Recently I was invited as a speaker to the NNPC (Nigerian National Petroleum Company) forum held in Dubai for some of their managers. The presentation covered “How to motivate teams to achieve company goals.”
During the presentation, as we were discussing the skills required for a manager to achieve these goals, the question of Leadership was raised and we discussed the differences between Leadership and Management and what those words meant to the managers that were in the room.
This made me think more about Leadership and often how loosely it is used in organizations with the meaning being quite different to each person.
I feel that people often confuse the meaning of leadership with what is effectively management, or the role of a manager and I strongly believe after reading many articles and books and also based on my own experience, that the two skill sets of the manager and leader are, in reality, entirely different.
Now, I tend to align my thoughts with Marcus Buckingham, who wrote ‘the one thing you need to know’, where he clearly defines the requirements for each role, and where a lot of my inspiration as a leader comes from.
So what is leadership? What makes a good leader? How is it different from management? Leadership requires a person to not only create the vision and the goals of the company, but also to navigate the boat towards the direction they are wanting to go in.
Leaders not only need to create this vision, but they also need to be able to get others to buy into this dream and see it as an achievable destination by being excited and motivated by this reality. The qualities of a leader are unique and unwavering in this respect.
Therefore, a leader must be positive, always inquisitive and curious, be able to take calculated risks, be experts in navigating their way forward, be able to see opportunities where others may not, and good leaders are therefore undeniably optimistic and forward thinking.
Some of you may be saying that these are the qualities that are required in management as well, and yes to a point that is true, but that is not the core goal of a manager.
The manager’s role is to coach, grow, develop, and most importantly identify the key strengths in their staff and to figure out how to use them in the best way to achieve the goals of the leaders.
Managers are those that help to steer the boat and manage the challenges faced, while the leader looks past them. Management therefore requires a completely different skill set to the leadership role.
Can leadership be taught? I believe that it is possible to teach someone how to lead, but the personality characteristics which are required are unique to the person and the role, and if the foundation is not there then it is not possible to teach.
A great leader needs to be naturally inquisitive in nature, possess a very positive attitude and outlook to the future with an ‘anything is possible’ view, they have optimism when things are tough, and look for solutions to overcome or change direction.
They have a natural ‘presence’ and an ego to match, usually loving the limelight. They are comfortable with change and also often are the catalyst of this. Leaders are always driving forward to achieve the next thing. These are some of the qualities needed to be a great leader.
Training harnesses these strengths and focuses them in the right way to get the best out of them.
On the flip side, if a person is naturally pessimistic, negative, or does not thrive in the limelight, and does not enjoy always being ‘ON’, then changing these natural characteristics is simply too hard, meaning a leadership role may not be the better role for that individual. Not only will it require a complete change, but it will most likely make them very unsatisfied.
With all that being said, is leadership important to the success of a team and an organization?
The answer is a definite YES. All successful organizations have had great and inspiring leaders at the helm, driving the company forward with their vision.
Without great leadership, the boat may be headed on a long journey and become overwhelmed by the challenges that are faced on the high seas.
An effective leader will enable you to navigate these seas and overcome challenges with a focus on the horizon, keeping your destination in mind and at heard with the whole crew singing along the way.