Leadership involves influencing others, and being highly motivated and passionate towards achieving certain goals. A leader, then, is someone who is playing an influential role in making others work towards successfully attaining certain goals. For that, a leader needs to be someone who is a visionary. A good leader is the one who can make others see that vision and instill a high level of motivation within them, and guide them to move closer towards that vision. Leaders are, therefore, agents of change. The process involved in bringing about that change is reflected in the many facets of leadership.
To have that high level of motivation, passion, and being a visionary, having a clear self-understanding is essential. An effective leader needs to have self-awareness. This self-awareness gives an understanding of true potential, develops a realization of strengths and weaknesses, and gives an understanding of how he or she is different from others.
A good understanding of oneself or self-awareness helps in having a high level of psychological wellbeing and a proper ability to cope with life issues. Because self-awareness gives a good understanding about one’s potential, it helps to give purpose and direction, it gives meaning in life, and leads towards self-satisfaction. All this certainly prove to be essential for a leader in order to achieve that vision that he or she has set up.
A leader, however, needs others to see that vision, make them believe in it, and motivate and encourage them to achieve certain goals. This requires a leader to have a wide range of interpersonal and communication skills. A common misconception is that interpersonal and communication skills largely comprise of having a good speaking ability. However, being a good speaker may not always be an important skill that is required in leadership. The interpersonal and communication skills involved in leadership are much beyond being a good speaker.
Being a leader requires continuous interpersonal interactions with the team members. A two-way communication is involved. Receiving of messages is as important as conveying the message. The leader needs to consider and understand the point of view of the team members. For this, listening skills become very important. A leader, thus, needs to be a good or active listener.
To be a good listener, the individual needs to be attentive and observant. The person needs to be focused on what the other person is saying, avoid all kinds of other distractions, not let the mind wander, and letting the person complete what he or she is saying, and not interrupt and assume what the other person could be saying.
Further, it is also good to be observing the nonverbal cues of the person to get a better understanding of the feelings involved. Observing whether the person is calm and confident or fidgety or seemingly anxious, helps to get an idea whether or not the body language is in sync with the verbal message. Finally, if there is any doubt, the person should always ask and clarify whether or not he or she has completely understood what was meant to be said.
Another interpersonal skill, along with active listening, that is highly essential for leadership is empathy. Broadly, empathy is understanding the feelings and emotions of others and taking the perspective of others. A leader has to interact with all kinds of people. To motive them, to influence them, it is important to understand what they feel, how they may respond in certain situations, what are their concerns, how can they deal with different circumstances, and so on. Therefore, to deal with people effectively, and to make them clearly see the vision that they have, leaders need to be highly empathetic. It surely is helpful to achieve the goals that the leader has set forth.
When interacting and guiding others, the ability of giving and receiving feedback becomes important. The leader should know when to give feedback and how exactly it should be given to have effective results. Feedback, to be effective, should be precise and specific, and it should not be vague. It should be contextual and immediate. Feedback should also be constructive. The purpose should be to improve performance and not to humiliate, insult, or point out the mistakes and weaknesses of the person.
Likewise, the leader should also be prepared to receive feedback from others, even in the form of constructive criticism. Being recipient to feedback, the leader gets to rethink and reflect upon the ideas and strategies. In contrast, being rigid and not willing to receive feedback will not allow the leader to take in different perspectives, which may eventually cause a deterrent to achieving the required the goals.
A leader is also supposed to give proper guidance to others, helping them to hone their skills in order to be closer to the vision that has been foreseen. Thus, the leader is required to be a mentor and coach to others. Coaching and mentoring skills reflect the nurturing aspect of leadership. It helps in developing confidence in others, making others believe in themselves, and enhancing their abilities.
While interacting with all kinds people, the leader has to deal with the many disagreements that may arise, either among the team members or between team members and the leader itself. Such disagreements give rise conflict. Disagreements, in a way, are a good sign, as they are indicating diverse perspectives. However, if that comes in the way of accomplishing the larger goals, then it needs to be taken care of. Thus, dealing with conflict or conflict management is an important skill of leadership. Especially, in times of globalization and multiculturalism, the skill of conflict management becomes very useful.
Depending on the situation, different conflict management styles can be used. These strategies or styles can be categorized under a concern for the needs of others or a concern for one’s own needs. In this regard, conflict can be managed either by passive, aggressive, or assertive behavior.
In avoiding style of conflict management, the individual passively ignores the issue, wherein the relationship is maintained, but somewhere the conflict remains unresolved. In accommodating style of conflict management, the individual passively gives in to the other person, ignoring one’s needs and going along with the other ones. In forcing style of conflict management, the individual aggressively gets his or her own way. The person may seem to be uncooperative, but caters to his or her own needs, and decision is made easily.
