The individual elements required of a leader are always interesting to discuss. I have been asked to give my opinion on the behavior of men and women as leaders and state the differences between them. I have tried to answer this in the shortest way possible giving myself a total of 1000 words only.
I am fascinated by how people translate their vision to others and gain the title of leader. I have worked with talented women and men throughout my career in the fields of business, sport, government, military, police, teaching etc and these are my thoughts for now.
There are over 350 definitions of leadership; one point of agreement however is the dynamic process of leadership. That the nature of leadership is determined by two critical factors: the use of power and personal style.
My definition of leadership is that it is a dynamic process of judgment/communication that guides others towards positive personal/organisational achievement. It is a mature use of power. I think that leaders are able to understand themselves, know their strengths/weaknesses, they cause people to stretch/risk, they understand their fears, hopes and have reached a stage where they work for something beyond themselves by evolving past the ego-centered use of power.
The differences between men and women at the highest levels of leadership are negligible. The differences I have encountered in the skill of leadership are a consequence of where those leaders have been in their own development en route to becoming a true leader.
This means that I have encountered the same fears, doubts, anxieties and lack of confidence in both men and women even when they are at the top of their profession. I have seen both groups not find balance in their personal and professional lives and seen this affect their decision-making/relationships. I have seen both have to adapt their communication style in order to have the effect they desired.
I have also found that the ability of both men and women to build outstanding relationships and present a clear vision with a ruthless determination for success are also the same. How they move through the stages of development is the only separating factor.
The stages I look at are as follows:
1. Personal style
Balancing the areas of being an extrovert/introvert-understanding the detail and being intuitive. Being able to be logical and having empathy in decision-making, being organised but with the freedom to explore without limits.
2. Leadership power stages
a. Terrible tyrant/Helpless infant
b. Benevolent dictator/abusive dictator
c. Competitive manipulator/competitive intimidator
d. Inspirational/fearsome leader
The above are a guide to some of the power stages people move through on the way to becoming a leader.
The template I used is to look at key characteristics is as follows;
Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate/inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.
Communicating the vision is always the most important element of leadership. “We do not follow ideas, we follow the people behind those ideas”. A great leader then provides the action steps to ensure the vision becomes a reality. A great leader knows that “nothing just happens.” “Men make history and not the other way around”.
This above all; to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.WS
What they feel, think and do is the same thing. You are involved in the game. You serve the needs of those around you and have a determination to succeed. People see that you believe in what you are saying/doing.
3. Ruthlessness and compassion
A fearsome/empathetic leader rolled into one. This ability to know which one to be and sometimes switch between both in a moment is indeed a great skill. People need to be challenged but they also need to know you care. Just spend a moment thinking about the characteristics of a bad leader. Once you have done this think about the characteristics of a good leader. Your will find that most of the words you have used are about emotion and how a leader made you feel. How would someone describe your characteristics.
“The ancient Romans had a tradition: whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible: he stood under the arch.
A leader is ultimately responsible for the results of those whom they lead; the good results, the bad results, and the down-right ugly results. This is why many refuse to be leaders; the responsibility is often overwhelming, and the success, which depends on others, can seem impossible. The woes of the people surely deter the desire to lead. Great leaders will rise above these afflictions and will emerge victorious in the face of seeming impossibilities. A great leader will patiently teach, and then lead their team to victory.
A great leader will lead in the front when there is danger, and will take responsibility for failure; they will lead from behind when there is victory, so that those who follow get the credit (MR SM).
6. Pressure Zone
“The pressure zone is where leaders must take us. Nothing worth having in life is given to us freely, we have to step into the pressure zone to achieve it”.
Leaders must be able to take us into difficult and challenging environments to be successful even when we may not want to go. Their ability to take us to these places and keep us on track regardless of the difficulties is usually down to their ability to create trust. The amount of trust they create is the amount of time we will follow them without question.
Leaders are successful, they win. However they are the first to allow others to take the credit for this success.