This article focuses on leadership in the workplace, for both aspiring
leaders and those managers who are taking on leadership roles.
Leadership, what is it and what is the difference between being a manager
and being a leader?. Definitions of leadership, there is not a single
definition that everyone agrees on. Manfred Kets de Vries, a professor
at INSEAD, says that leadership is a set of characteristics, behaviour
patterns, personality attributes that makes certain individuals more
effective in achieving a set goal or objective.
Another way of describing leadership is to say that, to get the best out
of people, individuals, teams, organisations, they need to be led,
guided, persuaded, motivated, inspired, to be committed, to do their
best, to work together to achieve a common objective. This, rather than
the pure management approach of being told, directed, ordered, and
treated as subordinates.
True leaders are recognised as being the leader, and their followers
accept that they need to be guided by that leader, but they do not feel
that they are mere subordinates. A good example is the captain of a
sports team - hockey, baseball, netball, cricket, soccer, football,
athletics - these are individuals who have an individual role to play,
yet find time and ways to motivate and encourage others to do their best,
to use their own individual skills, knowledge and experience (scoring
goals, defending, winning races, hitting home runs) whilst at the same
time working together as a member of the team to achieve team objectives.
There are other ways of defining leadership, managers perform
transactions, and leaders bring about transformations.
The transactional manager influences others by appealing to self-
interest, primarily through the exchange of rewards and services. The
relationship between this type of manager and the follower is seen as a
series of rational exchanges that enable each to reach their own goals.
Transactional managers supply all the ideas and use rewards as their
primary source of power. Followers comply with the leader when it’s in
their own interest - the relationship continues as long as the reward is
desirable to the follower, and both the manager and the follower see the
exchange as a way of achieving their own ends.
The transformational leader inspires followers to not only perform as
expected, but to exceed expectations - transformational leaders motivate
followers to work for goals that go beyond immediate self -interest, where
what is right and good becomes important - these leaders transform the
needs, values, preferences and aspirations of followers. They do this so
that the interests of the wider group replaces the self -interest of
individuals within that group.
It’s interesting that research has shown that the way women leaders
describe how they behave, lead, is in line with the transformational
style, whereas most male leaders when describing themselves use words and
phrases that describe the transactional style. There are exceptions of
course, and in some situations the leader can by viewed differently by
different groups. Many people in the UK would not describe Margaret
Thatcher as transformational in style, but more likely they would use
words such as dictatorial, domineering, riding roughshod over opponents,
yet others, in her close team for example, describe her as charismatic,
motivational, inspirational, kind, supportive.
We can see from this look at Leadership that there are different ways of
describing what a leader does, and how, at least in some ways, this is
different to how a manager behaves. Individuals recognised as leaders
makes it obvious that there are great differences in the way in which
certain leaders behave. On the surface there are great differences
between the leadership style of Prime Minister Thatcher, and that of t he
Indian industrialist Rajiv Bajaj. Yet both are widely acknowledged as
highly successful leaders. The common factor, it seems, is that all are
able to persuade others to follow them, in order to achieve success in
their particular field. They all have something that brings diverse
people together, to work as a team, to aim for and work hard to achieve a
common objective. It is, perhaps, a special talent, or characteristic,
or personality trait, or set of circumstances that they find themselves
in, or perhaps a combination of all of these. Perhaps leaders are born
with this ability, perhaps it is something that can be, or has to be,