What Makes A Great Leader?

What Makes A Great Leader?

Which qualities first come to mind when we hear the word 'leadership'?  Is it confidence? Determination? Gravitas? Charisma? Toughness? There are plenty of opinions and a variety of leadership theories but one thing is clear; the traditional concept of a leader being an operating chief at the top of a hierarchy is false reflection of what true leadership is about.

Danial Goleman, psychologist, in his research of nearly 200 large global companies found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership (such as 'intelligence, toughness, determination and vision'), although necessary for success are insufficient for true leadership. Apparently, truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of ‘emotional intelligence’, which includes self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skill. Furthermore, there’s a direct link between such qualities deemed as ‘soft’ and ‘unbusinesslike’ skills and measurable business results.

It is clear that people’s leadership styles vary significantly but Goleman’s research found that ‘emotional intelligence’ is a characteristic that great leaders have in common. Without it, a person can have high IQ, technical skills, an analytical mind and endless creativity, but it won’t make a great leader. These are just entry points required for executive roles.

The concept of leadership constituted a substantial part of RSG’s recent round table Debate 'The Puzzle of Motivation' attended by leading HR experts. The Debate participants focused their discussion on the importance of leadership capability within organisations and the fact that organisations are in need of more inspirational, sophisticated leaders. They stressed that strong, inspirational leadership is a key driver of employee, engagement.

The Debate participants referred to Jim Collins, a business consultant who conceptualised Level 5 Leadership; the highest level in a hierarchy of executive capabilities. He argues that the key factor that allows a company to become great is having a Level 5 leader. Such leaders are humble do not seek success for their own glory. On the contrary, success is necessary so that the team and organisation can thrive. They share credit for success, and they are first to accept blame for mistakes. Surprisingly, they are often shy, but fearless when it comes to making decisions, especially ones that most people consider risky.

It seems that a lot of today’s leaders are not particularly well equipped to handle the challenges organisations are currently facing and there is a shortage of 'great leaders'. With this in mind, what is the best way to ensure that we spot people with great leadership potential?  How do we attract the right talent to lead our businesses into the future?

Author: Mike Beesley

Posted on: Thursday 29th May 2014

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