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Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals. It is to be a coach, teacher, and to play an active, participative role.

Bradford College Leadership skills

from http://www.bilk.ac.uk/college/extraweb/jobseekers/leader.html

Vision

Vision is about a grasp of what is, a grasp of what could be and a balanced view of the pros and cons of getting there. It is having "the bigger picture", and not being swamped by detail of the past or present, but being able to read and act upon the signals to success or failure in the future.

Planning

An operational leader has organisational goals to achieve via a team, and will often shape strategy (create and shape the goals themselves) with other leaders. The leader has to be able to read signs and signals in order to make predictions and decisions, and has to be able to inspire others to "buy into" the process of achieving the goals. The key to success in shaping, understanding and communicating goals is communication.

Participation

A leader acting in isolation is a dictator. Good leaders participate at each level (above them, with peers and beneath them) in order to successfully feed the communication chain.

Motivation

If others are allowed to develop and contribute ideas they are empowered to do a better job. A good leader knows the individual skills that make up a team, and encourages productivity by involving others and devolving appropriate responsibility to them.

Communication

Is about listening, hearing and informing. A good leader hears what is said and also reads the signals - body language etc A good leader ensures that all team members have the right information at the right time, and never withholds essential information.

Availability

It is important that a leader is not remote. It is impossible for any individual to be dealing with questions and queries constantly, but a good leader will make it known that s/he is available at frequent intervals, and will be reliable in being available at those times. A good leader will always recognise the distress signal that indicates a need for instant response and availablility.

Reliability

The good leader comes up with the goods, and does not make empty promises.

Accountability

Be prepared and be seen to be prepared to take the rap. Never blame team members for personal mistakes.

Decisiveness

When the listening has been done, and the negotiation is complete, the good leader should take the decision. Respect is lost if a leader is unable to take a decision. An visibly unsure leader will be seen as an unsafe leader.

Supportiveness

A good leader is prepared to give guidance, to give praise (this latter one is very important) and to give constructive criticism. The good leader is also not afraid to encourage talent through training, and promotion.

Fair and firm

The good leader will discipline where required, in the interests of the health and performance of the entire team. This will be carried out fairly and in private.

In charge of something? Then you are a leader

From http://www.bockinfo.com/docs/incharge.htm (Copyright 2004 by Wally Bock)

As you get a job as a boss, people expect you to lead. Leaders deal with purpose and direction and culture. They do that mostly through example. As soon as you get a boss’s job – like I did – people start looking at you more, watching what you do, and listening to what you say.

Indirect communication is important, too. For most leaders, that indirect communication is how you spend your time.

More articles about leadership:

-- MartinCleaver - 15 Jun 2003

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Comments and Discussion

I really like the slide above because it illustrates how there are many ways for something to almost work but few for it to actually succeed. It echos one of my favorite general principles which Jared Diamond, in his book Guns, Germs and Steel referred as the "Ana Karenina Principle." This is a references to Tolstoy's famous opening line in the novel Ana Karenina: "All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The main points I take from this are:

  1. There's no real mystery to success in most arenas: just do it all right. (Corollary: be suspicious of "silver bullets" and "secrets to success.")
  2. Studying why something works is much more productive than studying why something failed.

The second thing that comes to mind here is that the portrait painted above of a true "leader" reflects what I refer to as the "mythic figure" syndrone: our tendancy to take a constellation of attributes associated with a socially-valued role (e.g. leader, entrepreneur, etc.) and enshrine that as a yardstick by which to measure up mere mortals, which, not surprisingly, they rarely do. For me, the #1 work of real-world leaders is to recognize 1) the need to touch all bases mentioned above, 2) discerns which one has a natural flair for, and 3) enroll and empower others to fill in the gaps. The default leadership mode of most of us is to push harder as what we understand and value (i.e. our own personal talents and inclinations) and pretend the other factors don't matter.

-- LynnwoodBrown - 29 Oct 2004

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