In the negotiating style of conflict management, the individual is being assertive, using give-and-take concessions. In this, the decision is made quickly, and relationships are also maintained. However, the decision made may not be the best possible one, which is why this is also called the compromising style of conflict management. Finally, in the collaborative style of conflict management, the individual is being assertive to jointly resolve the conflict with the best possible solution. This is also called the problem-solving style.
All the conflict management styles can be used, depending on the appropriateness and requirements of the situation. The collaborating style, however, is the most difficult, as it involves a lot of cooperation, and there is a will to get the best solution. Leaders are advised to get training in using to the collaborative style of conflict management.
As leadership involves the processes of relationship development and trust, these wide range of interpersonal and communication skills turn out to be fruitful. These skills also help in clearing the misconception that only extroverts can be good leaders. It is believed that leaders need to be good speakers, which is why introverts, who are generally hesitant, are not fit to be good leaders.
This is clearly inaccurate, because as mentioned above, leadership involves skills that are beyond being a mere good speaker. Additionally, the skills such as good listener, empathy, mentoring, and even the collaborative conflict management style are associated with introversion. Authors like Susan Cain and Jennifer Kahnweiler have suggested that introverts can be very effective leaders, at times better than extroverts. Many of the world leaders such as M. K. Gandhi, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates are known to be introverts.
Leadership involves being influential and bringing about change. This is both at the organizational level or at the larger societal level. In this regard, transformational leadership has been found to be the most effective, over the years. Introduced as a concept by James McGregor Burns, transformational leadership involves bringing about change in individuals as well as social systems.
Transformational leaders are said to be strong agents of change. They are inspirational, enthusiastic, and are known to be visionaries. They have the ability to develop strong connections, creating a collective identity. They redirect the thinking of the subordinates by creating a sense of purpose.
The transformational leader understands the strengths and weaknesses of the subordinates, making it easier to assign tasks. Such leaders enhance the motivation and boost the morale of the subordinates, increasing the performance levels. The defining feature of the transformational leader is that they develop new leaders.
Transformational leaders are often found to be similar to charismatic leaders. However, the difference lies in that, unlike transformational leaders, charismatic leaders have a self-promotional personality. Charismatic leaders also see themselves as above of the team, often believing more in themselves rather than the team. The approach of transformational leadership is being widely used, in the past few years.
A more recent and widely used approach to leadership is the emotionally intelligent leader. This approach was described by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, in their book Primal Leadership. The approach of the emotionally intelligent leader is based on the theory of emotional intelligence, which was introduced by Peter Salovey and John Mayer, and popularized by Daniel Goleman.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions of oneself and others, motivating oneself and others, and handling relationships. It involves self-awareness, self-management, social awareness (empathy), and relationship management. Based on the theory of emotional intelligence, Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee described six leadership styles, which are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setting, and commanding.
The visionary leadership style is one in which the leader inspires and is someone who strongly believes in his or her vision. The leader also believes in openly sharing information. The coaching leadership style is one in which the leader is a good listener, helps others to identify their strengths and weaknesses, and even counsels them. The affiliative leadership style is one in which the leader promotes harmony, is empathetic, boosts the morale of others, and resolves conflicts.
In the democratic leadership style, the leader is an active listener, a team worker, and a collaborator. In the pace-setting leadership style, the leader has a strong drive to achieve, and takes initiative. In the commanding leadership style, the leader monitors others, and exerts a tight control on others.
All six of the leadership styles can be used by the same leader, depending on the situation, the requirements, and the type of subordinates. Each of these styles are equally important in their own way. It cannot be said that one can be better than the other.
As the emotionally intelligent leader has characteristics of empathy, relationship management, and conflict resolution, they are known to be strong proponents of social justice. This strong belief in social justice makes the emotionally intelligent leader suitable and effective in dealing with diversity. It makes them to be accepted by a wide range of people, which turns out to be highly advantageous in bringing about change and being a visionary.
The approach of the emotionally intelligent leader has been found to very similar to transformational leadership. There is a whole lot of research that suggests that transformational leaders are high in emotional intelligence. Thus, there is a strong correlation between transformational leadership and the emotionally intelligent leader.
Leadership is a multifaceted process. It involves a number of skills, which are helpful in bringing about change in the individual, organization, and the society. The approaches of transformational leadership and the emotionally intelligent leader are highly popular, widely used, and have been found to be highly effective.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India

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