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The Nature Of Leadership – Responsibility and Success

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What is the nature of leadership? What does it actually stand for? A leader can be defined as someone who people follow voluntarily. In my eyes, that’s the true essence of leadership.

Leadership is very much a process of inspiring others. Not just to work hard, but to accomplish the vision and goals of the organisation, group or cause, and the vision and purpose of the leader [1].

It is also a process of influencing others. Influence is about changing not only behaviour, but also thinking and ideas. Again, this influence is used to achieve certain goals [2].

Power To The People

There are five primary sources of power that leaders use to influence others. The first is legitimate power, which is the leader’s position within an organisation. The second is rewarding power, where incentives are used. Then there is coercive power, which is fear-based. And finally, there are my favourites: expert power, which is founded on your skills and experience; and referent power, which comes from the trust and respect others have for you.

Styling It Out

There are also a whole bunch of leadership styles, from autocratic through to laissez-faire. There tends to be a view that taking an autocratic approach is great, because you are the sole decision maker, so you can take control of everything. The belief is also that being laissez-faire is really ineffective, because you take such a hands-off approach. This is not the whole truth, in either case.

With power traits and leadership style, you need to know how to shift through all of the different approaches. You’re not looking to be one type of leader. You’re looking for fluidity. And how do you shift through the different sources of power and leadership styles? By being aware of what they are and how they work. There is a direct correlation between the extent of your awareness and the quality of your leadership.

With Great Power Come Great Responsibility

As every Marvel fan knows, with great power comes great responsibility. This means it is important to choose the sources of power and the leadership styles that suit you, your organisation, and the people you’re employing. This is because good leadership must be responsible leadership.

Dictators can be powerful leaders. They may be followed voluntarily, but one of their main sources of power is their willingness to use coercive influence to ensure those who do not follow voluntarily comply with their vision and purpose.

The really important part about responsible leadership is the use of non-coercive influence to shape a group, an organisation, or a set of individuals. This works not only to motivate their behaviour, but also to define culture. For this reason, the ability to move through the different sources of power and leadership styles is crucial. The key is knowing when and how to use them.

Companies that have great leaders have higher morale and lower staff turnover. These two factors make an enormous contribution to the success of a business, because they show you’ve got your culture right.

The 2016 Gallup employee engagement meta-analysis shows that businesses in the top quartile are 17% more productive, have 70% fewer safety incidents, and experience 41% less absenteeism [3].

You can’t take a “one size fits all” approach to getting your culture right, though. The way you lead always needs to be informed by your environment. So if you’re a small business employing two people then the way you cycle through power sources and leadership styles is likely to be very different to the approach taken by the head of a large corporation.

There are a number of reasons for this. The most important of which is that the small business owner is probably a manager and a leader at the same time. And fundamental to understanding leadership is recognising the distinction between these two roles.

Leadership Versus Management

Both leaders and managers provide direction, but where leaders create an environment for change, managers maintain order. When you’re leading from the front, change can be part of your culture.

This is because where managers train, leaders teach. Effective leadership means your people become accustomed to change, they become resilient, they become quick to adapt, and eventually they begin to innovate. Their ideas flourish, and this is central to the notion of wellbeing. The wellbeing of your people feeds back into having your culture right. And having your culture right feeds back into the success of your organisation.

Kristian Livolsi


  1. Schermerhorn, J. (2012). Organizational behavior. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  1. Bartol, K. (2001). Management. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  1. Gallup, I. (2018). Gallup Q12® Meta-Analysis Report. [online] Gallup.com. Available at: https://news.gallup.com/reports/191489/q12-meta-analysis-report-2016.aspx?g_source=link_wwwv9&g_campaign=item_236297&g_medium=copy [Accessed 15 Nov. 2018].
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