Some individuals are natural leaders and automatically “take point” in any and all situations. Others must make a conscious choice to do so, possibly having reluctantly accepted an unexpected leadership role. These individuals are faced with a number of choices having a direct impact on their personal and professional lives.
Active leadership takes individual courage, passion and conviction. The role requires challenging established positions and procedures. It not only places the spotlight on leaders’ behaviors but also puts them under increased scrutiny by others who may not want them to succeed.
Individuals in this position cannot afford to take the path of least resistance. This is when leaders must face difficult choices with real implications for their professional and personal lives. It is not uncommon for emerging leaders to question their own motives and abilities once placed under extreme stress and pressure.
A leader is motivated by an inward desire to do the best they can to maximize both their employees’ efforts and overall organizational performance. While discomfort with increased scrutiny is natural, they must be able to continually persist and press forward toward their goals through adversity.
Effective leaders know they have to take a stand for necessary and essential changes if their organization is to become more competitive, develop inward strength and stability and prosper. It is the “weight” of leadership for a reason, but a necessary burden or challenge for those who see possibilities, opportunities and organizational potential.
The most common frustrations experienced by leaders are demonstrated in the contrasting roles of leaders and traditional managers.
Managers are generally administrators of jobs and responsibilities. Leaders are organizational innovators. This means they are constantly identifying and implementing new creative concepts, principles and methods to enhance organizational effectiveness.
Managers typically copy and apply actions and methods known to work. Leaders continually develop new and original ideas. They try things that at times will not work or may even produce unexpected consequences.
Focus on People
Traditional managers tend to maintain the status quo and focus on systems and structures preserving their authority and control. This is an immediate frame of reference predicated upon short-term results and employees as workers with a job. Conversely, leaders pursue in-depth programs around developing their people’s potential. They make a concerted and ongoing effort to build trust and inspire confidence.
This means leaders must deal with resistant bureaucracies and the managers therein who are threatened by change and innovation. They must be willing to deal with opposition from employees and unions used to working under strictly controlled conditions and the barriers thrown in their way to frustrate their efforts and forward movement.
Change is not an easy process, especially when dealing with individuals fearful of its possible outcomes. Leaders must learn to deal with these frustrations and develop strategies to overcome them.
Differences in Style
A wide gulf exists between a typical managerial and leadership style. Traditional managers tend to ask “how and when,” leaders, “what and why.” As innovators, leaders continually question the status quo and challenge its premise, especially when it interferes with their employees’ ability to perform to their potential. Most are labeled troublemakers or rebels, rather than members of the team to be trusted and respected by upper management.
Leadership exacts a personal price. Leaders stand up for and do the right thing regardless of repercussions. They may not be popular, or at times even wanted within their respective organizations. Often their efforts go unappreciated for long periods of time. However, true leaders continually stand up for what they believe in, relying on their personal visions, knowing in the end the results they and their employees produce will more than negate detractors’ tiresome objections.
Though working hard to meet what is expected of them, traditional managers tend to do as told without questioning the purpose of particular directives.
- Even if they do not agree with a particular direction, they rarely openly challenge it.
- They keep their eyes on the bottom line, knowing that as long as they do what they are told, they can maintain a comfortable existence.
- They become easily threatened by any changes leaders attempt to make that will disrupt the workplace and possibly, their own security.
- Leaders remain steadfast in their determination to effect the changes they believe will positively enhance and transform their organizations.
- They expect resistance to their ideas, practices and methods, and that it will create frustrations and impediments to enacting operational or procedural changes.
- They understand that though painful, their actions are necessary and will ultimately be rewarded.
- As their ideas become refined to the point where they take root and develop, leaders derive personal satisfaction from seeing their visions and goals attained.
- Leaders accept the burdens, frustrations and often lack of acceptance that comes with adhering to their beliefs.
- They are continually “tempered in the furnace” of adversity.
- It is this process of refinement that hones their leadership skills and makes them likely candidates for advancement, as compared to most managers taking safer and more secure roads to asserting their influence in the organization.
For more information on this topic, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)
Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. is the author of the 125 books included in Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series. He has also authored “Great! What Makes Leaders Great,” which was selected by “Foreword Review Magazine” as one of the top ten career books published in 2011, as well as a finalist in the “2011 Foreword Review Book of the Year Awards.”
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