A leader with has a clear, vivid picture of where to go, as well as a firm grasp on what success looks like and how to achieve it. But it’s not enough to have a vision; leaders must also share it and act upon it. Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
The leadership qualities that are required to make a good leader can vary in different companies, teams and situations.
This can be illustrated in both art and modern leadership models. For example, the fact thatleadership qualities are dependent on context is demonstrated in the play The Admirable Crichton and the film Twelve O’Clock High.
In “The Admirable Crichton”, written in 1902, the Lord and butler swap their roles as leader and servant as the situation changes. On a desert island, the butler’s practical skills are essential for survival, whereas the Lord’s knowledge of English politics is of no value.
In the film “Twelve O’Clock High”, produced in 1949, as a squadron starts to suffer increasing losses during the war, the leader’s people-oriented approach starts to fail. He is replaced by a dictatorial bully who turns the squadron round and restores their pride (in modern setting, such leadership behaviour would often be regarded as unacceptable).
Some people have one style of leadership, which is fine if they can find a situation that requires that style of leadership.
Flexible leadership, however, involves being able to adapt your leadership style according to the situation and the state of the team – eg: taking charge when a team is forming but playing the role of coach when a team is managing itself well.
Also, the need to change one’s leadership style according to the circumstances is one of the fundamental principles underlying popular models such as Situational Leadership (develop by Blanchard and Hersey in the late 1960s). And there are many other examples that go much further back, to biblical times and other periods of recorded history.
How you approach leadership qualities will depend on whether you are looking at the subject from the perspective of an organisation or an individual.
Organisations aim to improve their performance by selecting and developing individual potential. At the outset, the needs of the organisation are usually well-defined but the individuals, who may become leaders, are unknown. The organisational task is therefore one of:
identifying the profile of people who will enhance organisational performance
selecting individuals whose character, skills and potential closely match that profile
developing those individuals so their potential becomes a reality
That is, an organisation develops a framework to assess people and develop those who are chosen.
An individual’s perspective, however, is very different: the aim is for the individual to develop into a position of leadership. You are who you are, and if your profile does not fit that of the organisation you are working for, then your task is to:
understand your own attributes or potential
find a new role or organisation where your profile will be valued
What makes a good leader? The answer depends on the context. Organisations need to find people who have what they are looking for. Individuals need to find organisations who are looking for what they have to offer.