Leadership defined: what it means to be a true leader

Leadership is a crucial driving force in any organisation and is a topic of discussion that is sure to cross the mind of many employers when considering the workforce present in their company. Leaders understand the importance of the people within an organisation and can exercise influence over their actions and behaviours which has been associated with a range of benefits including heightened employee engagement and productivity levels. With the importance of good leaders in mind, we discuss the concept of leadership and what it means to be a true leader.

What does leadership mean to you?

The way in which leadership is defined is largely influenced by the individual describing it. Some may think of leadership as a force that does what it takes to achieve results whilst others may place more focus on their influence and relationship with employees.

Nelson Mandela once said that it is better to lead from behind and to position others for front line credit, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

This quote resonates with me about what it means to be a true leader.

Human Capital is the greatest resource that an organisation has at their disposal and a leader is the driving force behind harnessing its true potential. What your employees put into their work accumulates into the overall performance of your business, a process that is only strengthened when there are strong leaders in place to support and guide their efforts.

Leaders know when to be the cheerleader and when to be the warden, when to be the student and when to be the teacher. A leader knows their team, what challenges they face, where their strengths lie, as well as what motivates them. They utilise this knowledge in order to empower their team members in both their professional and personal lives, creating a culture of collaboration and support within their organisation. This culture in turn fosters innovation and productivity by building up the confidence and capabilities of all employees and ensuring that they have access to the tools necessary to successfully fulfill their roles.

A leader is able to harness their own capabilities as well as those of the people around them in order to create a talented workforce with the drive to achieve business excellence. By translating the vision of the organisation into a clear message, a leader gives employees meaning and purpose to their actions and demonstrate how important their efforts are to the livelihood of the organisation.

Leaders need to be mindful of their own unconscious bias when interacting with people in their organisations, starting by asking themselves;

  • Is your go-to person as a result of this?
  • Could you be missing out on a good idea?
  • Are your actions causing disengagement?
  • Are you leveraging diversity through inclusion?

Diversity and inclusion in organisations has been linked to a increased business performance. It brings a multitude of perspectives and experiences to the table, fostering innovation and creativity amongst employees.

Good leaders recognise the value that diversity and inclusion brings to the organisation and actively work against any unconscious bias that they may have for the benefit of the individual employees and organisation as a whole.