Though there have been multiple efforts to concisely define the importance of leadership, former U.S. President Harry S. Truman came closest when he said, "In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still." Good leadership is often the fuel of progress, be it in a business, organization or movement. Not only can good leaders help oil the nuts and bolts that keep society pushing onward, but they can provide the encouragement and support that help people move things along.
Good leaders provide motivation and inspiration for a group. Whether they are supporting a group member, providing mentoring, or rallying the collective to bigger and better things, leaders can push a team to achieve things they didn't know were possible. Motivation can improve morale and productivity, as well as encourage participants to think outside of the box and come up with creative proposals.
Effective leadership can help guide the direction of a group. With different people working in different capacities, it's easy for a group to fall out of touch and not realize how their work might be interacting with other people's efforts. Effective leadership can aid in delegation of duties and streamlining of activities, improving the efficiency of a team and their overall productivity.
A nearly inevitable component of group work is interpersonal conflict. Whether this conflict stems from competitiveness, work accountability or simply personal irritation, it can disrupt the working process and drag out the production of results or decision making. This is where effective leadership can make a difference. A good leader will be able to step in when necessary to mediate interpersonal conflict, serving as an objective force pushing parties to some form of compromise or reconciliation.
A commonly used maxim preaches the perils of failing to "see the forest for the trees." When working on individual components of a task, group members may lose sight of the larger objectives. Because leaders are charged with the health of the entire project, they have the perspective necessary to set priorities in the work schedule and ensure that tasks are being completed in the most beneficial manner and on the right schedule.
The only way a group can work effectively together is if there is some form of accountability. Though it can work in some situations, even levels of authority can lead to an inability to effectively assess and improve upon performance. Effective leadership can aid in continual growth. Because a leader is a level above the group members in authority, he will usually have the experience and perspective necessary to effectively critique work and provide guidance for improvement.