Leadership Skills & Leadership Qualities

Leadership Qualities & Leadership Skills

Leadership qualities matter in business and in education. Yet the doctoral student can’t find information on leadership. If the discipline isn’t leadership she has to cry for help: What are leadership qualities? Others would like to know too what are the personal qualities of leadership! Business leadership is important. Educational leadership is in demand. But what are leadership qualities and skills?

Interest they have in business or educational leadership. Perhaps also leadership qualities. Knowledge of what is leadership, not. If they see a worker a few times resting who routinely unloads, sorts, stacks, rests, repeats, he is lazy. That’s not good leadership! If leadership qualities or skills are lacking it causes annoyance, loss of production.

Leadership in education or business are acquirable skills.

In Britain there is confusion on what is leadership. The civil service has publications on how to train, e.g., supervisors. Yet even supervision has been considered by the TECs to be an inherent quality, by the ETs with members from the TUC & the CBI not an acquirable skill. Leadership qualities are different than leadership skills.

There are exceptional ‘born leaders’, extraordinary circumstances calling for inherent leadership qualities. But routine business leadership and educational leadership demand only professional acquirable skills.

Leadership qualities are different than leadership skills.

Approaches to administrative leadership differ. Business leadership strategies vary. Educational leadership policies change. So do leadership skills. The value of leadership qualities never change.

Leadership is about people. Good leadership is popularity based. A French emperor calls his soldiers his children, after a defeat again can raise volunteer armies. A popular Scottish preacher gets nominated to US senate.

Leadership qualities are inherent. But leadership skills often suffice. Both involve popularly interesting people.

Popularity aids leadership qualities. It helps leadership skills. So in business or educational leadership.

Leadersip is not charisma alone. Nor is it love, care, perseverance that enables popularity in successful leadership. It is also an interest in understanding the human nature, knowing what motivates. That is the basis of leadership.

A car plant boss praises the night shift’s work, the day shift competes for equal pride, production increases.

A congressional medal, the offer to be Education Secretary, a biographical movie for a Chicago school teacher who enabled exam. success for eleven pupils was because she could get from them what an education authorities’ educational leadership skills couldn’t.

Depending on approaches, business and educational leadership classifications vary. Basically all leadership are of two kinds: leadership and exceptional leadership.

The former is leaderships skills; acquired, ordinarily, routinely at work: e.g., leadership in education, business.

The latter is based on inherent leadership qualities. It is the most rare extraordinary leadership, enhanced by the most exceptional leader’s charisma, communication ability, wit, trustworthiness, with much philosophical, sociological, psychological insight, high logical reasoning ability, the vision, heroic courage, love, care, dedication, passion of rational sensible idealism, sacrifice in time, effort. This ‘moves mountains’; be it leadership in education, culture, religion, politics, business, it reforms: socially and historically visibly, lastingly, memorably changes established culture, life styles, society.

Exceptional leadership, business or educational or other -in one field or more, of historical noteworthiness demands personal qualities, for it begins with popularity that is not coerced but is by virtue of, irrespective of wealth or position, at personal level earned and deserved trust and faith in the genuineness, sincerity of one’s intentions -honesty in intention.

What is routinely at work is skills based leadership. Mostly it is leadership in education or in business, of the kind that acquirable skills are adequate for. It does not demand any exceptional leadership qualities. Acquirable are interested behaviour and competence. Proportionately to one’s degree of interest, basic leadership skills often suffice to function as a professional leader, to lead in one’s field.

On professional leadership many have written. There are commonly agreed basic modern leadership principles generally adequate in any field of average competence.

Leaders with leadership qualities or skills know this: The average employee does like to be so directed as presumes that he generally wishes to avoid responsibility with relatively little or no ambition and dislikes work except to the extent essential for survival with basic security. People have an inherent need in an adult way to exercise their understanding, capacities, skills motivated by incentives also non-economic and culturally varying. This appreciation is a must for effective leadership.

Trustworthiness is one of the personal qualities of leadership that can never be imitated in professional leadership for truly great achievement. But the skilful appearance of trustworthiness succeeds. Usually the only task of professional leadership is obtaining the co-operation of colleagues and employees.

This is best done, by making the organisation’s objects or visions pursued or desired of personal significance to people. That must be based on their values and expectations to generate their energy and enthusiasm. Good leadership on that basis can prepare people for the various controllable and uncontrollable changes, appreciating that leadership attitudes matter above all and must be ‘trust’ based… In the 1990’s England a strike over pay continued after Railtrak agreed: staff discovered that government had secretly sought to influence negotiations.

Trust is the most useful of leadership values. Good leaders’ people feel valued. Job satisfaction enhances performance and productivity and job satisfaction includes feeling valued. This leadership strategy avoids dissatisfaction, increases job satisfaction. Co-operation is based on others feeling valued enough to be trusted.

Information works at two levels: it shows trust and contributes to the leader’s objective others’ valid views.

The value of other’s valid views which free flow of information (or the successful [but risky] appearance of it) enables is not overlooked in good leadership. In, e.g., educational leadership staff’s familiarity with consumer culture, in business leadership workers’ consumer choices reduce the risk of missing the wood for the trees.

In leadership strategies learning from experience by trial & error is unaffordable in the short term. The complexities of long term results necessitate cultured thought.

