What is leadership?

“A leader is best
When people barely know he exists
Of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,
They will say, “We did this ourselves.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

A leader is an agent of direction. Irrespective of species and/or intelligence, it is an entity that provides guidance and assistance to those that are lost.

But what are the things that come to mind when we utter the word “leader”? An old class representative urging you to submit class assignments, a sharply dressed snobbish team supervisor at work or even a medieval warrior king who delivered his subjects from the brink of starvation and death. There are many faces of a leader and they determine and influence our definition of what a true leader is like.

An entity that provides unhindered guidance may or may not always be deemed a leader. If the entity enforces its authority upon others against their will, then the entity is merely an agent of oppression and tyranny and if the entity disregards the opinions of the ones it wishes to lead, then the entity is incompetent.

It is the prime duty of the true leader that they lead their people to an equitable and righteous vision, efficiently and effectively. And to ensure that they must become a channel to the thoughts and opinions of those he or she seeks to leads and not dismiss them.

But what else does it take to make a good leader? Some view a leader as a person who has the ability to work under pressure, and to be a vessel to the worries and enquiries of those they lead. While others see a leader as the person who is knowledgeable and is level-headed even in times of dire crisis, some deem it as a position, best reserved for the oldest and the most experienced of individuals. And these varying interpretations of the position causes us to believe that leadership is in fact a state of alliance formed between a central entity and the adjoining entities present in a specific group, that relies solely on mutual influence and well-fare. The group seeks a vision, a singular goal that interests every entity in the group, and the entity that guides the other entities to this goal is the leader.

But the definition of leadership varies from people to people and entity to entity. But if that definition only focuses on leading others and disregards the adjoining traits and attributes that facilitates effective leadership then the meaning of the alliance is lost.

One isn’t simply born with the set of skills and attributes that promotes the making of a good leader; they are grafted and cultivated in a person with time and experience. It centers around one’s will to contribute to the greater good of their people and to help them achieve a set goal. It isn’t a position one is appointed to, and it certainly is not in any way a burden to a true leader, for he or she is devoted whole heartedly to it, to the cause and to the goal that they lead themselves and those they seek to lead towards.

Communication is key to an effective leadership, as is the devotion to the set goal. One simply cannot be a true leader without effectual conveyance. Without it the alliance formed between the leader and the followers is rendered dysfunctional. Proper communication builds trust and motivates the group and enables them to give their best at what they do. Taking proper and ethical measures to enhance the serviceability of the members is essential is as important as developing an efficient problem management system among the members. Effectual division of tasks among the members and planning a set course of action is very vital as well.

For the unfaltering and unfailing attainment of a set goal, there is a need for a purpose, a motive.

 A motive is the one true driving force, the key stimulant that makes a group functional. It serves as the fire to an idle mind like rain in a desert. When one begins to question their motivation, this purpose would encourage and revitalize them and steer them back to the right path. Loyalty and devotion to the members of the group pursuing the same goal, to a singular purpose is vital for every effectual leadership.

A leader’s duty is to highlight this motivation and to bring out the best in his or her followers through it.

A leader must be well accustomed to the ways of the followers. He or she must know what it’s like to be a follower before leading followers of their own. And only through this will they be able to encourage the individualized creativity of each of his or her followers.

Well known leaders like Bill gates and Warren Buffett, possess different and yet very effective concepts of effectual leadership that brings out the best performance and the individualized and unforced creativity of their workers. These approaches focus greatly on the mutual well fare and success of their workers.

Leadership styles of some of histories’ most prominent leaders

Bill Gates

Personal creativity and encouragement at the individual level are key parts of transformational leadership. A conception of leadership, preached by the well known philanthropist, investor and the co-founder of Microsoft, William Henry Gates III.

