Leadership with Vision

What is good leadership?  What are the qualities in a person that makes people want to follow? There are as many answers as there are scholars, authors and consultants.  There is no single attribute that clearly makes a good or bad leader.  Often, there is a combination of traits, habits and the mission itself that can determine successful leadership.

If one is attracted to leadership as a position, a status of professional accomplishment, then he or she is poised for disappointment and certain failure.  A common notion among most management scholars and consultants is that leadership is an activity that can occur anywhere and at anytime, from non-management positions both within and outside the organization.  Just because somebody carries a title or position in an organization doesn't mean they are the de facto leader.

It is also a common historic concept that true leaders have more than business on their mind.  Comments James O'Toole, a management scholar and author of several books, good leadership skills may succeed in achieving immediate organizational goals, but fail in other ways that can negatively affect the organization. 

"Such executives will not make great leaders," says O'Toole, "for they will have done only half their job.  He or she will still not have made an adequate contribution to society; and will still not have created an institution worthy of the great society of which they are a part. The otherwise excellent executive will still lack what philosophers call 'virtue.'  In the words of John Adams, virtue is 'a positive passion for the public good.'"

Another well-known leadership author, Robert Rosen, stipulates that rather than a status position, leadership is an activity like research, manufacturing and marketing.  Rather than a high point on an organizational chart, leading involves researching, forecasting, and communication skills to help anticipate changes in the environments inside and outside.

Business management scholar and consultant, Patricia Buhler, adds that 'change management' is an essential part of the leader's job description.
"Leadership is a self-aware, self-transforming process that anticipates change and makes adjustments in visions and goals that are set for the organization." 

Offering the term transformational leadership, Buhler also argues that leadership conducts a process of constant transformation by motivating people to move beyond ordinary performance and monitoring the progress of both the organization and themselves.

"Transformational leaders influence more than just individuals," says Buhler.  "Their sphere of influence wide enough to transform whole organizations."  Or, put another way, a good leader inspires confidence in himself; a great leader inspires confidence in the followers.

Management scholar and lecturer, James MacGregor Burns, identified the qualities of transformational leadership in 1990 by stating, "The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people's enduring needs. Leadership balances relationships with duty and sets goals based on personal initiatives.  There is no such thing as leadership at an arm's distance.  It is a fully engaging, full time activity, ever moving and constantly shifting."

While many may see ideal leadership represented as a stoic figure on the bow of boat, the real task leadership is back at the stern, gently coaxing the organization through the fog. 

The distinction between the leader and the manager, says Lawrance Miller, a respected management consultant and author, can be summarized by the word "purpose."  He notes that leaders gather energy by instilling purpose while managers merely direct energy for direct cause.

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