How to be an effective leader, lessons from great leaders, experts
How to be an Effective leader versus a mere head
To learn how to be an effective leader, we must learn from great leaders themselves.
The great statesman Nelson Mandela of South Africa is gone but his legacy lives on.
Today I want to concur with what he said in his autobiography, that most effective leaders will not lead from the front but from behind.It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership- Nelson Mandela. Read more at: Brainy quotes
Leading from behind- qualities of an effective leader
So you want to become a great and effective leader? Fine, let us first decipher whether you are leader or a mere head of a group.
In his book: The Social Psychology of Industry, J.A.C Brown (1954, reprinted 1970) gives this analogy:
The earliest types of machine were, for the most part, of such a nature that, once started, they went on carrying out certain actions with mechanical precision until the man controlling them stopped the engine or until they ran out of fuel. Left to themselves, they would grind on whether they were being fed with work or not. But to an increasing degree, the modern machine is self -regulating and its work is controlled by such devices as the photo-electric cell which regulates the machine by passing on to the controls messages from the environment.
As a very simple example, the ordinary electric heater (e.g a coil water heater) when turned on will go on giving out exactly the same amount of heat regardless of the temperature of the room (or water, it is boiling).
Effective At most times this may be quite satisfactory, but in very cold weather, its heat may not be enough and in a very hot weather it may be too great. (If it is an ordinary water heater, it may still keep giving heat even if water has boiled).
The most modern heating system, however, is controlled by a thermostat, so that in a very cold weather, the temperature of the room will remain reasonably constant because the system is controlled by messages from the environment.
Lesson from the thermostat analogy:
The inefficient leader is like the old-fashioned machine (ordinary electric heater). His personality is rigid and fixed, he receives no messages from the environment, and his leadership is only effectual when the emotional climate of the group happens to coincide with his own peculiarities. That dictator cum lunatic Adolf Hitler for example, or the industrial agitator could only make effective leaders when they were in charge of equally suspicious or resentful groups of people; in any other situation they are seen as pathetic misfits or dangerous lunatics. Such people may be intelligent, but they are a kind of emotionally prejudiced minds with rigid personalities and fixed ideas.
On the other hand, the effective leader is like the thermostatically-controlled heating system. He is receptive and his power is under the control of the incoming messages which inform him of the changing emotional climates of his group.
(Think of how an electric kettle works. You switch it on and it switches itself off when water boils. That is what we call intelligent leadership. One that knows when to stop emitting heat. The thermostat controlled electric heater is even better since it can stop and start on its own depending on how it has been set.)
This does not mean to imply that is role is purely passive, or that he is a chameleon who changes his opinions with every swing of emotional climate. On the contrary, while being receptive to such swings, he will endeavour to act like a human thermostat in keeping the climate constant at healthy level.
Nor does it mean that he is capable of handling all possible situations. He is not a superman. But he will certainly be able to deal with a much wider range of situations than the prejudiced man with fixed ideas. In short his function is to keep the emotional climate constant through many changing situations, to keep the situations which seem to demand the dictator or the agitator from arising.
Two statements on the nature of leadership may clarify these points. The first is by C.I Barnard, a leading authority on management, from an essay on ‘The nature of leadership’ in the book Human Factors in Management, edited by S.D Hoslett.
Dr. Barnard writes that the good leader in industry may sometimes give the impression that he is a rather stupid fellow, an arbitrary functionary, a mere channel of communication, and a filcher of ideas.
In a measure this is correct. He has to be stupid enough to listen a great deal, he certainly must arbitrate to maintain order and he has to be at times a mere centre of communication. If he used only his ideas he would be somewhat like a one-man orchestra, rather than a good conductor, who is a very high type of a leader.
The difficulty, says Barnard, is to find people who have these qualities, who are properly stupid, effective channels of communication, and capable of stealing (borrowing) the right ideas.
The second statement consists of two quoatations from the Tao-Te-King, the Taoist scripture if China which dates about five or six hundred years before Christ:
The best soldier is not soldierly;
The best fighter is not ferocious;
The best conqueror does not take part in war;
The best employer of men keeps himself below them.
This is called the virtue of not contending;
This is called the ability of using men.
The great rulers- the people do not notice their existence;
The lesser ones-they attach to and praise them;
The still lesser ones- they fear them;
The still lesser ones-they despise them.
How to be an effective leader:
The leader who is, in effect, a one-man orchestrar is what we shall describe as an autocrat. The autocrat man shows the following characteristics: he gives orders which he insists shall be obeyed, he determines policies for the group without consulting them, he gives no detailed information about future plans but simply tells the group what immediate steps they must take, he gives personal praise or criticism to each member on his own initiative, and remains aloof from the group for the greater part of the time.
In other words, like the old-fashioned heating system, he gives out energy without regard for the emotional climate which surrounds him.
Contrasted with this type of leader is the democrat who gives orders only after consulting the group, see to it that policies are worked out in a group discussion and with the acceptance of the group, never asks people to do things without sketching out the long-term plans on which they are working, makes it clear that praise or blame is a matter for the group and participates in the group as a member. Of a third type of leader, the laissez faire type, little need to be said, except that does not lead, leaves the group entirely to itself, and does not participate.
How be an effective leader- avoid one-man show
A genuine democrat is an effective captain of industry. He is the conductor of an orchestra rather than o one-man-band, and he realizes that his job is to coordinate the willing work of his employees or to borrow from the political field, is to lead a coalition of the willing. He realizes , too, that a firm should be something beyond individual personalities, and that it is the sign of good leadership that things will go quite smoothly when he is temporarily absent.
His employees know what they what they are doing and why, and they do not have to pretend in order to get on.
Authority is delegated all down the line, and all levels of management feel sufficiently secure to consider the well-being of their subordinates instead of constantly looking up the line to make sure they are being approved.In summary it is clear that an effective leader does not think he is a special kind of man, but rather that he is one of the group; he never gives orders without explaining why they are necessary; he discusses problems with the group and treats his men as co-workers rather than instruments; he keeps them informed about future plan, so that they know what they are doing and why they are doing it; he delegates authority and see to it that nobody is indispensable.
It is clear that that in modern industry compulsion has to be replaced by co-operation or else be ready for sabotage which may do a great deal of damage. To succeed, a leader must have the power of the group behind him.
How to be an effective leader: Co-operation cannot be produced by force
The workers by reason of their informal authority have the much greater power of accepting or rejecting cooperation with the formal hierarchy.
As an effective leader ask yourself not whether you can lead but also ask if they will follow. Also know that if the led cannot follow, it is easy to change the leader than the followers.
No effective leader can increase productivity, raise morale or improve social conditions in the factory without the co-operation of others. The supposition that the leader is someone with a powerful personality, a magnetic eye, a commanding voice and so on is a fallacy. In fact there are good reasons why self-centred, and power loving individuals should not be placed on positions of responsibility; for the power loving man is a sick man who seeks to compensate for his own inadequacies by gaining control over others.
In his book The Group Approach to Leadership-testing Dr. Henry Harris says: Effective Leadership is a collective function; collective in the sense that it is the integrated synergized expression of the group’s efforts; it can only arise in relation to a group’s problem or purpose; it is not the sum of of individual dominances and contributions, it is their relationship.