The process of guiding and directing people's workplace behaviour is viewed as leadership. In essence, leadership is the ability to influence a group to achieve goals. It also involves the translation of organisational goals into real and achievable goals for employees. Leadership thus has both individual and organisational aspects.
It is also clearly a process as well as the possession of the special traits needed to influence other people. As a process, leadership helps transform potential in people or situations into reality; it is the activity that identifies, develops and enriches potential within a company and its employees.
All behaviour, roles and skills that are used by a leader form different leadership styles, reflecting the attitudes of leaders towards their followers, resources and assigned objectives. But what skills, traits or abilities does a leader need? What is the difference between a leader and a manager?
The main difference between a leader and a manager is that a manager is defined by a function stated in an organisational structure, and may have only formal authority. Therefore, managers caught up in daily operational problems do not necessarily lead. Conversely, there are many informal leaders within organisations who do not have any managerial responsibilities.
Today, the main focus is on the ability of a leader to recognise the needs, attitudes and potential of his or her subordinates and adjust leadership styles accordingly. It is expected that a successful leader is able to understand a situation and employee capabilities and then decide whether employees need to be told what to do or whether an entire project can be delegated to them. In the same way, a leader is expected to have the potential to inspire a larger group of people (an organisation) with clearly stated strategic concepts.
Stanislava Luptáková is a lecturer at Comenius University's Faculty of Management. Send comments to Stanislava.Luptakova@fm.uniba.sk.