So what is leadership and how do you learn how to do it?

February 16, 2018 | by Mike Green

How do you learn about leadership and perhaps more importantly How do you learn how to practice leadership?
There are tens of thousands of leadership books out there, and a hundred years of leadership theory. Well actually a hundred years of leadership theories.
But have a look around the political world and the business world right now and you will find that there are also a lot of very poor role models.
Current research suggests a massive leadership deficit.
So how do we negotiate our way through the leadership maze?
Which are the key leadership theories – the ones we need to know about? and
How do we move from the theory into practice – how do we step into our leadership roles?
What is leadership anyway?
Is leadership all about you – who you are, your traits, your characteristics; are you born to be a leader or can you learn how to develop into a leader?
Maybe it’s about what you do – your behaviours, your actions, where you focus your attention?
You can’t be a leader if you haven’t got followers, so is it about the interaction between the two? – leading in specific situations where your followers have different levels of commitment, different levels of competence.
Perhaps leadership is contingent upon factors such as the operating environment, the organisational culture, the level of task complexity …
As a leader are you there to manage the business in a relatively transactional way, or are you there to transform the business. Are you working in the business, or are you working on it?
Five Essential Leadership Qualities
It’s quite easy to get lost in this leadership maze. So to help, Esther Cameron and I distilled all these factors down into five essential leadership qualities which are required in pretty much all leadership situations, wherever you are in an organisation, or indeed wanting to effect change in the local community or on a wider scale. This synthesis identifies five key elements which leaders have to attend to, the qualities associated with them need to be accessed in appropriate configurations.
The leader has to spot what’s wrong, what’s not working and create sufficient discomfort to catalyse change;
He or she has to identify the drivers of change, assess the organisation’s fit for purpose; and craft an overarching and coherent strategy;
He has to build a vision, a sense of purpose, which inspires and motivates, which gives point and purpose;
She has to align the myriad agendas, needs and wants of disparate interests and stakeholder groups, connecting people and purpose across the organisation and indeed across organisational boundaries.
They have to maintain focussed attention on the core purpose, the key projects, hold people to account and organise for delivery.
In a nutshell the leader’s task is to be able to access the Catalyser, the Architect, the Motivator, the Connector and the Implementer.
Have a look at this short video explaining how we arrived at the five qualities.
We will be looking in more detail at these essential qualities over the coming weeks.