On the 8th of May, the world, in particular Europe, celebrated the 75th Victory in Europe Day anniversary in an unprecedented manner, as its citizens are kept in lockdowns due to COVID-19.
Usually, this celebratory day is filled with large parades, speeches and gatherings in European cities, as people commemorate the unconditional surrender and the allied forces victory over Nazi Germany in 1945.
What led to this great and heroic victory over Adolf Hitler’s fascist regime, which threatened individual freedoms in WWII?
Any student of history will admit that it took the great, proactive and unyielding leadership of the British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill; lots of sacrifices and importantly the strong display of solidarity between western Europe, the commonwealth countries of the British Empire, Russia and later United States to stop Nazi Germany’s expansionism and bring it to its knees.
This victory preserved the freedoms, people in liberal democracies easily take for granted.
Following my previous articles on roles of leadership, I would like to draw on my business school knowledge to tackle the difficult question of what turns ‘good’ leaders to become ‘great’ leaders, who leave behind enduring legacies.
Drawing from the analogy of 1966 Italian epic Spaghetti western film “Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo” directed by Sergio Leone which starred Clint Eastwood as "the Good", Lee Van Cleef as "the Bad", and Eli Wallach as "the Ugly," I would point some key distinctions between poor, good and great leaders.
To begin with, let me say that management scholars generally agree that leadership styles greatly influence organisational effectiveness and group productivity.
Secondly, there are different leadership styles, with their strengths and weaknesses e.g. autocratic, laissez-faire, charismatic, transformational, democratic, transactional, ideological, pragmatic, aesthetic, servant, authentic, ethical, spiritual, integrative public and distributed leadership styles. However, there is no single leadership style which is perfect.
What is your leadership style? Characteristics of poor leaders:
Leadership is about collective forward movement. Sadly, not all those we call leaders today in all sectors of life are good leaders.
There are several traits of poor quality leadership.
These include putting self-interest and self-preservation above group needs, bullying to submission, disregarding sound advice, surrounding oneself with ‘yes’ men, inability take good decisions.
According to Kelloway and colleagues, three poor leaders may be abusive, aggressive, or punitive, and they may simply lack appropriate leadership skills.
The most common measure of leader effectiveness is the extent to which the organisational performance is enhanced, and the attainment of goals facilitated (Yukl, 2012).
In every nation, poor leaders cost lives, slow down productivity and halt societal progress.
They cause lower job and life satisfaction, lower levels of affective commitment, increased work-family conflicts, stress, mental health problems, psychological distress and higher propensity of cardiac illnesses.
Leaders matter. In fact, many countries, particularly in Africa, are plagued with poor leaders who have no clear vision for their countries. My question is: Are you one of them and who are the poor leaders negatively influencing your life?
Characteristics of good leaders
There are five vital qualities that promote effective leadership: confidence, integrity, connection, resiliency and aspiration.
Stephen Covey, a management consultant, said: “If you don’t choose to do it in leadership time upfront, you do it in crisis management time down the road.”
All good leaders are proactive and not reactive. According to Covey, proactivity “means more than taking the initiative.
It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives” and “being value driven, not by physical environments.” Conversely, reactive leaders act according to factors they cannot control, and blame others instead of taking responsibility for their inaction.
All good leaders demonstrate high internal locus of control, high degree of emotional maturity, high socialised power of motivation, high achievement of motivation and a low need for affiliation.
According to Collins, effective leaders possess a range of abilities that catalyses commitment and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision.
They can stimulate the group, company or nation to high performance standards. Judging by these standards, how many of our current leaders would you qualify as good or effective leaders?