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David White and Akhona Mahlati : BusinessFIT - Quality Leadership...It Is About Authenticity And Style!

As Samuel Johnson said in 1759, "No man was ever great by imitating". It is self-evident that great leaders
are 'out-front' in every venture. They are not buglers with clarion calls, but quiet, thoughtful and controlled. They are role models, essential to individual and group development and growth. We are comfortable in their presence as they bring calmness and a sense of purpose.

Are great leaders born or created?
To some degree we are all born with a sense of service to others. From this perspective we are born with a foundation to lead, but this virtue may lie dormant until we are forced through circumstance to 'take the lead'. We may rise to the occasion but equally not get it right first time. If individuals looking to leadership are patient, they will soon discover what works or does not. They then begin to learn skills that great leaders
apply in their environments and relationships with others.

Leadership is certainly a learned skill, although some, the fortunate few, are born with the talent of knowing
how to inspire and lead others. Management too is a learned skill, but it is quite different to leadership. Management deals with planning, organising and controlling activities and initiatives. Although management is an essential tool in ensuring the basic foundations of business transactions are planned and completed, it is different to leadership in that leadership is about creating productive work environments, and helping to
ensure that desired outcomes are reached. Management, therefore, is about coordinating and controlling activities, and leadership is about inspiring purpose and collectively meeting desired outcomes.

Characteristics of great leaders
Let's look at some of the characteristics that great leaders display in their day to day activities.

They are comfortable in their own space. They know who they are, know where they are going, and are under no illusion about their own strengths and weaknesses. Yes of course great leaders have weaknesses,
everyone does, but great leaders are able to attract the right people to help them, those who have natural strengths in the areas where they may have shortcomings, and they empower these people to contribute and share their vision and value.

We are most comfortable in ourselves when we are being authentic... when we are being ourselves, and doing work and activities that come to us naturally - and with interest. Often, we hear that the best leaders are those who are authentic. Being authentic carries with it a natural energy that is creative and able to overcome obstacles along the path towards success. But just being authentic on its own is not enough to ensure great leadership.

Great leaders also need to have empathy for people in their teams and those under their influence, and a sense of wanting to help direct others to align with their real and purposeful selves. When we refer to our real self, it is that self that cares for others and collectively agreed outcomes. Self is never about personally
directed activities for personal outcomes. Being authentic does allow some flexibility to express our subjective selves, but if these are not aligned with team expectations and commonly agreed milestones, they can be destructive, and may require refocus and repair.

There are other important leadership aspects that are essential in ensuring that goals and milestones are reached. Great leaders have a sense of where they are going and very often have a deep-seated belief in how they will get to where they want to be. They have vision and articulate these dreams in such a way that we are inspired to want to identify with the vision, and follow the leader to realise its outcome.

Great leaders have a sense of wholeness, a realisation that contributions from team members are critical in creating a productive and engaged work environment. The team needs to want to reach the milestones and
goals as much as the leader, and when they do, they too want to feel like they contributed to the success of the initiative.

Great leaders share their beliefs and values, and encourage team members who have similar beliefs and values to participate in decision making and enjoy outcomes and successes. Engaging diversity and encouraging team members to bring more than their qualifications and experience to work is essential for helping to create a productive and healthy work environment. It is not enough to just have a competent resource coming to work on time and following a carefully designed job description or role profile. Just doing what others have laid down for us to do does not bring creative energy into the workplace. We want people to feel that they belong and that in them bringing their wholeness to work it will foster synergistic values and outcomes.

Great leaders realise that they need others to help them reach goals and milestones. Although they may have different personality types, they do tend to have credible people skills and relationships. Great leaders are not necessarily the cleverest nor most fun and entertaining people, but they do have a sincerity in working with people. They have a deep understanding of the emotions and feelings that their team members go through when working on projects or working toward meeting challenging goals. Great leaders know how to speak and interact with their team members, they recognise the value of individual and team
contributions, and realise that without focused and energised people and team, desired outcomes are difficult to meet.

Great leaders essentially have core competencies in the work they are doing. They contribute their expertise to functional activities, organisational strategy and enterprise sustainability. They share their vision with their team, helping everyone to understand the desires and outcomes expected, and allow their team members some flexibility in how these desires and outcomes are achieved.

Great leaders do not compromise on integrity, loyalty and professionalism, but recognise that their team members also have thoughts and ideas, sometimes far better than they could conceive themselves. They
understand that the combined contribution is often far more real and productive than an old school "leader" micromanaging a process and missing opportunities for innovative approaches to leveraging enterprise and revenue growth.

Great leaders actively grow and develop leadership qualities in their team members. They teach people to lead because leaders are thinkers, rather than mere doers, thinkers will enable the best possible outcome.

BusinessFit provides full service business support to entrepreneurs and developing businesses.

For more information contact Lindiwe Bhadi
E: Lindiwe@businessfit.co.za
T: +27 31 767 0625

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