Leadership is something you know when you see it, but it’s a curiously tricky thing to understand. The path to effective leadership is strewn with misinterpretation, confusion, and outright falsehood, and it’s easy to wander from the right path if you aren’t careful.
The most widespread misunderstanding is that leadership is about driving from the top of a hierarchy – it’s an idea that has become painfully outdated. In the modern world, it’s the ethical leader who strides furthest and inspires most fully.
Let’s break it down.
How Does Ethical Leadership Work?
When you get right down to it, the central problem behind most ineffective leadership styles is the simple misunderstanding that leading is the same is managing. The two responsibilities often converge as part of the same role, but:
- Management involves directing people, instructing people, and making important decisions on behalf of their organisation.
- Leadership is about making people trust and respect you.
In short, management is all about process, while leadership is concerned with behaviour. Basically, leadership is about people.
As such, what’s central to the role of leadership is the act of serving. Poor leaders typically view themselves at the head of the business food-chain, with all others working towards furthering their own advantage.
Instead, you need to put the needs of the people you’re leading first. Examples of qualities associated with strong leaders include honesty, humility, courage, commitment, sincerity, passion, confidence, positivity, passion, sincerity, determination, sensitivity, and compassion. It is just those behaviours and attitudes that attract people, and attraction is key to effective leadership; if a team is only following you because they have to, you are not truly being a leader.
Strong leadership doesn’t stick to a certain style. Some leaders will work in a way that would be disastrous for others but which perfectly fits around their own situation. Other leaders can learn to adapt and use different leadership styles to meet the unique challenges of varying situations.
Good leaders also develop a very strong understanding of the key relationships within their organisations, both on a larger more complex level and on a smaller more interpersonal one. It’s a natural outgrowth of the commitment to putting your people first, which really isn’t something that you can do unless you have a strong handle on how your team’s skills are changing.
Remember, people naturally respond better to encouragement and recognition than to a dominant leadership style, even if it seems like that is exactly what is necessary. It’s those deeper human qualities listed above that are most vital to good leadership, not the conventional caricature of authority. In the modern age, good leaders are an enabling force, helping people develop rather than simply pushing them as hard as possible.
You may need to make tough decisions when required, but that doesn’t mean you need to foster a tough leadership style to match. It’s enabling the team to thrive that is your central mission.