The Key to the What, How and Who of Leadership

“What makes a leader?” What is leadership?’ Those are questions that have been the subjects of numerous books, articles and workshops for the past few decades. For an organization to function effectively it must have effective leadership, so what constitutes effective leadership?

The What
With all the research on leadership that has occurred during the past few decades, it has become abundantly clear that the “what” of leadership is “a vision.”

Leadership guru Jack Welch has repeatedly stated in his writings that a leader is someone with vision and the ability to articulate that vision to the team so vividly and powerfully that it becomes their vision.

A definition of leadership that I like, but have seen stated by so many people that I am unclear as to whom I should give credit for using, is “a clear and compelling sense of the future as well as an understanding of the actions it takes to get there.”

In his article, “Role of an Organizational Leader,” Ashim Gupta states, “The most fundamental role of a leader is to define the organizational goal, formulate plans and organize people to achieve the goals through the execution of plans.”

With that said, if the “what” of the role of a leader is “vision,” what are the “how” and the “who”?

The How
The vision determines the direction of the organization, but without strategy, the organization goes nowhere. Strategy articulates the plans or describes “how to achieve the
vision.”

Plans or strategies demonstrate the job knowledge or the skills if a leader which includes organizational restructuring (if needed), service or product delivery and management, and strategic management.

The Who
Now, we know the what (the vision) and the how (the strategy) of leadership, what is “The Who”?

The “Who” is “people”! People are the ones who are going to use the strategy to accomplish the vision. Not just any people, but the right people to carry out the strategy to reach the goals.

Effective leaders have good people skills. These people skills include providing inspiration and motivation, establishing good working relationships, intelligently using power and position in a way that hooks people to both the vision and the strategy on how to achieve the vision.

The Key
The key skill that bridges “the What, How and Who of Leadership” is decision making. Every leader has to deal with an array of options in the exercise of leadership.

Good leadership hinges on how effectively he/she chooses what he/she wants to accomplish, how he/she plans to accomplish it and who he/she is going to select to carry out the strategy.

Leadership and decision making are companions which means if there is no decision making, there is no leadership. In the same vein, failing to decide produces the same result as deciding to fail.

The Key to the What, How and Who of Leadership
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