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Leadership - Introduction

Author: Jim Riley  Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012

There are many ways of looking at leadership and interpretations about what it means. Leadership means different things to different people.  It is often taken to represent:

  • Getting others to follow
  • The use of authority in decision-making
  • A personal characteristic
  • An ability to achieve effective performance in others

A general interpretation of leadership (source: Mullins) would be:

A relationship through which one person influences the behaviour or actions of other people

The above definition is important, because it shows that any consideration of what makes for effective leadership cannot be done in isolation from concepts such as teamwork, organisational structure and motivation.

The traditional view sees leadership as about:

  • Command & Control
  • Decision-making

However, a more modern view has leadership having a wider role, including

  • Inspiration
  • Creating a vision
  • Building effective teams

Leadership has become particularly important in modern business as a result of:

Changing organisational structures

Flatter structures require greater delegation
Greater use of teamwork + focus on quality assurance
Coaching, support & empowerment

Rapid environmental change

Change as a constant feature of business life
Soft skills of leadership & management increasingly important

In these notes we are mainly concerned with leadership from the top of a business organisation.  However, it is important to remember that leadership can be exercised by people at different levels of the organisational hierarchy.

What do leaders do?

The key tasks of top leadership in a business include:

  • Being clear about what change is required
  • Turning ideas into action points and motivate others to act on them
  • Winning commitment based on honest, realistic, two-way discussion
  • Creating a climate of learning, so people know it is safe to make mistakes
  • Keeping going – persistence is vital
  • Learning from experiences and mistakes

A key leadership role in any business is that of the MD (Managing Director) or CEO (Chief Executive Officer).  In addition to the above, the leadership tasks of the MD/CEO include:

  • Creating the vision, based on an understanding of SWOT
  • Forming the team and a structure that will help achieve business goals
  • Deciding key business and personnel policies
  • Managing rewards and discipline

Strategic leadership

  • Strategic leaders are the people who influence or control the corporate strategy of a business
  • Often personally identified with the strategy
  • Occurs both in small firms (e.g. the founder) and large corporates

How strategic leadership is demonstrated

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Breakeven Basics
Costs, Revenues and Profits
Business Costs
Using Budgets
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Financial Strategies
Measuring and Improving Profit
Improving Cash Flow
Working Capital
Balance Sheet
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Financial Efficiency Ratios
Profitability Ratios and ROCE
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Products & Brands
Place (Distribution)
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Business Organisation

Basics of Business Growth
Business Activities
Legal Structure Basics
Sole Traders and Partnerships
Limited Companies
Generating and Protecting a Business Idea
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Working in Teams
Communication Basics
Communication Methods
Workforce Planning
Recruitment, Selection & Training
Employee Motivation
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Government Spending & Taxation
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Business Strategy

Leadership styles
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