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Income statement and cash flow

Income statement is a way to understand whether a business is profitable or not over a period of time. It measures the inflows of revenues (assets) and the outflows of expenses incurred in the attempt of producing revenue. The difference between revenues and expenses represent the profit or losses of the business. The cash flow statement shows inflows and outflows of cash due to operating, financing, investment activities and its goal is to measures the liquidity of the business (Atrill & McLaney, 2011).

The key difference between these two statements lies behind their objectives: the income statement is focused on profits, while the cash statement is focused on liquidity. For a business, being profitable does not necessarily mean being liquid. Profit shows how wealthy a business is but wealth is not limited to cash (Atrill & McLaney, 2011). For this reason, the income statement includes non-cash items such as depreciation, while the cash flow statement is exclusively focused on cash flows. Consequently, the income statement is insufficient to measure the performance of a business because it does not show the quality of the wealth held by the business itself. When a business is profitable but not liquid, its possibility of acquiring the necessary assets needed by the business operations or repaying loans could be affected. Therefore, controlling the cash owned through the cash flow statement is important to ensure the ability of the business to maintain its operability and sustain future expenses.



Atrill, P & McLaney, E (2011) Accounting and Finance for Non-Specialists. Seventh Edition. Harlow. Pearson Education Limited.


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Employee motivation in a nutshell

Motivation is concerned with why people decide to act in a certain way. It is a perceptual and intentional phenomenon influenced by individual needs, expectations and willingness to engage themselves in a course of action. Therefore, motivating means to understand how people can be activated and directed towards the desired behaviour (Mitchell, 1982:81). Motivation theories takes into account the driving inner force represented by human needs as well as the influence of external forces on motivation: Maslow (1943) describes a hierarchy of needs (physiological, safety, social, ego, self-actualizing) and claims that once a level is satisfied it is not anymore a motivator. Vroom (1964) analyses the impact of valence, instrumentality and expectancy on motivation while Hertzberg (1959) identifies the real levers of motivation in factors intrinsic the job itself (recognition, achievement, personal growth) and demotivating elements in extrinsic factors such as pay, leadership style and bureaucracy.

Improving managerial practices can help in building a motivated and loyal team. Generally, a full and bidirectional communication, recognition for achievements, promoting teamwork and sharing of knowledge/best practices, assuring personal development as well as delegation of responsibility and the implementation of a transparent rewarding system tied to performance are among the most important elements through which managers can motivate people (Sirota et al., 2006: 2-4; Nohria et al., 2008: 82). With reference to leadership styles, there is no a specific one which can help motivation: while a democratic approach favours recognition, delegation and communication, an autocratic one may be more effective in case of poor performance (Lop, 2011). Money deserves a special mention: the rational-economic approach considers it as the only source of motivation for employees (Taylor, 1919). However Ariely (2010, Chapter 1) shows how money can be a motivator up to a certain level and beyond that it becomes a source of distress. To find out more about Ariely and his experiments on the effectiveness of high bonuses, check this video


Ariely, D. (2010) The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home. London. Harper. Kindle Edition

Herzberg, F., Mausner, B. and Snyderman, BB. (1959) The motivation to work. NY. John Wiley & Sons

Lop, P. (2011) Leadership styles: The pros and cons of being autocratic. Online at HELIUM <http://www.helium.com/items/2091680-leadership-styles-the-pros-and-cons-of-being-autocratic> [accessed 5 August 2011]

Maslow, AH (1943) A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, July 1943: 370-396. Online at <http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm> [accessed 28 July 2011]

Mitchell, TR. (1982) Motivation: New Directions for Theory, Research, and Practice. The Academy of Management Review, 7(1): 80-88. Online at <http://www.jstor.org/stable/257251> [accessed 29 July 2011]

Nohria,N., Groysberg, B. and Lee, LE (2008) Employee Motivation. A Powerful New Model. Harvard Business Review, Jul-Aug 2008. Online at <http://www.insala.com/employee-engagement/employee-motivation.pdf> [accessed 1 August 2011]

Taylor, FW. (1919) The Principles of Scientific Management. Harvard University. Harper & Brothers. Online via Project Gutenberg at <http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6435> [accessed 7 August 2011]

Vroom, VH (1964). Work and motivation. NY. Wiley.


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People leave their bosses

The expression ‘people leave their bosses and not their jobs’ reflects the approach that one of the journal article I selected as a source for my research has on the subject of motivation. ‘Stop demotivating your employees’ basically points out that the great majority of workers is highly motivated when starting a new job but the 85% of them lose their motivation in the first 6 months within the new company. This is based on the data of surveys conducted from 2001 to 2004 on about 1.2 million employees. Therefore the article suggests that instead of thinking about how to motivate their employees, managers should understand how to stop demotivating them. The research shows also the link between employees demotivation and bad managerial practice; in particular some elements that undermine the enthusiasm of workers are:

– Little recognition and reward for their jobs

– Too much bureaucracy

– Poor communication and lack of delegation

– Insufficient training

Therefore the article provides some suggestions to guarantee a high level of motivation and engagement of employees. This can be achieved only matching the three main goals that people seek in their jobs:

– Equity: fair treatment regarding pay, benefits, job security

– Achievement: be proud of their job and employer

– Camaraderie: have a good relationship with colleagues

The interesting point is that motivation can be kept high only if these three main goals are all achieved.


Sirota, D., Mischkind, A., Meltzer, MI. (2006). Stop Demotivating Your Employees! Harvard Management Update, 11(1): 1-12

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Are leaders and managers the same?

As John Kotter (1999: 51) claims, ