We believe leadership can be differentiated from other styles of management (for example, being the boss) in four ways. It is important to see that people who are leaders are not leaders because they behave in these ways: they behave in these ways because they are leaders, they have a leadership attitude or approach.
It’s even more important to recognise that leadership is not like pregnancy: it isn’t a binary condition. Someone can be a bit of a leader—in other words they have the potential to be a better leader—or they can be a leader only at certain times or in certain contexts.
The primary way true leaders differentiate themselves is by their responsibility for the context in which everyone else does their job. We like to describe what the leader does as creating and maintaining a ‘facilitating environment’ in which their team thrives. By ‘thrive’ we mean ‘able to do their job effectively, capable of growth and development, with fulfilment’. If the team members are thriving, then so is the team. If all the teams are thriving, then so is the organisation.
> What is a facilitating environment?
A key distinguishing feature of true leaders is their ability to deploy many of the precepts and principles of strategic leadership consistently, continuously and effectively; showing a good understanding of them and of the models *, and of how to use this understanding to be useful to, and influential with, other people. But what would happen if everyone in a team, in an organisation, chose to do this? Answer: the best possible team! Nothing in any of what we have described is off limits to members of the team. Everyone will benefit if anyone does better in any of the areas we talk about here.
Leaders take a coaching approach in conversation with their colleagues—everyone, actually—not a telling approach. If leadership is about creating a facilitating environment, it follows leaders have to be good at enabling others to do their work themselves.
> How to ask open questions confidently
Ultimately, what true leaders do is show the way. Leaders can take their people somewhere they might otherwise not have gone voluntarily. Leaders show, by example, the possibility of doing what they ask of others. Leaders take the risk and go first. By succeeding, and showing how, they motivate everyone else. Leaders create leaders.
This gives leaders a challenge, because this requirement will bring up issues. Leaders have to address their issues. On occasion, they will find this difficult. They’ll find superficially rational—and probably convincing—explanations why they shouldn’t do it. In short, they will resist ‘taking the next step’.
Yet, it is vital to realise that this is the very work which, when successfully completed, will enable everyone else to move forward. They’re waiting for the leader to take the next step.
> Leadership guide
by Jeremy Marchant . © 2013 Jeremy Marchant Limited . uploaded 6 march 2013 . updated 24 february 2016 . image: Free images
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