For a long time, it was believed that the key to being a successful leader was to have authority. More and more, however, people are starting to understand that successful leaders are influencers, not dictators. That being said, authority is also very important. Take Charles Phillips, Infor CEO and Marissa Mayer, of Yahoo!, master & mistress of their business respectively. Nobody could possibly say that they do not have authority, but they are also influencers.
The Key to Successful Leadership
What matters most is what someone’s goal is when they start to lead an organization. If they want their staff to be subordinates, working from compliance, then authority is needed above all. If, however, they look for commitment from their staff, they must be influencers. Those who work for a leader who is mostly influential will be far more committed to the organization as a whole. They are more likely to put in overtime, talk to difficult customers, and think outside of the box. That being said, the old fashioned ‘command and control’ model also had a lot to be said for, not in the least that things get done and they get done on time.
What is important in an organization is that everybody works as part of a team, and that everybody is respected for their individual contributions to the whole organization. People need to be able to speak, and be involved in coming up with out of the box solutions. People shouldn’t be told what to do, they should be influenced to think in the right direction. This leads to an effective, productive workplace in which people trust their leader and each other, work in collaboration, share information, and are open with each other.
If a leader becomes influential above authoritative, they will see their employees blossom. People will suddenly be able to really utilize not just their established skills, but their hidden talents as well. This is very important for the younger workforce, who are still finding their feet but therefore have some of the most interesting opinions on things. They are motivated, but they have also learned to be independent thinkers and they expect their leaders to be engaged with them on an equal footing. When they enter a traditional workforce, with a top-bottom chain of command, they often become distrustful, disgruntled, and effectively stuck.
A truly effective leader leads in the way their staff wants to be led. Sometimes, people simply need to be told what to do. Decisions have to be made quickly, and they have to be clear. Overall, however, true authoritative leadership seems to be a thing of the past. People have learned that leaders may know a lot, they don’t know everything. They look for someone who can inspire them and take them to the next level, by celebrating, fostering, and nurturing individual talent and paying respect where it is due. The key to leadership, therefore, is to be an influencer, but one who can switch back to authority if an emergency situation occurs.