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Are you a leader?

, October 12, 2012, 0 Comments

The latest promotion has taken you from being part of the team of nine others to the top of the team…yay! You are now a team leader. Your responsibilities have increased and now you have your very own box on the department’s organization chart…double yay! But, what next? Do you know and understand what a leader actually does?

I am not referring to your key performance indicators (KPIs) or all the boxes you have to tick as part of your role but what does a true leader do? What kind of a leader do you want to be? What type of leader are you?

First article in the Leadership Series

There are many definitions of ‘leadership’ available in management and/or leadership literature. Leadership is a complex and a very important phenomenon, so, both theory and practice offer many definitions

Gary Yukl (2006) defines leadership as “the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish shared objectives”.

Based on this definition, it may seem like leadership is a clear and straight forward concept to understand and even practice. But, it is not so simple….

If it was, we would all be happy with our leaders, political and organizational isn’t it?

We shall discuss our article further using Yukl’s definition. So, now as the newly appointed team leader, you have to influence your team to accompany you on the journey to success, to achievethe team’s business targets, all while maintaining continuous dialogue. Again, sounds simple but difficult to practicewhen you have different types of team members, their individual goals to manage, different cultural contexts, different generations, working styles and the list goes on.

Let’s think of the team leader in different countries, India and Australia. I note a difference in what leaders do and how they conduct themselves across these two countries.

India is a country that offers diversity and as a society, it offers a more complex work culture because of this. In India, a leader is a more authoritative and paternalistic figure and a team leader is expected to use this leadership approach. There is a certain status attached to the job title and it is quite common to treat the leader with extra respect and adulation, with an implicit power and control. Hence, sometimes it is difficult to refuse or say NO to an Indian boss.

In Australia, the same leader would need to delegate more, empower more and communicate more openly. It is really ok to say NO to the boss, decline or refuse them openly. The society is more egalitarian and the approach to leaders is respectful with open communication and now as a (team) leader, you have to be ready to accept polite refusals with good reasons!

It is very important to recognize and embrace these cultural differences to have a fulfilling work life as a leader in either country. At the end of the day, leadership is a process of influence, sharing, communicating and accomplishing together.

We shall discuss more on leadership styles, leadership influence, communication and behavior in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

I leave you with a leadership lesson from General Colin Powell,Chairman (Retd), Joint Chiefs of Staff:

“Never let your ego get so close to your position, that when your position goes, your ego goes with it”

References:Yukl, G. A. (2006). Leadership in Organizations (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.
General Colin Powell: Leadership primer

About author
Aarti Iyer is a Sydneysider who originally hails from Mumbai, India. She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources Management from the University of Sydney,speaks fluent French and is currently working towards her doctorate in Leadership. She is passionate about writing and author of the book “The Story of a Girl, 60Seconds That Changed Life." Her family gives meaning to her life and when not writing or studying; she enjoys travelling and spending time with her husband and young daughter. Aarti shares her experiences in her weblog FlyingBubbles. ...more