Four Traits of Inspirational Leadership
By: Antar Salim
Antar Salim, MBA serves as a coordinator for Rasmussen College at the Minnesota college campus. He has a Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan and a Master's in Management from Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville.
Leadership is often misunderstood in business. Because leadership traits are not learned in textbooks at business school; but rather driven though experience-the result, its benefits are often not fully realized or are vague. As our social and economic landscape changes and matures, it is imperative that businesses harness the benefits of effective leadership. Businesses must move beyond viewing leadership as just the ability to influence and motivate staff; leadership is much more holistic—it is the capacity to connect with individuals on an emotional level, and establish relationships that are value-based and intrinsically driven.
Over the past fifty years, researchers have attempted to codify the traits of effective leadership. In doing so, future leaders could be identified based on personality, intelligence, drive, and more. Unfortunately the research was not conclusive, and such qualities remained elusive. The next phase of leadership theory divided leaders into two camps - those that were relationship-oriented and those that were task-oriented. Although this yielded slightly more conclusive data than the trait theory, researchers still struggled to find strong academic evidence supporting what makes the perfect leader.
A new trend is concentrating on situational leadership, which alleges that a leader's success is contingent on various organizational variables, such as employee readiness, experience, and cultural factors. In essence, specific leaders will prosper in specific organizational cultures. This approach has led business professionals and practitioners to write about transformational leadership. These kinds of leaders are able to inspire their workforce by providing a vision for the future that is both exciting and tangible. This is the genesis for the CARE approach to effective leadership. In essence, successful leaders possess four key skills and traits, which can enhance leadership prowess:
3) relationship building
Management and leadership texts are replete of the benefits of effective communication. They stress the pros associated with the various forms of communication. In the end, effective communication is commensurate with a leader's ability to inspire his or her workforce by expressing ideas in a clear and concise manner. This takes more than just knowing what words to use or the tone of one's voice; it entails transplanting ideas that exist in the mind and heart of the leader to his or her employees. In order to communicate at a high level, one must be able to connect at both the cognitive and emotional level.
Authentic and Transparent Leadership
Communication is enhanced when the leader exhibits a high level of authenticity. This means being honest at all times and being comfortable with one's strengths and weaknesses. In a similar vein, it speaks to a level of vulnerability and transparency. Research suggests that leaders become less self-aware as they move up and as subordinates are less willing to share information and constructive feedback. Consequently, communication and the sharing of ideas for the betterment of the organization is thwarted. In order for a leader to leverage the power of communication, he or she must wield a human element and resonate with staff.
As our modern organizations become more complex and diverse, leaders must be able to foster strong and enduring relationships if they wish to leverage and wield influence. Many industries are navigating toward a service-based economy that requires different sources of motivation. For instance, research posits that extrinsic forms of motivation work best in manufacturing environments. Research also concludes that simple rewards often result in positive work relationships. On the other hand, intrinsic forms of motivation work best in organizations that rely on intelligential competencies. In short, leaders must be able to construct relationships based on purpose, values, and emotions in order to rally their workforce.
The Emotional Link
The ability to establish enduring relationships is enhanced when leaders possess moderate to high levels of emotional intelligence. Relating to leadership, empathy-the ability to understand, relate, and embrace the human element-quickly emerges as a major skill set, speaking to a leader's capacity to connect with employees. If you want an employee to follow you during prosperous times, relate to them in a cognitive manner. By the same token, if you want them to follow you during tumultuous times, relate to them on an emotional level.
In summary, as the global economy becomes more competitive, the need for effective leadership becomes more important. In order to meet the needs of the changing business landscape, leaders must leverage four aptitudes: communication, authenticity, relationship building, and empathy. Although management and leadership literature is saturated with models and recommendations to enhance a firm's success, it is vital that business leaders return to the basics in order to propel their organizations toward a successful future.
© Copyright 2011, Antar Salim
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. ManagerWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. ManagerWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.
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