Good definition of organizational leadership quoted in Ken Cochrum’s book “Close“:
Organizational leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members.
That must be half of the definition of strategic leadership. I like it.
There are just two things that a leader needs to do:
- Ensure the people following / working for him / her know what their objectives are.
- Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives.
It is that simple. Really, it is that simple.
I’ve worked for a lot of different people over the decades in multiple cultures across many countries and socio-economic groups. I’ve worked with all types, from micro-managers to absentee managers. I’ve observed that what the good leaders did boiled down to just these two things. Now, there’s detail behind these things.
“Ensure the people following him / her or working for him / her know what their objectives are” means that the objectives are:
- defined unambiguously;
- described as outcomes (or deliverables);
- SMART – Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely;
- agreed with the staff member / follower.
“Provide those people with the resources to achieve their objectives” could include:
- financial and material resources (the agreed budget must be funded);
- human resources (the people with whom they need to work to achieve the objectives are made available);
- skill resources (the staff member / follower has access to all the skills necessary to achieve the objectives);
- processes that they need to or could use.
Leadership all seems to boil down to something as simple as this. Note that this definition is independent of the management / leadership style (e.g. command and control / benevolent / servant) provided by the manager / leader. It is also independent of culture and distance over which leadership is provided.
One note. Personally I’ve noticed that the very best managers / leaders for whom I have worked have always done the above in the context of helping me progress towards my life and career goals. I think that this was because they recognized that they were leading me for only a small portion of my career / life. By developing me as part of achieving the current organizational goals they gave my next leader the opportunity to have me contribute further towards to goals of the organization. I thought that this was a good thing to attempt to do.
There’s a reason why you’ve never read a management book that makes leadership this simple: because you can’t sell a book with only one page.