According to Warren Bennis, a leading theorist of the principles of effectual leadership, “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.”1
Most of us know a leader when we see one, but often have a difficult time defining the specific characteristics of leadership. In this section, you will learn the fundamentals of leadership.
Let's begin with a quick exercise:
Think of someone who you believe is great leader. What are the characteristics that individual has? Now think of someone who is a manager, but not a leader. Do the characteristics and personality traits differ between the two?
Bennis has spent years interviewing leaders and outlines four common characteristics of effective leadership. See how closely your ideas of leadership match up with Bennis's.
What Makes a Leader?
- Management of Attention: The ability “to find a compelling cause or vision that will focus the minds and the energies of everyone involved.”2
- Management of Meaning: The ability to communicate vision and dreams so that they are tangible and have real meaning for others and will be supported.
- Management of Trust: The ability to be consistent, honest, and reliable in everything one does.
- Management of Self: The ability to know one's strength and weakness, nurture one's strengths, and learn from mistakes.3
Leadership is also about empowering others. The organizational development research is clear that a control-oriented, autocratic style of management decreases job effectiveness. An effective leader understands that each person needs to believe that he or she can make an important contribution to the organization. Empowering others also expands the capacity that a leader has to accomplish things.
Bennis notes these characteristics of situations in which people are empowered:4
- People feel significant: Everyone should feel that they make a difference to the organization's success.
- Learning and competence matter: Leaders value learning and mastery of skills, and so do people who work for leaders.
- People are part of a community: Leaders develop an organizational culture in which there is a sense of being part of a team.
- Work is exciting: Leaders design an environment where work is stimulating and challenging.
For more information
1. Bennis’ Leadership Qualities. A description of Warren Bennis’s six personal leadership qualities.
2. Blagg, Deborah and Susan Young (2001). What Makes a Good Leader. Harvard Business School Bulletin.
1 Warren Bennis, “Why Leaders Can't Lead,” Training and Development Journal (1989): 36.
2 Warren Bennis, “The Handy Guide to the Gurus of Management—Programme 5,” http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/work/handy/bennis.shtml
3 Bennis, “Why Leaders Can't Lead,” 35–39.
Let's revisit what we have learned so far in the Leadership, Vision, and Organizational Culture module. Please answer the following question.
|Leaders can empower employees by:|
Now that you have completed this section, you understand that being a good leader is not the same as being a good manager. Leaders are able to rally employees toward a cause while also empowering their staff. Empowerment involves staff feeling that they can, do, and will make important contributions to the organization.