What are the key requirements for becoming a successful leader?
1. Are leadership qualities inherent?
2. How does a leader does differ from a normal person?
3. What are the principal leadership qualities?
4. What are the distinctly different leadership styles?
A leader is one who can lead others, who can control the behavior of others and who can influence others to perform in the desired way.
Leadership is not limited to position, experience, training, title or authority. After studying the biography of hundreds of historical and contemporary leaders it can be concluded that to a large extent leadership qualities are inherent although good leaders can be trained or created.
Inherent leadership qualities sometimes need to be polished and refined through relevant experience and by giving the individual some authority. But this does not mean that a person who does not possess those inherent qualities cannot become a leader. Any person can become a leader if the will to become a successful leader is strong enough and by self-development through self analysis, training and specific experience.
There are different types of leaders:
- Formal leaders are those we elect into positions or offices such as the senators, congressmen, and presidents of the local clubs.
- Informal leaders or those we look up to by virtue of their wisdom and experience such as in the case of the elders of a tribe, or our grandparents; or by virtue of their expertise and contribution on a given field.
Both formal and informal leaders practice a combination of leadership styles:
- Lewin’s three basic leadership styles – authoritative, participative, and delegative;
- Likert’s four leadership styles – exploitive authoritative, benevolent authoritative, consultative, and participative;
- Goleman’s six emotional leadership styles – visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding.
Steven Covey’s book entitled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People provides good insights on how you can achieve personal leadership.
Leadership starts with you: The best way to develop your leadership qualities is to apply the actions of a leader to your own life because “actions speak louder than words.”
Leaders should keep in mind that their credibility depends on their actions: your interaction with your family, friends, and co-workers; your way of managing your personal and organizational responsibilities. Repeated actions become habits. Habits in turn form a person’s character.
The key requirements for becoming a successful leader therefore include the ability to employ a combination of leadership styles depending on the situation. In emergency situations, decision-making may be a matter of life and death. Another case in point is in leading organizations. When the staff are highly motivated and competent, a combination of high delegative and moderate participative styles of leadership are most appropriate. But if the staff have low competence and low commitment, a combination of high coaching, high supporting and high directing behavior from their leaders is required.