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The nature of Leadership

Introduction: There is an old expression: "Leaders are born, not made." The implications of this saying are that power and leadership are vested in a limited number of people whose innate natural ability destines them to become leaders. By implication, those people with the 'right stuff' lead, and everyone else must follow. On a more philosophical level, a person's destiny is predetermined and preordained and no amount of effort, or learning or yearning will change that destiny. The alternative theory is that proper training can develop the initiative, self-confidence and charisma necessary to become an effective leader. In other words, leadership can be learned from studying and observing leaders who are effective, and by putting into practice what is learned.

The increasing rate of change in the business environment is a major factor in this new emphasis on leadership. To a significant extent, a manager's value to their employer is measured in terms of the performance of those who work for them. To be a truly effective manager, one must be an effective leader. Leadership is the process of influencing subordinates to accomplish specific goals and objectives by providing advice, direction, encouragement, feedback, motivation, support and training. Ronald Heifetz writes in Nieman Reports that leadership should not be confused with authority. Heifetz writes that often, great leaders go unrecognized because they delegate to others (Heifetz, 20). Some of the characteristics of effective leadership include:

The ability to provide a clear vision of their goals and the company's goals

Emotional stability, and a willingness to share credit when things go right and accept the blame when things go wrong

Self-confidence, including a willingness to surround themselves with subordinates with exceptional skills without being intimidated by them

Tact; and the ability and willingness to treat subordinates with respect.


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