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What Is The Essence Of True Leadership and Their Top 4 Qualities?

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essence of true leadership

What is the true meaning of leadership and how is it different from management?

William Shakespeare rightly said that “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” Good leaders are synonymous with greatness as they hold the power to influence and inspire those around them to get things done. A leader fosters motivation, respect, trust and loyalty from the workforce. Therefore, leadership is often defined as the “process of influencing and inspiring others to achieve organizational goals. Leaders tend to focus on achieving broader goals or visions with no definite time frame in mind.”

Leadership is often confused with management. To understand the essence of a true leader it is first important to differentiate between a “leader” and a “manager.”

Follett (1868-1933) famously defined management as “the art of getting things done through people“. It is essentially about problem-solving and decision-making, so involves a process of planning, organizing and coordinating human and capital resources to achieve organizational objectives. 

Both terms management and leadership are the most crucial aspects of any organization. While both these terms are often used interchangeably, what are the true differences between them?

leadership

1. Time and Devotion

Management is often seen as a ‘9 am to 5 pm’ job whereas leadership is about being accountable 24/7. Managers have a short-term where they set tactics and daily objectives however leaders are visionary as they see what lies ahead and the future of the company. They devote their time not on a quantified basis but devote their time, money, effort, passion and energy to make their organization thrive and their dreams come true. Time is just a measure of number for leaders, however managers track the time and hours they devote to their job. It is the very nature of managers who see their work as a “job” and leaders who see their devotion as a “passion” that distinguish them. 

2. Roles and Responsibilities

Managers tend to abide by their job description and are only held accountable and responsible by their senior managers and the board of directors. They only answer to those above them in the hierarchy however leaders are responsible for just the entire workforce but have to answer to both internal and external stakeholders. Leaders keep dealing with what and why questions. For instance, Steve Jobs constantly reminded his staff at Apple that they were pivotal in “changing the world”. On the other hand, managers only worry about routine questions. 

3. Influence on Others

Influence cannot be forced upon but instead earned. Those who are truly influenced tend to do so because they respect and admire those in authority. Instructions from managers are listened to as they are obligated to follow through.  However, true influence is shown when instructions are listened to and implemented by the workforce as the influence of leadership is strong and powerful to such an extent where workers feel inspired to listen. Hence, leaders are more socially engaged than managers. 

4. Risk-taking

Managers follow a set of rules and policies. However leaders are the ones that have the courage to make the rules and set them. They have the risk-taking ability to combine factors of production, use their vision, to build a successful empire. The risk-taking ability is a quality that not all people are brave enough to have and therefore leaders are sought after as they hold this ability to follow to have a  more radical, risky and visionary thinking in their approaches. They take risks by challenging the norms and think “different.” For instance, Steve Jobs launched a campaign called “Think Different” as he believed that the ones crazy enough to change the world were actually the ones who did.

While the aforementioned differences are one of the most prominent factors that distinguish leadership and management, it is actually in fact the vision of leaders that drives them into the direction of greatness. The essence of a true leader is his vision. French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte explained “A leader is a dealer in hope.” Leaders create a culture of hope, they are game changers, thought leaders, who defy the normal and conventional and dare to dream big.


Also published on Medium.

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