Leadership skillsOn 3 Feb 2004 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Mike Pedler looks at the ‘challenges approach’ to leadershipIf you were asked to recall a time when you were proud of yourself, whatwould you say? Would your story tell of a work situation? Or would it come fromfamily life? Or from somewhere else? Most of us can give examples of when we took the lead and contributedsomething useful, not just for ourselves but also for other people. Whateveryour story, it is likely to be about a time when you did something useful in adifficult or testing situation. Leadership is a ‘doing’ thing; a performance art. It is what we do(or don’tdo) when faced with challenging circumstances. Challenges define leadershipsituations. Why is leadership so important? Whether you work in a hospital or a large company, in a school or a localbusiness, you have probably noticed this new concern with leadership. Your bossis talking about it, the Government says how important it is, the newspapersdeplore the lack of it, and you may even be on the receiving end of initiativesto improve it. What people are saying now is that: – Organisations are massively challenged by change and need more leadership – Good managers are always important, but it is the ability to lead in theface of the critical challenges of the day that makes the vital difference. Leadership is an old concept, much older than management, with which it isoften linked and confused. Management became prominent in work organisation atthe time of the industrial revolution in Europe. Now in more post-industrialtimes, leadership is returning to centre stage. How is leadership developed? The modern concern with leadership is reflected in more than half a centuryof leadership research, the history of which is a story in itself. Traitapproaches, path-goal theories, situational leadership, contingency theory andthe currently popular transactional and transformational ideas have allproduced different training approaches for leadership development. The challenges approach sees leadership as constituted by three domains:challenges, characteristics and context. – Challenges are the critical tasks, problems and issues requiring action – Characteristics are the leadership qualities, abilities competencies andskills of those involved – Context concerns the ‘on-site’ conditions found in the challengesituation. Our criticism of most leadership development is that it concentrates on thelast of these domains to the exclusion of the other two. Most leadershipdevelopment is based on one of the many models of competencies or personalqualities required to become a leader. While this is often helpful for personaldevelopment, it rarely results in any useful action for other people or for theorganisation. Leadership as action and learning A challenges approach to leadership is not about any set of personalqualities or competencies, but what people actually do when faced withchallenging situations. These challenges come from life and work, from thewider world and from our own questions about ourselves. Leadership is what wedo when we acknowledge and respond to these challenges. This is a pragmatic approach, focused on what needs to be done in theorganisation, or the family or the community. All those facing real dilemmasand choices know what the challenges are in their situations. These are theproblems and opportunities that, if faced and grasped, lead into the future. The message is simple: if you wish to contribute to leadership, get yourselfout more, act on challenges and learn from your actions. Mike Pedler is co-author of A Manager’s Guide to Leadership (by Mike Pedler,John Burgoyne and Tom Boydell, McGraw-Hill, October 2003, ISBN: 0077104234) Related posts:No related photos.