Leadership – how to define it

A picture of the Word Leadership

What is it? How did it come that everybody is speaking from Leadership today? Is there a Definition for Leadership? How to define Leadership?

The Inventor of the Term “Leadership” was Harvard-Professor John P. Kotter who, in 1982, and more detailed in his book in 1990 (“A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management”) – described the difference between managers and real Leaders:

“Managers tend to be stewards, but leaders are visionaries”

Management is more about the perfect organization of processes, planning and controlling. Leadership stands for inspiring and motivating your Team with Visions. Leadership is causing creativity, innovation and changes.

This wasn’t new. The distinction between transactional and transformative leadership went in the same direction. Political scientist and historian James M. Burns called political leaders (such as the American president) “transformative” in 1978 when they announced and induced change, even if it hindered voters’ current needs, leading to loss of votes.

Harvard professor Abraham Zaleznik also highlighted the differences in the actions of managers and leaders in an article published in the 1977 Harvard Business Review (Managers and Leaders: Are They Different?).

A picture showing several classic leadership traits

McKinsey consultant Tom Peters and co-author Nancy Austin complained in 1985 in their bestseller “A Passion for Excellence” that our organizations were “over managed” and “under led.” There are too many bureaucrats, but too few rousing leaders.

Since Kotter’s “A Force for Change” many books have been published, which carry out the leadership concept. Whether this has brought any further benefit is doubtful. Especially as with time some mistakes have crept in:

1. Mistake: Leaders are better than managers.

Because “leadership” sounded so good, every leader suddenly had to have visions that inspire the environment and make sense of it. Jack Welch also wanted to show only leaders on General Electric Chart, no managers. Kotter, however, knew that a company needed both types. At no time can companies manage without managers who understand how to organize everything perfectly. In phases of upheaval, however, a leader is indeed needed, who can weld people together and swear in a new direction.

2. Mistake: The ideal cast is a manager leader.

To quote Kotter, “No one can be a leader and a manager, instead of taking this to heart, you’re trying to be a ‘leader-manager’, but if a company grasps the elemental difference between leadership and management, it can be confidently done To train top people in such a way that they can later take on one or the other role. ” However, this would require that positions can be alternately filled with leaders or managers as needed – not realistic. So we will probably continue to see misplaced leaders at work – visionaries where cool managers are needed, and uninspiring, controlling executives who need real leaders.

3. Mistake: Leaders are charismatics.

Kotter insists that leadership is nothing mysterious. From charisma, true leadership would be as irrelevant as any exotic character traits. Developing a business goal is not magic, but sober, strategic work. Visions do not need to be brilliantly novel, the best are not. For example, Jan Carlzon’s vision of making SAS the world’s most attractive airline for the high-flying business traveler is nothing that has long been unknown in the industry. If a company in a branch was always a small light and its managers were suddenly talking about becoming number one, it would be a pipe dream, not a vision.

Since leadership can be learned, companies can and must develop their talents in a targeted and long-term perspective. And finally, leadership can only unfold on a broad scale where a suitable environment is created. The firm anchoring of a corresponding culture is, according to Kotter, the highest that leadership art can achieve.

A lion between birds dressed up like business men and women. The lion typically stands for leadership

The distinction between management and leadership can rightly be described as classic. It identifies two archetypal leaders who in practice are all too often in mutual incomprehension. Understanding that and how visionary leadership and orderly and perfected management can go hand in hand remains the key to success. How to call this is no matter.

For me the main difference is that Leadership means you are pointing into the direction for the future of the company. Managing means more the operational side of how to achieve the point that the leader is pointing to. Leaders talk much more to their Employees, they discuss, inform and motivate.

There is a Quote from Bill Gates that I like:

“Leaders will be those who empower others!”

Bill Gates

Leadership also means to do the Right Things! The “right thing” does only mean positive financial results or a high productive output. It does also mean following Your values and taking decisions according to your Values.

A great American Blogger and Podcaster “Michael Hyatt” was describing 5 Core Points for correct leadership. Find his original article here.

  1. Leaders have insight
  2. Leaders demonstrate initiative
  3. Leaders exert influence
  4. Leaders have impact
  5. Leaders exercise integrity

Everyone can be a manager, but it takes some extra tasks and character traits to be a leader. You can learn all those Extras its nothing special and you can be a leader from any position.

Another Quote to end this Blog comes from Chris Hadfield and this tells You everything about Leadership:

“Ultimately, leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It´s about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high  and the consequences really matter. It is about laying the groundwork for others success, and then standing back and letting them shine.”

Chris Hadfield

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