What is 'Leadership'

Leadership is the ability of a company's management to set and achieve challenging goals, take swift and decisive action, outperform the competition, and inspire others to perform well. It is tough to place a value on leadership or other qualitative aspects of a company, compared to quantitative metrics that are commonly tracked and much easier to compare between companies. Individuals with strong leadership skills in the business world often rise to executive positions such as CEO (Chief executive officer), COO (Chief operating officer), CFO (Chief financial officer), president and chairman.

BREAKING DOWN 'Leadership'

Leadership provides direction for a company. Employees need to know the direction in which they are headed and who to follow to reach the destination. Leadership involves showing workers how to effectively perform their responsibilities and regularly supervising the completion of their tasks. Leadership is also about setting a positive example for staff to follow, by being excited about the work, being motivated to learn new things, and helping out as needed in both individual and team activities.

Characteristics of Effective Leadership

Effective leadership includes strong character. Leaders exhibit honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and ethics. Leaders act in line with how they speak, and earn the right to be responsible for others’ success in the company.

Strong leadership involves clear communication skills. Leaders speak with and listen to staff members, respond to questions and concerns, and are empathetic. Leaders use effective communication skills for moving the company forward and achieving new levels of success.

True leadership sees where the company is headed and plans the steps needed to get there. Visualizing what is possible, following trends in the industry, and taking risks to grow the business are all required of leaders.

Productive leadership shows optimism and provides positive energy for staff. Leaders are helpful by nature and truly concerned about others’ well-being. Leaders find answers to challenges and are the first to reassure and inspire workers when things do not go according to plan. Leaders find ways for staff to work together and achieve maximum results in an efficient and effective manner.

Example of Leadership

Jack Welch exhibited leadership as chief executive officer (CEO) of General Electric Co. from 1981 to 2001. He played an integral part in 600 acquisitions in emerging markets and increased GE’s market value from $12 billion to $505 billion. Because things are constantly changing, Welch insisted everyone at GE embrace change. To continue evolving company operations and producing greater output, managers and employees had to continuously reinvent themselves and their work.

Welch hired managers who shared his vision of GE, had endless amounts of energy, and were able to encourage employees to stay engaged in their work. He sought managers who created, developed and refined ideas for the future, and found ways to make them a reality. He also insisted that managers work side-by-side with employees as a way of understanding what they were doing and why.

As a result of Welch’s leadership style, managers and employees were more empowered, products gained higher quality, and customer satisfaction and profits increased dramatically.

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