“Leadership is a lot like love. Everyone thinks it’s special, but hardly anyone agrees on a definition” (Peltier, 2010), and yet lists of top leaders like The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders are being compounded regularly and agreed upon.
How to define and measure good leadership
As there is no commonly used leadership definition available, many different models of leadership exist. Some focus on personal qualities or traits, some on behaviours and actions, some concentrate on the quality of the context and some examine the interaction between the character of the leader and the situation. Additionally, it’s important to say most of the current leadership literature shows a distinct American/European bias, has a masculine tendency and is favouring individualism and autonomy.
Measuring or assessing leadership effectiveness are both equally difficult, and the most comment approach used is whether an organization is successful. We need to ask, however, at what point in time were the measurements taken, how is success defined, and by whom? And then there is the question: how can a leader be extremely successful in one context but fail in others?
Research on leadership
Modern leadership models look at charisma and traits, interaction between leader and followers, leadership styles, decision making principles of leaders, personal drive, and developmental stages of leaders – e.g. The seven ages of the leader in parallel with Shakespeare’s seven ages of man (The lover, with a woeful ballad: For emerging leaders one of the toughest is how to relate to former peers who now report to you.) The aim of the research is to figure out what constitutes good leadership and how to develop and prompt it.
So, what constitutes a good leader?
One thing is clear, there are no universal traits that will guarantee good leadership. For one trait you can name a good leader and a not so good leader. Nevertheless, there are traits that arise most frequently through research and seem to be important qualities to lead successfully: establishing collaborative relationships, creating a climate of trust and emotional maturity are amongst them.
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Not all positions or organisations are suitable for all leaders. Individuals and organizations need to assess carefully the demands of the organisation and its context to find the perfect match.
The most important aspect, however:
Having the right mindset
Not everyone is interested in being a leader – and organisations are advised to respect that. But those who want to be leaders don’t necessarily have the right mindset to be a leader. Leadership programs offer tools and techniques to learn the skills needed to become a good leader (as we do with our ThinkChangeGrow for Future Leaders program), however, the tools are not the key for change. It’s the mindset that drives the tools!
It takes a willingness to learn, to adapt, to think reflectively, to change perspectives, to value others perspectives and to personally grow. It takes a growth mindset to be a leader.