Do you have what it takes to lead?

Last week we looked at the leadership crisis that is lurking on the corporate horizon. And we discussed the increased spending that is being diverted into human resource to try and avert this crisis. But before corporations can start spending this money, they must know what is expected from a leader and what traits they must have to get the best out of their people. The leaders from Pakistan’s corporate sector are still largely unaware of these traits. The difference between a ‘leader’ and a ‘boss’ is still hazy. They do not exhibit best the essential traits of leaders and carry one leadership style in all circumstances.

Traits of a Business Leader:

•  A leader knows himself well. He knows his strengths and weaknesses. He is clear in thoughts, in his road map. He is self-motivated, positive and optimistic. He takes responsibility for his every decision and accountable to himself first. He analyses the areas he needs to work on and improve them in a structured way.

•  A true leader needs to step up. Organisations encounter different issues and change their strategies accordingly but cannot always share the reasons with all the employees. Here comes the role of a leader, he needs to come forward, gather information, share with the team and if there is any unexpected change then he handles it himself.

•  You are not a leader if you are not influential, but you also have to be fair. A leader’s presence and words motivate his people to perform well. But the problem is with those who are popular in their respective teams. They normally hesitate in taking unpopular decisions. A team leader must know the rules, regulations and values of the organisation and should be brave, fair and firm in taking decisions.

•  Leaders must have the courage to take tough decisions. They influence people around them and get the required results. Organisations seek leaders who perform in unfriendly circumstances. Everything cannot be written in manuals. A leader has to understand the need of the hour and perform according to the company’s vision instead of waiting for HR to give him authority to perform his duty.

•  Organisations do not always hire the best. The hiring criteria may have flaws, the hiring authorities may need improvement but it does not mean that the whole team cannot perform. If the team is not giving its best performance, then the leader needs to improve first. Anyone can succeed with the best team. People are blessed with different strengths. A leader must know what those strengths are and how to use them effectively.

•  Employees are more satisfied and are happier when they get the chance to discuss possibilities of their growth in organisational hierarchy. Help them, guide them, share the possibilities and challenges, strengths and areas of improvement for the employee and help him fulfill his dreams.

•  A common and very obvious error leaders make in organisations is; they use one leadership style in different situations. Such mistakes not only hurt leader’s image but are against the organisation’s benefits as well.

None of these leadership styles are good or bad. It is all about choices. Different scenarios demand different styles.

Organisations need to find people who have made a conscious choice to be leaders, train them and guide them towards becoming an effective leader. Handling the leadership crisis will then not be difficult for them.

Leadership styles

We now need to understand what the different leadership styles are and in what scenario should one shift modes.

According to Kurt Lewin, there are three different leadership styles which a leader needs to practice especially in business organisations. The description and where these styles fit best are being discussed here;

•  Authoritarian leaders provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. Decision-making is less creative under authoritarian leadership. Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group.

•  Participative leaders (also known as Democratic leaders) offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other members. Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative

•  Delegative leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.

The writer works as a training specialist in Mobilink Pakistan.

By Ahmed Fuad
The Express Tribune