is also true that good leadership skills can be developed. Many large organizations, including businesses, the government and the military, offer leadership training as part of their promotion structures. Leaders are developed from within so that they can combine their organizational knowledge with newly acquired skills.
Many universities offer graduate programs in leadership. It's possible to earn a degree in residence, online or through a hybrid program that combines the two. Noncredit courses in leadership are also available, online and through private training institutions.
The Many Faces of Leadership
There are many different styles of leadership. Not every style is suited to every situation. The importance of leadership in health care organizations, for example, takes on a different meaning than the importance of leadership in the military. The health care field is changing, with new laws, regulations, standards of care and payment options. A good leader must stay abreast of the changes and recognize that long-established leadership beliefs may no longer hold.
The qualities of a leader in the management of a business differ from the qualities of the leader of a sports team because the goals and outcomes of these organizations are different, although they share some common ground. Good leaders adapt their leadership style to bring out the best in the people they lead.
Leadership Mistakes to Avoid
Mistakes are inevitable, but what counts is whether you learn from them. A leader should be confident, but leaders can get into trouble when they assume they can single-handedly deal with every situation that comes along. Good leaders listen to others, and they're willing to keep an open mind when presented with alternative solutions to a problem. A good leader recognizes that one person can't know it all. There are always new opportunities to learn.