The APQC Blog

Leadership is Something Anyone Can Learn

Strong leadership has been and will continue to be important to organizational success. Recently, I spoke with Elissa Tucker, APQC's research program manager in human capital management, on the importance of leadership. She shared insights on essential leadership behaviors and steps that anyone can take to incorporate those behaviors into how they work.

What is the difference between leadership and management?

Leadership expert John P. Kotter described the differences very well in a Harvard Business Review article.

“Management is a set of well-known processes, like planning, budgeting, structuring jobs, staffing jobs, measuring performance and problem-solving, which help an organization to predictably do what it knows how to do well.”

“Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behavior.”

Do certain qualities exist that all leaders should strive for?

In line with Kotter’s definition of leadership, let’s talk about core leadership behaviors—behaviors that are particularly important for getting others to change, take responsibility, and take action:

  • Act with empathy.
  • Trust others.
  • Communicate.
  • Be accountable.
  • Express gratitude.

Any advice for people new to a leadership position or role?

  1. Reflect on your experiences with being led.
  2. Learn about leadership best practices.
  3. Practice leadership behaviors until they become second nature.
  4. Seek feedback from those you are leading.
  5. Seek the advice of experienced leaders.

Lead The Way

The importance of leadership to organizational success is well established. What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is that the path to being a good leader is open to everyone. While business conditions change over time, many of the behaviors that make a good leader remain fairly consistent. Good leaders empower and produce useful change. They work to continue being good leaders and do not rest on their laurels. Finally, good leaders are adaptive and attuned to others.

The onset of widespread digitization within organizations also brings a set of challenges for leaders. Those dead set against the digital age risk their organizations being left behind as customer relationships, organizational culture, marketing, management practices, and leadership all go digital. For those leaders blindly in love with all things tech, their organizations are at risk of being caught on the whims of new digital trends and IT policies not necessarily aligned with business strategy. Leaders can avoid these pitfalls and achieve a more balanced and beneficial tech policy. APQC’s June webinar “The Digitally Deluded Leader”, featuring guest speaker Steve Hearsum of Roffey Park, will address some of the issues leaders face in the increasingly digital workplace. For  a full transcript of this podcast, click here.