Talk of effective leadership abounds in business circles. I know you have come across many books and seminars on the topic and hundreds of quotes as to what makes a great leader — yet it seems something that’s a bit tough to grasp in reality. Part of the challenge in reading about and “implementing” leadership, I think, is because it is very unique to a particular place, time and people.
Let’s look at a work environment. A group of people come together every day to perform certain tasks. Usually, there’s a reason why they are performing these tasks but each person’s reasons for coming to work, for selecting that particular job, are unique. Here, the leader’s role is to bring these individuals’ reasons for being there and the tasks they perform together to achieve a common goal and vision for the company. Each individual must feel some connection to the common goal and a desire and ability to positively affect that goal.
Let’s look at a group of volunteers. A group of people come together on a regular basis, typically less frequently than a work environment, for a purpose. They are then tasked with certain activities to support that purpose; but any given volunteer may not be excited to do the task asked of him or her. In this case, the leader’s role may be slightly different. The individuals’ reasons for being there are commonly already tied to a goal and the leader’s role is to leverage the common purpose to get necessary tasks done.
Do these examples require the same leadership activities? Probably so. But without the context of the particular place, time and people, the leader cannot be successful. A leader, therefore, must be acutely aware of the people involved in the team and why these individuals will commit their time and energy to the goals and purpose. A leader must also be able to define the goals and success in terms that are meaningful to the team members based on their own goals and definition of success. Books and seminars are valuable in giving an individual the tools necessary to parse through the various individuals’ personalities and reason. Then the leader must apply these leadership principles to achieve success in that particular place and time with those particular people.