Unfortunately, as I had written before, most of us tend to think that leadership comes with a position. The only power that we have over those we lead is positional power. Because one is a manager or a supervisor, you quote comfortably; I am in a leadership position.
Leadership is about influence
I have come to learn that leadership is all about influence. By influence, you have to make people to willingly follow you, even when you are not using power or rewards to gain this influence. John Maxwell suggests that, to find out if you are an influence, try leading a group of people in a voluntary program where there are no rewards at all and you cannot use positional power as well because the program is voluntary and you cannot fire them.
Leadership is about the people
Leadership is therefore all about people, besides making money for the organization. As a great people leader, you have to learn to influence, motivate and inspire people to meet the set goals. When you are leading a demotivated and uninspired team, there is dormancy; people have to be pushed to work and as a result the entire work scene becomes like that of flogging a dead horse.
Leadership and communication
Among other traits that cause influence is communication. Communication is one of the soft skills that teach leader needs to be trained on. People are made in a way that they need assurance, information and communicating on what is happening, good or bad. Whatever happens, do not let your people speculate on what is happening through grapevine. This totally kills morale, spirit and motivation. I have been in two positions where the employer was not able to meet the wages requirements in time.
In the first scenario, he did not communicate at all, and all employees were left speculating on what was happening. Staff was demotivated, grapevines started making rounds in the organization about the position of the company.
In the second scenario the HR manager communicated to everyone that due to unavoidable circumstances, there would be a delay in paying salaries, but the management had it all under control and would sort things out soon. While this is not a desirable position for anyone, employees in the second scenario were more patient, felt they were cared for, and trusted the employer to to take care of them.
The best kind of leadership is one that focuses on the people. This is known as transformational leadership as it transforms both the leader and the followers into better person. One way a leader can create influence is to have idealized influence. This way, he creates a relationship with others such that they trust and admire the leader.
The leader leads by example and becomes a role model for the followers. They have a great work ethic, strive for excellence and do not accept mediocrity. For example, as a positional leader, you do not expect your employees to put in long hours into a project yet you are not doing the same.
If you put in the same long hours, they will too because you are creating idealized influence and they’ll be motivated to do the same. In the event that you do not put in the same long hours and they are required to, they will but you can be assured that they are not performing at their best.
They’ll watch YouTube videos until the time is done and head home. The leader’s own drive towards excellence is how he pushes his followers to do the same; they see him as a role model and follow his example.
Another way to create influence is inspiring motivation. Such influential leaders are gifted at uncovering the inner abilities, talents and motivation of employees and followers. They derive intrinsic motivation from the followers by creating a clear and appealing view of the vision to be achieved and communicate the vision vividly with the followers. When the followers believe in the vision, their motivation is intrinsic; they do not have to be pushed to get work done.
Another great way to influence people is to stimulate their thinking. Of course this is highly dependent on the kind of people you are leading. According to theory X and Theory Y, you can only use this on the Y type. These are self motivated, and like to welcome challenges. Thankfully for today, when we are hiring in organizations, you can look out for self starters, proactive people that are open to challenges.
Through intellectual stimulation, you challenge their thinking encourage brainstorming and thinking outside the box. Through intellectual stimulation, you can raise the people’s thinking capacities, tenacity and problem solving abilities. These results to increased creativity and innovation.
One CEO well known for this is Elon Musk, the CEO of Space X and Tesla Motors. A former employee of SpaceX is quoted stating that the experience of working at Space X was “incredible” and that “he would work there again”. Elon challenges one’s thinking such that you’ll never think at the same level again. He challenges the status quo and causes one to have a complete paradigm change.
A great people leader also has individualized consideration. A transformational leader considers followers as separate individuals that have different talents and abilities. Therefore ensures that every follower brings out the best of themselves. Most times we put people in areas they are not good at, especially because we did not take the time to know them and understand them.
If you are a leader of a manageable group of people, take time to know the people; what they are good at, what they care for, what their strong points are. You might find that you appointed a manager into a position just because they are very good at taking credit for work done, yet someone else was responsible for the positive results. You can also improve your leadership skills and approach through an online leadership course to help you become a better people leader.