If you wanted to put an exact number on articles and publications about leadership, you would most probably run into tens of thousands. Since the topic is extremely popular, the production of materials by different authors who claim to push the boundaries of the field further has been tremendous.
Tracing everything that is being written about leadership and leadership development is a full-time job in itself, let alone trying to pinch in something new. It is no surprise then that the rationale behind some publications that are released at the moment is creating order out of chaos, rather than contributing further research and findings. There is value in synthesizing different approaches, tools and opinions to try to arrive at the true essence of leadership.
The latest book by the trio of authors, Dave Ulrich, Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman, called Leadership Code: 5 Rules to Lead By does exactly that – it brings together different thread in leadership research and suggests a synthesized view, encapsulated in five critical features that make a business leader. What are they?
Personally, I find the first one the most compelling. It maintains that to be effective as leaders, people have to constantly invest in themselves on a number of levels. This is necessary to develop what they call a personal proficiency, a holistic quality that is achieved only when you grow physically, intellectually, professionally and spiritually.
In practice, it means that whoever wants to lead has to be ready to keep learning and changing throughout their lives, staying ahead of the pack and investigating possible courses of action. It is particularly important in the context of frequent assertions that leaders are born not made – in fact, they are more often than not a product of lasting effort on a variety of fronts.
Another feature that unites most great leaders is the ability to think in strategic terms. It means being aware where you are going and making it clear to others in an organization and outside it. But it has to go beyond a level of ideas – concepts should be tested in practical ways and strategic cooperation with others is necessary to chart the path to achieving a desired goal.
Also, leadership training has to focus on execution, as leaders without an apparatus for making thing happen, for getting things done, for bringing out value from concepts are going to fail the greatest test for executives, which is implementation. This involves other skills – for example delegation and allocating resources.
Another thing is that great leaders are also adept at managing talent. Leadership development should involve training people to identify, nurture and make the most of gifted people who are in organizations. Leadership means the ability to hand out incentives that contribute to building loyalty and commitment towards organizational goals.
Leadership seems to be very ego-centric at first glance, bordering on a cult of personality, but in reality, especially in the context of business, it is more about developing human capital in others, nurturing their talents, helping them to grow within an organization.
By John Vaughan