Leadership, what is it, and what is the difference between being a manager and being a leader?. Definitions of leadership, there is not a single definition that everyone agrees on. Manfred Kets de Vries, a professor at INSEAD, says that leadership is a set of characteristics, behavior patterns, personality attributes that make certain individuals more effective in achieving a set goal or objective.
Another way of describing leadership is to say that, to get the best out of people, individuals, teams, organizations, they need to be led, guided, persuaded, motivated, inspired, to be committed, to do their best, to work together to achieve a common objective. This, rather than the pure management approach of being told, directed, ordered, and treated as subordinates.
True leaders are recognized as being the leader, and their followers accept that they need to be guided by that leader, but they do not feel that they are mere subordinates. A good example is the captain of a sports team – hockey, baseball, netball, cricket, soccer, football, athletics – these are individuals who have an individual role to play, yet find time and ways to motivate and encourage others to do their best, to use their own individual skills, knowledge, and experience (scoring goals, defending, winning races, hitting home runs) whilst at the same time working together as a member of the team to achieve team objectives.
There are other ways of defining leadership, managers perform transactions, and leaders bring about transformations.
The transactional manager influences others by appealing to self-interest, primarily through the exchange of rewards and services. The relationship between this type of manager and the follower is seen as a series of rational exchanges that enable each to reach their own goals. Transactional managers supply all the ideas and use rewards as their primary source of power. Followers comply with the leader when it’s in their own interest – the relationship continues as long as the reward is desirable to the follower, and both the manager and the follower see the exchange as a way of achieving their own ends.
The transformational leader inspires followers to not only perform as expected but to exceed expectations – transformational leaders motivate followers to work for goals that go beyond immediate self-interest, where what is right and good becomes important – these leaders transform the needs, values, preferences, and aspirations of followers. They do this so that the interests of the wider group replaces the self-interest of individuals within that group.
It’s interesting that research has shown that the way women leaders describe how they behave, lead, is in line with the transformational style, whereas most male leaders when describing themselves use words and phrases that describe the transactional style. There are exceptions of course, and in some situations, the leader can be viewed differently by different groups. Many people in the UK would not describe Margaret Thatcher as transformational in style, but more likely they would use words such as dictatorial, domineering, riding roughshod over opponents, yet others, in her close team, for example, describe her as charismatic, motivational, inspirational, kind, supportive.
We can see from this look at Leadership that there are different ways of describing what a leader does, and how, at least in some ways, this is different to how a manager behaves. Individuals recognized as leaders make it obvious that there are great differences in the way in which certain leaders behave. On the surface, there are great differences between the leadership style of Prime Minister Thatcher, and that of the Indian industrialist Rajiv Bajaj. Yet both are widely acknowledged as highly successful leaders. The common factor, it seems, is that all are able to persuade others to follow them, in order to achieve success in their particular field. They all have something that brings diverse people together, to work as a team, to aim for, and work hard to achieve a common objective. It is, perhaps, a special talent, or characteristic, or personality trait, or set of circumstances that they find themselves in, or perhaps a combination of all of these. Perhaps leaders are born with this ability, perhaps it is something that can be, or has to be, learned.