In our complex ever-changing world environment, where the global population will soon reach 7 billion, appreciating the nature of leadership has never been more important. Effective leaders are required to efficiently cultivate and shape change as well as drive reform.
Leaders with a well laid out vision can make a significant difference. They may find themselves moving effectively between styles according to the situation. Through 'nurturing' the right strategy they can influence people and societal development.
Leaders face many challenges. It is not they who decide if they are successful but rather the followers. To achieve results, they innately need to take the initiative, use the full capacity of their learning and address the needs of others. Leaders should illustrate the ability to build sustaining relationships with those they lead and skills to manage and develop others.
Good leaders lead by example. They display moral high ground, make ethical decisions and recognize the need to create a healthy environment for people to feel that what they are doing is 'good.' They experience an ongoing process of self-development, education and work out how things can be done better. Leaders who can provide these tools will ultimately help build a productive environment and through professionalism and team play, shape effective direction.
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly created UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women. On the 23rd September, 2011 at the Lincoln Centre, New York, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, declared that the 21st Century will be the Century of Girls and Women and called on males to take part in the "social, economic and political revolution" for gender equality and women's empowerment.
Ms. Bachelet added there is now evidence to illustrate that when women participate in parliament and government the benefits extend far beyond the individual to families communities and nations.
Ms. Bachelet, also a former leader of Chile, has led a charge to achieve set goals and give meaningful direction in the pursuit of gender equality. She has strategically upheld championing equal rights and opportunities based on the universal principle that all human beings are born free and equal. She has simply set the standard for performance and displayed the capacity to give meaningful direction.
Systematically reinforcing such sentiment, Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, recently participated in UN Women Australia's inaugural Summit Accelerating Gender Equality: Introducing UN Women held at The University of Sydney. Perspectives were shared on women's empowerment and gender equality, shedding light on some of the challenges facing women both nationally and internationally.
What then of the role of 'intangible attributes' such as initiative, innovation and the like? These are most significant with the many challenges associated with breaking new ground and constructing new paths. Firstly, leaders must be willing to make decisions. Through purposeful navigation, authentic leaders with foresight and confidence can pave the way to overcome obstacles and make sound decisions.
A crisis can arise, emanating from followers fear of change or inefficiencies arising from lack of planning. Leaders should address such problems by sound management and increasing transparency, accountability and efficiency as well as coherently introducing the means to effect change.
Integrity is an essential part of the process. Leaders should 'walk the talk,' practices what they preach and get their hands dirty. With their senior role should come the 'common touch' – the sign of an educated person. They should also ensure that future visions, goals and policies are identified, referenced, reflected and articulated in priorities.
In essence, sound strategies are an essential ingredient for leaders to be most effective, especially in their reform efforts. Further, there is a need for effective leaders to create the teamwork and environment for change, which requires persistence, courage, innovation and sound organizational skills.
The best-laid strategies of leaders are more productive when supported by tactical provisioning and analysis. Effective leadership in the political arena inspires goodwill, while poor leadership often amounts to political egotism!