Academic journal article IUP Journal of Soft Skills

What Maketh an Effective Leader?

Academic journal article IUP Journal of Soft Skills

What Maketh an Effective Leader?

Article excerpt

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

- John C Maxwell

Introduction: From Managers to Leaders

A phase that most organizations are hooked to today-wanting more leaders than managers. Yes, organizations ask for help for their managers to learn to supervise and coach and plan but also ask for help to make them the leaders they need them to be, to support, encourage and motivate their people. Today, it is important for most seniors to start to realize the difference between being a manager and a leader, and to use it to propel themselves as effective leaders.

In an organizational context today, it is not enough for one to be able to plan, estimate, prioritize and schedule tasks and people appropriately and manage the time, resources and people effectively. Organizations look for 'people managers' who can go beyond that. They look for their ability to motivate, support and encourage the team members; they look for emotional intelligence and balanced approach towards tasks as well as people. Today, organizations look for leaders rather than just for managers.

When we ask senior management and participants in training programs to differentiate between a manager and a leader, most of the times what comes out usually is that the participants make the manager almost look like a villain. When comparing the two, the manager becomes someone who is not really that good and only a leader can perform really well. However, that is not the case. Both managers and leaders are essential in an organization and it is most effective when the manager along with his/her managerial capabilities also learns to behave and perform as an effective leader!

Here are a few differences between a manager and a leader that are cited by many experts:

* Reactive vs. Proactive: A fundamental difference is that a leader many a time is proactive and thinks much ahead of what could be possible risks and how to eliminate them before they happen, whilst a manager may focus on whatever is happening currently and work more on how to handle the current challenges emerging in the tasks and the team. Both are, as we know, essential qualities for success.

* Hands-on vs. Empowerment: A manager is much more hands-on and involved in the day-to-day or regular tasks than a leader is (Figure 1). A manager knows more about what is going on and is in a position to step in any time required, whereas a leader is more at the superficial level of involvement and would look towards the team to step in as and when required. When the individual handling the task is very competent, it pays to play the role more of a leader and when the competence level is not very high, one needs to be a manager.

* Stability vs. Change: A manager always tries his/her utmost to get things to stay calm and steady and stable as possible. A leader, once confirmed that there is stability at one level, starts looking at possible ways to evolve and grow to the next level, to work towards the changes needed to grow to that level and plan these changes systematically.

* Make the rules vs. Break the rules: A manager tends to constantly keep the team members in check and go with the given processes and ensure conformism towards policies and guidelines. A leader, however, after learning to live by the rules, also looks beyond the existing rules and asks himself/herself what he/she needs to do to make things comfortable and most productive, even if that means working around the rules and creating newer avenues of working.

* Planning and estimation vs. Direction and vision: A manager's essential quality is to be able to plan and estimate the time and resources needed for any project and map the process of execution. A manager however, also as a leader, needs to take a step back and see where the project fits in the larger scheme of things, which direction it is taking the team towards and whether it is aligned to their vision. …

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