What is leadership?

Leadership can be defined as the capacity to influence people by means of personal attributes and/or behaviours, in order to achieve a common goal. It is important to recognise that most people, at some point in their lives have been or will be leaders. Leadership is not just about those who have attained status or positions of influence such as such as chief executives, managing directors and the like. “The person who exhibits leadership is someone who makes things happen that would not happen otherwise”. (AD Edwards and D Jones).

Leadership is also a process that helps a group to achieve its goals. Leaders and group members can mutually influence each other’s ideas. Successful leaders do not all behave in identical ways and there is no single template of leadership behaviour. The questions to ask are; what are the qualities of leadership? Can leaders be developed? How can organisations bring out these qualities in their employees?

There are a number of qualities that effective leaders will have in common including listening openly to others; offering and accepting constructive suggestions; giving clear directions; setting an example of desired behaviours; showing understanding; delegating responsibilities and creating a productive atmosphere.

Effective leaders do what they say they will do, make sure their actions are consistent, admit to their mistakes, create a trusting and open environment and encourage others to do more, but know when it’s too much.

Effective leaders can have very different personalities; some are charismatic, some modest, and they come from a wide range of backgrounds. To some, being a leader comes naturally, whilst others may have to work hard at developing the necessary qualities.

Just as we all have some ability to sing or run, virtually anyone can learn to be an effective leader. While some people may be more successful than others, each of us has a starting point on which to build. This can be developed through training and practice.

The first sign of leadership potential is a transition from being self-focused, and simply performing to a high standard in your own role, to becoming more aware of and helpful to others. Potential leaders then start taking on more responsibility. They begin questioning the ways that things are done and come up with or ideas or recognise ways to do things differently.

Leadership is a collection of skills and attitudes that produce results. Leadership development is the constant increase in skills and abilities that occurs over time.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says that the internal development of employees is often something that gets cut as businesses look for ways to save money. But, they say, overlooking the value of cultivating in-house talent can be a fatal mistake. Leadership programmes help ease the chain of succession, make employees feel more connected to the business and can help the transfer of good ideas around the whole organisation.

Leadership success always starts with vision.

Harold Scharlatt a senior enterprise associate for the Center for Creative Leadership, a research and leadership-training firm based in Greensboro, North Carolina, recommends that when setting leadership goals an organisation should treat it as a change initiative and it can reprioritise your business strategy. People have to be willing to invest in new approaches to a job, and updating your company’s core goals is a good place to start. The goals and visions created should be believable, or you risk compromising employee trust. After all, the most successful companies create objectives that they can, and do, clearly act on, says Harold Scharlatt.

Some suggestions for leadership opportunities for employees include mentoring, providing opportunities to supervise projects, giving them responsibility for a social committee or volunteer program in line with your HR programmes and community involvement. Putting employees through leadership workshops, such as the ones offered by the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce, particularly Leadership Cayman can help re-motivate them, boost confidence and create new challenges that have the potential to stimulate creativity. Making an effort to practice and learn the skills it takes to become an effective leader will enable employees to use the style of leadership necessary in any situation they come across.