Leadership is a subject that has piqued the interest of scholars and laypeople for a long time. The term conjures images of powerful, dynamic individuals who command victorious armies, direct corporate empires from atop gleaming skyscrapers, or shape the course of nations. But leadership isn’t mystical or mysterious. It does not require having charisma or other exotic personality traits. It is not the province of a chosen few. Indeed, leadership is exercised by people from the top to bottom of most organizations.

Leadership may be defined as the process of giving meaningful direction to collective effort and causing willing effort to be expended to achieve collective goals.

Leadership and management are two distinct and complementary systems of action. They are both necessary, but have different purposes. Management is concerned with coping with complex modern institutions. Good management brings a degree of order and consistency to key dimensions like the quality and profitability of products. Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change.

Companies manage complexity by planning and budgeting — setting targets or goals for the future, establishing detailed steps to get there, and then allocating resources. By contrast, leading an organization to constructive change begins by setting a direction — developing a vision of the future along with strategies for producing changes needed to achieve that vision.

Management achieves its plans by organizing and staffing — creating an organizational structure and set of jobs for accomplishing plan requirements, staffing the jobs with qualified individuals, communicating the plan, delegating responsibility, and devising systems to monitor implementation. Leaders align people by communicating the new direction to those who can create coalitions that understand the vision and are committed to its achievement.

Management ensures plan accomplishment by controlling and solving problems — monitoring results versus the plan in some detail, by means of reports, meetings, etc.; identifying deviations and then planning and organizing to solve the problems. But for leadership, achieving a vision requires motivating and inspiring — keeping people moving in the right direction, despite major obstacles to change, by appealing to basic but often untapped human needs, values, and emotions.

The three leadership E’s
Envisioning involves the creation of a picture of the future, or of a desired future state that people can identify with and can generate excitement. By creating vision, the leader provides a vehicle for people to develop commitment, a common goal around which people can rally, and a way for people to feel successful.

Envisioning is accomplished through a range of different actions. Clearly, the simplest form is through articulation of a compelling vision in clear and dramatic terms. The vision needs to be challenging, meaningful, and worthy of pursuit, but it also needs to be credible. People must believe that it is possible, even if difficult, to succeed in the pursuit of the vision. Vision is also communicated in other ways, such as through expectations that the leader expresses and through the leader personally demonstrating behaviors and activities that symbolize and further that vision.

Energizing: Here the role of the leader is the direct generation of energy — motivation to act — among members of the organization.

Different leaders engage in energizing in different ways, but some of the most common include demonstration of their own personal excitement and energy, combined with leveraging that excitement through direct personal contact with large numbers of people in the organization. They express confidence in their own ability to succeed. They find, and use, successes to celebrate progress toward the vision.

Enabling involves the leader psychologically helping people to act or perform in the face of challenging goals and/or obstacles. Assuming that people are directed through a vision and motivated by the creation of energy, they may need emotional assistance in accomplishing their tasks.

Enabling is achieved in several ways. Very successful leaders demonstrate empathy — the ability to listen, understand, and share the feelings of those in the organization. They express support of individuals. Perhaps most importantly, the effective leader tends to express his/her confidence in people’s ability to perform effectively and to meet challenges.


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