Some of the key traits to Bill Gate’s style of leadership are listed as follows:

  • The Big Picture: Gates insists on keeping a big picture in mind instead of maintaining an unattainable one. His stratagem involves a step wise approach towards his goals instead of taking a long from the foot to the peak.
  • Building Confidence: Building among workers is an effective and a very necessary skill among every leader. By building confidence among workers, a leader will successfully be able to enhance their performance. He believes that his company does not hire smart individuals so that he could tell them what to do but rather he wants them to tell him what to do and offer him ideas and opinions of their own.
  • To be Open to Feedbacks and Opinions: Gates believes that his customers’ feedbacks are vital to perfecting and expanding his plans, so that he would be able to deliver to his consumers more efficiently in the future.  
  • Education: Despite dropping out, Gates, in no way, disregarded the fruits of proper education. Learning is not limited to the walls of various educational institutions of our world. We learn through experiences both bad and good, through people around and their perceptions to their day to day situations. There is no end to how much one can learn, with or without books. He worked on his skills of communication and day to day interactions with the people around him.
  • Compassion: Despite being one of the richest personalities in the world, he is one of the greatest philanthropists to exist in the world today. He religiously donated to those causes that would provide the best of opportunities to those who are unfortunate but capable.
  • Optimism: Gates makes it a must to learn from his mistakes which is also why he upholds the necessity of proper consumer feedbacks. And through it he managed to make his company evolve and adapt to changing times.

Warren Buffett

Warren Edward Buffett is an American investor, business tycoon and the chief executive office of Berkshire Hathaway. He is one of the best and the most successful investors in the world today with a net worth of over eighty billion US dollars.

Below are some of the characteristic traits of his definition of a successful leadership:

  • Simplicity: Despite being one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet insists on living a simple life. He believes that most get distracted by materialism and greed while they pave their way to success, and seemingly loose touch of the more simpler ways of life, that almost always blinds them and steers them from their original goal. He believes in accumulating his wealth and not misspend it.

To this day he owns a single telephone and rides his bicycle to work.

  • Effective Communication: Buffet insists that proper communication with his workers is very essential. He believes that the thoughts delivered to the workers should be done in non-technical terms so that the message goes across clearly, so that it is perceived easily by the majority. According to him, “If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.”
  • To carefully pick your allies: Warren thinks that the if the saying, “Birds of the same feather, flock together,” caters to you then you are not yet cut out to be a proper leader.

He believes that we must surround ourselves with people that our better than us, so that we could learn from them. Staying with people who are like you disregards that notion and therefore leaves little room for one’s personal development and improvement.

  • Buffett is also a prolific giver to the more philanthropic causes of the world. He wishes to give away ninety nine percent of his wealth to charity.

A leader, despite being successful must devotedly give back and contribute to society. And through these measure Buffett managed to make a remarkable impact on the world on the grounds of humility and selflessness.

  • Buffet makes it a must to admit his faults and mistakes and often insists that some of his managers are better at running a business than he could ever be.
  • Acknowledge and praise your workers: It through his or her followers that a leader is able to attain the set goal. And without acknowledging their timeless efforts to your cause, you are in no way a true leader. Since a leader is nothing without its followers.

Sundar Pichai

Pichai Sundararajan is an Indian-American business executive and the chief executive officer of Alphabet Inc and Google LLC.

Some of his leadership strategies are as follows:

  • According to Pichai humility is key. To be grounded with your origin is a vital necessity.
  • The urge to learn more: Despite, being one of the most successful people in the world today, he still remains an active learner and believes that there is no end to learning. Pichai believes that in order to stay relevant in the market, they have to strive to constantly learn and improve. Old ideas and methods lose their relevance in the years to come and there fore learning new this key to keeping a successful business relevant and fruitful.
  • “To not only see your own success, but to focus on the success of others.” Pichai believes that we not only focus on our own successes but also on the success of others. To help one another out and to overcome obstacles together as a joint entity is important.

A true leader brings out the best in his or her people, and to help and assist them in their time of need is a true leader’s duty.

  • Individual-level recruitment: In order to ascertain the recruitment of the best and the most creative minds, Sundar often involves himself directly during the hiring of key employees. He does this to ensure that the job goes to only those who truly deserving and are sufficiently competent for the position.

Jeff Bezos

Jeffrey Preston Bezos is an American Entrepreneur, investor and the founder and chief executive office of Amazon.

Some of his effective leadership stratagems are as follows:

  • By working backwards, you start with the customer and their needs and problems.

Bezos believes that they must obsess over customer satisfaction rather than their competitors. And through this notion he continually upgrades his company’s services to their consumers.

  • Bezos insists that there are two types of decisions, namely: Type 1 decisions and Type 2 decisions.

Type 1 decisions are to be taken by higher executives and are irreversible however Type 2 decision are taken by the smaller and subsidiary groups and can be changed in quick succession if the situations deems it necessary.