What REALLY leadership is all about

There are as many definitions of leadership as the thousands of books that were written on the topic over the years. Leadership has so many meanings and there is no right or wrong answer to the question of what leadership is. Depending on the person who leads and those being led, on any given day, leadership can mean teaching, coaching, motivating, cheerleading, counseling, guiding, correcting, protecting, explaining, and observing. Leadership requires that you chair meetings, hold hands, explain decisions, think about the future, and resolve conflict. None of these actions or tasks will happen discretely; usually, they’ll happen all at once.

If we want a quick, brief, and general definition of leadership, we can say that leadership is the ability to bring like-minded people together to get remarkable things done. Because humans are social species and natural hierarchies develop, the concept of leadership emerged. Someone must be in charge, share a vision, and lead others towards goals.


1. Define the task – they must make it clear what the group is expected to do.

2. Achieve the task – that is why the group exists. Leaders ensure that the group’s purpose is fulfilled. If it is not, the result is frustration, disharmony, criticism, and perhaps eventually disintegration of the group.

3. Maintain effective relationships – between themselves and the members of the group, and between the people within the group. These relationships are effective if they contribute to achieving the task. They can be divided into those concerned with the team and its morale and sense of common purpose, and those concerned with individuals and how they are motivated.


We as leaders have tremendous influence over the performance of our teams. Probably a lot more influence than we realize. How we do things and the way we work with our employees plays a huge role in the success of our teams. One of the key duties and responsibilities of the role of successful leaders is to constantly improve, empower and nurture their employees to help them become better at doing their job.

Management involves focusing on managing complexity by planning and budgeting with the aim of producing orderly results, not change while leadership focuses on producing change by developing a vision for the future along with strategies for bringing about the changes needed to achieve that vision.

Management involves developing the capacity to achieve plans by creating an organizational structure and staffing it, developing human systems that can implement plans as precisely and efficiently as possible. While leadership aims towards aligning people by communicating the new direction and creating coalitions that understand the vision and are committed to its achievement.

Management is about ensuring to properly plan accomplishment by controlling and problem-solving by comparing results to the plan, identifying deviations, and then planning to solve any problems that may arise while leadership uses motivation to energize people, not by pushing them in the right direction as control mechanisms do, but by satisfying basic human needs for achievement, a sense of belonging, recognition, self-esteem, a feeling of control over one’s life and the ability to live up to one’s ideas.

Every leader is a manager but not every manager is necessarily a leader. Management is concerned with the effective use of all resources, including people, while leadership concentrates on getting the best results out of people. However, they are both needed.

John Adair a leading British leadership expert, explained that these three demands are best expressed as three areas of need that leaders are there to satisfy. These are:

1- Task Needs – to get the job done

2- Individual needs – to harmonize the needs of the individual with the needs of the task and the group

3- Group maintenance needs – to build and maintain team spirit.

This model suggests that the task, individual, and group needs are interdependent. Satisfying task needs will also satisfy the group and individual needs. Task needs, however, cannot be satisfied unless attention is paid to individual and group needs, and looking after individual needs will also contribute to satisfying group needs and vice versa. There is a danger in becoming so task orientated that individual and group or team needs are ignored, and it is just as dangerous to be to people orientated, focusing on meeting individual or group needs at the expense of the task. The best leaders are those who keep these three needs satisfied and in balance according to the demands of the situation.

How do you think leaders do all this? What is the one common skill that leaders need to have and do very effectively to be able to inspire others, bring them together and get remarkable things done?

Leadership is about communicating effectively and connecting with others. Effective communication is a hallmark of a great leader. The best leaders can share their vision with passion and commitment.

Top leaders can make their messages simple enough for all to grasp and complex enough to make them interesting. But communication does not happen in just one direction; Listening to the needs, desires, and dreams of your employees is essential which will lead us to one of the most important tools leaders use to make the connection between employees’ statements of desire and needs to the goals and vision to achieve which is the motivation that we will be diving into next.

A major part of leadership is about motivating and mobilizing people, it’s one of the most potent tools that top leaders learned to use well to offer their people an “action guide”, a plan, a challenge, a goal, or a purpose that they are willing to embrace and carry on achieving amazing results.

This motivation model combines the established motivational theories (Maslow & Herzberg) and avoids its practical challenges – particularly in offices, call centers, or retail spaces – where sensory stimulation can be limited. It also avoids a major flaw in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where it suggests that you must fulfill the requirements of one set of needs before you can get to the next level up.

As humans, we all have a need to be, secure, connected, stimulated, and challenged. If these needs are met, we are more engaged and productive.

Secure: A feeling of well-being. For example, ‘Am I safe? ‘Do I have the means to provide for myself and my dependents?’ This is one of our most basic needs – we need to feel secure, both personal safety-wise but also have a roof over our head, financially secure...etc.

Connected: A feeling of being involved in a team or social network. Few of us like to work completely alone, and even those who do, like to have a feeling of worth within their work or social community. – We need to feel connected to other people, friends, family...etc. (there have been tragic cases of babies left without human contact who have just died).

Stimulated: In this instance, refers to sensory stimulation. Most of us would choose a seat on a train with a view, to listen to music if we were bored, to taste new and enticing flavors, etc. - we need our brains to be stimulated, to see value in our work.

Challenged: We all seek some degree of challenge. Without it, we will stagnate. However, in the workplace the degree of challenge may be impacted by our perceived payoff/benefit – As humans, we are at our most fulfilled when we are learning and growing, being challenged, and successfully meeting the challenge gives us intense satisfaction.

As a leader, which of the drivers can you influence the most?

· There is no magic formula to motivating a team, no one solution

· What you do is look at where you can impact. By having a relationship with your team as individuals you will start to learn how to engage them, how to provide stimulation and development

· For the team, you motivate by creating the right environment, one where they feel connected, where you have paid into the bank of goodwill by valuing them and providing for them that they can’t provide for themselves.

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