What is Leadership and Why Does It Matter?

So what is leadership and why is it so frightening to boardroom executives (and many others to be fair)? What is the difference between those closely linked areas of leadership and management and can one succeed without the other?

I received an email recently that commented on the number of CEOs and senior managers that seem to be running scared of leadership, believing that there should be someone else to do that bit of their business for them. Well managed businesses will obviously do well just as certainly as poorly managed ones will struggle and flirt with failure (particularly in the current financial climate), but if you look closely at the most successful businesses and organisations (and I include in that a UK primary school where the Head has had a direct impact on the whole community) what sets them apart is leadership.

Lots of people (myself included obviously) believe that leadership matters. Good (or better yet, great) leaders are admired; even revered and poor leaders are the subject of derision, anger and rejection. The best leaders are rewarded (money, awards) and some of the more famous, or infamous, get their own TV show – John Harvey Jones had his own show well before Sir Alan. Often the great leaders are different, not run-of-the-mill, and may even be seen as mavericks. Above all they seem to get results and should be the example for all aspiring leaders to follow, so why is this not the case?

While it is still far too early to say, although that did not stop press speculation at the time, I do wonder what role leadership played in the cruise liner grounding off a previously unknown Italian island. We may never know, although I suspect lots of information will be made available during the inquiry, but after 24 years with the Royal Navy I believe that the performance of any ship is always directly related to the leadership of its captain and senior officers, so it must surely have played a crucial role.

In these blog articles on “Leadership Matters”, I will simply state my strongest beliefs on the subject of leadership and leave you to reflect. For me, leadership is all about inspiring and motivating people to deliver more than they thought themselves capable of. If you are the head of an organisation and your team are downhearted, anxious and simply doing enough to get by, then you are not yet excelling as a leader. If you have given them training, sufficient resources (including time) and clear instructions on what they are to achieve, then you are a competent and effective manager. But, and this is a big but, unless your team are giving their all for the benefit of the project, business or you, then you should take some time to reflect on what more you could be doing to be a highly successful in your leadership role.

So, with all this in mind, take a good look around. How well do you know the people around you? Do you really know what makes them get out of bed each morning to come to work and what they really want out of life? How well motivated are they and how much of that is within your gift to change? Finally, looking upwards, how inspired are you right now and just how well is your boss performing in their leadership role?

I’m sure that’s more than enough to be thinking about for now. I’d welcome your comments so feel free. Who knows, you may recognise some of your views in a future blog.

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