Leadership is the ability to guide and influence others. What makes a leader a success or a failure? What traits does a good leader need? Can anyone become a leader? These are questions researchers, business people, politicians, and countless others are always trying to answer. Here are ten reasons why leadership is important:
#1. Good leadership ensures an organization’s identity becomes real
All organizations center on vision and values, which represent the organization’s identity. Go to any “About Us” or “Mission Statement” page on an organization’s website and you’ll see. Turning identity into reality depends on good leadership. Like a compass, leaders keep the organization pointed in the right direction. It can be easy to get off-track with distractions like everyday projects, shifting trends, and problem-solving, but good leadership ensures an organization doesn’t lose its identity.
#2. Good leadership boosts morale
Employees recognize poor leadership. They know when they aren’t respected or appreciated. They also know when an organization doesn’t care about people and will cut corners for the sake of profit or power. This affects morale and leads to less productivity, higher turnover, and a loss of faith. Good leadership, on the other hand, respects and appreciates employees as valuable workers and as human beings. Workplaces with high morale enjoy more productivity, happier employees, and less turnover.
#3. Good leadership inspires
The ability to inspire is a key skill for a leader. Consider politicians. The most successful and popular ones spend their campaigns talking to people, giving speeches, and inspiring communities to participate in the election process. They understand what messages resonate and what values voters live by. Politicians with leadership know how to unite groups and inspire action. They don’t always use that power for positive ends, which is why inspiration is not the only trait good leaders have.
#4. Good leadership means better communication
Good communication is one of the best skills anyone can have, no matter what environment they’re in. It’s even more important for people in leadership. If they communicate something improperly, misunderstandings follow. In a business setting, misunderstandings can confuse teams, derail projects, and even damage a business’ reputation. Good leaders understand how essential communication is. They work hard to communicate clearly, clarify quickly, and set the appropriate tone.
#5. Good leadership fuels innovation
Humans are an innovative species. Think of how far we’ve come from the days of stone tools or how fast technology like the internet has progressed. What makes some people more innovative or creative than others is a complex topic, but emotional well-being, inspiration, and flexibility are part of the picture. When people find themselves in an environment where they’re happy, inspired, and allowed flexibility, innovation follows. A leader’s job is to create this kind of workplace.
#6. Different leadership styles have different benefits (and downsides)
When people think of “leadership,” many think of someone who takes a dominant tone and tells everyone what to do. That’s one style of management, but there are others. Visionary leaders give employees creative freedom and always look to the future, but short-term goals can be affected. Consultative leaders listen to all viewpoints before making a final decision, but balancing conflicting opinions can cause issues. Participative leaders behave more as facilitators and involve everyone in decision-making, which is a democratic but long-winded process. Leadership styles come with different benefits and downsides, so an organization should consider what makes the most sense and where the leaders’ strengths lie.
#7. Without strong leadership, someone else steps in
Leadership matters because it always emerges one way or another. If it isn’t intentional or cohesive, disaster can follow. As an example, let’s say the head of a business loves their work, but they don’t like taking a clear leadership role. They think it isn’t necessary because they trust their employees and everyone knows how to do their job. Instead of stepping up or delegating that responsibility, they do nothing. Soon, unofficial leaders emerge. Miscommunication becomes a frequent occurrence. The leaders bicker and everyone is confused about hierarchy. The mission of the business becomes muddled and starts to suffer. This example tells an important lesson: when there’s a leadership void in an organization, something will fill it.
#8. Leadership skills are beneficial outside work
Leadership is often talked about in a business context, but the traits that make a good leader benefit every aspect of a person’s life. Take integrity and good communication. When leaders have integrity, they earn the respect of everyone, including employees. Outside the workplace, people with integrity are trustworthy, honest, and ethical. We discussed how communication matters to a business, but good communication also improves a person’s personal life and relationships.
#9. Leadership is part of personal development
You don’t need to be in a position of authority over others to hone your leadership skills. Self-leadership is the ability to lead yourself in achieving your goals. You’ll be more motivated, productive, and more likely to influence others. Skills like self-awareness, self-regulation, and accountability reflect strong self-leadership. Empathy is also essential. The best leaders aren’t cut off from emotions or relationships with others. They understand the importance of genuine connections.
#10. Leadership can mean life or death
The COVID-19 pandemic represents one of the most challenging times to be a leader. The stakes are high. What does a good leader do in these times? In New Zealand, strict regulations have been in place since the pandemic’s beginning. At the time of this article’s writing, 53 people in New Zealand died from COVID. The United States, which responded slowly and continues to leave most of the regulations up to the states, has lost over 900,000 people, putting it far above its peer nations. In a 2020 article from Harvard Business Review, Michaela J. Kerissey and Amy C. Edmonson outlined four lessons for leaders in a crisis like COVID: urgent action, transparent communication, productive responses to errors, and constant updates. The long-term social, political, economic, and health effects of COVID are uncertain, but it’s clear that in a crisis, leadership means life or death.