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Opinion: In leadership, it’s all about behaviour & attitude


Over 120 years ago, the US Library of Congress had no particular focus on the subject of leadership. Now, if you type ‘leadership’ into Google, it’s more of a case of ‘where do you even begin?’ It’s one of the most researched subjects in management and the human sciences, and has become an exceptionally popular subject to talk about in the business world.


Leadership talk


You can go back to when leadership started to come to the fore of management considerations, when we were talking about the ‘great man theory’, questioning whether leaders are born, rather than made. This still causes debate today. Then you can talk about traits; you can talk about qualities; about contingency theory and situational leadership. You are not, for example, going to enter into a participative debate with your followers when you are under fire in a military situation. That’s a situation where you would need to be very directive. In another setting, you could talk about transformational leadership, for example, and how that might be applied to guide substantial changes in an organisation.


There is, then, lots on leadership to talk about. And organisations have invested millions of dirhams, dollars and pounds around the world to develop leaders to try to follow up on that talk. But here’s the truth – if a person doesn’t have the right behaviours and attitudes, it won’t mean very much.


Behaviour & Attitude


At the end of the day, nobody can choose these behaviours and attitudes except the leader themselves, and this is where, potentially, organisations can lose focus and concentrate too much on leadership rhetoric. Of course, academic research does inform and challenge our understanding, and it does help create new theories that can be applied in the workplace, but ultimately leadership is about behaviour and attitude.


One critical aspect of this is awareness. This means a leader needs to be in tune with themselves, and with the people they are leading. In today’s workforce, you potentially have got five different generations to lead in any given organisation, and these will all have different needs, different expectations, and different value bases. In any situation, a leader always has to answer the question – how do I approach leadership to get the best from my people? If you have such a level of generational diversity within an organisation - all with different motivations - then awareness is going to be key to success.


Michael Castle, Director of Professional & Leadership Programmes, ADUKG
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