What is a Leader

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Is it someone with a job title, or does that simply make a manager. A leader is someone who inspires their staff, leads from the front, is accountable to their staff, and who holds them accountable (called 360 degree accountability, a staple of the fortune 100). Isn’t tied up with a title, because in reality titles are simply that, positional power. They don’t inspire anyone, and those who are all about their ‘title’ tend to fail miserably in their positions, (read any business publication, this isn’t a secret). We have all been there, working under those who see their ‘title’ as a reason to lead a benevolent dictatorship, and we have all seen the consequences. Positional power is weak; referent power can transform a workplace.

To be a leader, one must have a high capacity of EQ (emotional intelligence). Sure, you can manage without it, but to lead EQ is the most important factor. Don’t take it from me, here is a bit from the Harvard Business Review: “I have found, however, that the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence. It’s not that IQ and technical skills are irrelevant. They do matter, but mainly as “threshold capabilities”; that is, they are the entry-level requirements for executive positions. But my research, along with other recent studies, clearly shows that emotional intelligence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader” (Goldman, 2004).

The unfortunate problem with this is, most people actually believe that they do have a high EQ level, even when all evidence to the contrary is out there for them to see, IF they will open there eyes a bit. So, in the end all managers need to ask themselves the following: ‘Am I a leader, or a manager? Do I hold power because I have earned it, or was it simply now my turn? How do both my superiors and subordinates see my performance? Do I care about the latter, or is it all about the former? (to a manger, the former is what rules the day)’. They should conduct their own SWOT analysis, in an open and honest fashion so they can personally identify their own strengths and weakness so they may understand both the opportunities and threats in the position. In the end, many who think of themselves as leaders are merely competent managers, and will become frustrated that they live in middle management purgatory long beyond what they thought was acceptable; they will be disillusioned by missed opportunities, failed initiatives, and poor moral. Others may move up or move on to greater things, all while they remain in the quagmire of their own making. In closing, I leave you with a few quotes I believe sum this up much better then I ever could.

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus” (MLK, Jr.).

“Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership” (Colin Powell).

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” (Peter Drucker) and finally, ” People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives” (Theodore Roosevelt).

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