Leadership: The Foundation for Organizational Success

Often, good management is confused with strong leadership. Leadership is considered pertinent to the success and outcome of any given project or mandate. Without leadership, organizational goals are jeopardized. Cowan works with organizations to attract, develop and retain top leadership talent.

So, what is the difference between a manager and a leader?

The studies dedicated to leadership theories attempt to break it down by first outlining these differences, and determining the type of leadership qualities that support organizational and project success.

Manager vs. Leader

Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus summarized it quite simply in their book Leadership: Strategies for Taking Charge, “Managers are people who do things right and leaders are people who do the right thing”.  According to the authors, managers are often focused on the human and  material  aspects of the project aligned to overall organizational goals.  Leaders on the other hand, facilitate the identification of organizational goals. They develop and articulate organizational vision, bring energy and engage stakeholders in order to garner support and inspire participation. Leaders create organizational culture to ensure that the right thing in done throughout projects and mandates.

The Importance of Top Talent

Why are talented leaders important? According to a Harvard Business Review study by Daniel Goleman, leadership is responsible for up to 30% of the organization’s bottom line. Leadership is the difference between being engaged in the process and attached to the goal, or ending up frustrated with the organization or with management due to a lack of aligned objectives. Top talent in leadership impacts the working atmosphere, division, or team, and in turn, its financial performance.

What Makes a Good Leader?

According to Daniel Goleman’s theory on leadership, a successful leader is dynamic and does not subscribed to one particular leadership style.  Leadership styles should be situational and dynamic. Based on Goleman’s findings, there are six different leadership styles. Four of which are conducive to team harmony and inclusion, while the remaining two leadership styles, although results oriented, may also insight segmentation, frustration and possibly discord within the organization and among members.

Leadership Styles

Visionary – Every organization should have a vision, a “raison d’être”. A visionary leader is someone who is able to move people towards a common goal, vision and direction.  Without a vision, how can one insight participation and engagement among stakeholders? Whether driving funding initiatives, or the hiring of skilled labour, without vision and the ability to articulate that vision, getting people on board will be a challenge.

Coaching – The benefits of coaching are endless. Leaders with the capacity to coach and even mentor their workforce helps individuals improve their performance and supports employees in aligning their professional goals with those of the organization.  Coaching increases employee satisfaction and limits turnover.

Affiliative – Although teamwork may not be necessary in every job, for the most part it is a reality for many.  While some may thrive in team environments and others may struggle, a successful leader will understand the importance of affiliation and synergy.   For organizations who have implicitly determined that teams and relationships must develop organically, or that they must work out their own problems, conflict may arise. Affiliative leadership ensures that roles are outlined, working relationships successful and conflict addressed.

Democratic – How can one obtain consensus when there may be some who either do not agree with a plan, or hesitate to support one being tabled? A democratic approach values input, insight and experience. Although implementing this leadership style may require an investment of time,  creating an environment where the opinion of those involved is recognized  and considered is a successful approach to obtaining consensus among teams and within organizations.

The remaining two leadership styles determined by Goleman are considered much more commanding and directional in their approach.  Pacesetting  and commanding leadership styles are focused on expectations and results.

Pacesetting - Although valuable to organizational objectives, Pacesetting leadership has the capacity to leave less competent people behind and ultimately dissatisfied.  Those who are high performers tend to thrive in organizations that support pacesetting leadership and direction. It makes sense, right?  Yet, this leadership style rarely considers the strengths of those who attain success outside of the objective’s parameters that are equally relevant to overall organizational and/or project success.

Commanding –  People need direction. Some more than others.  In moments of crisis, direction and resolution is most often the missing ingredient.   In those instances, the ability to realign those involved towards productivity, reiterating objectives and renewing the sense of engagement adds calm to crisis.  It is however possible that some respond negatively to this leadership style should it be too often implemented.

Know How you Lead

Leadership impacts the bottom line, stakeholder engagement and project success. Without leadership productivity is compromised, conflict is often unresolved, and in some instances, job satisfaction sacrificed.   With volatility affecting commodities, markets and financing, the margin for error is slim and success must be guaranteed.  Leadership is the foundation on which organizational and project success is based.

What kind of leader are you?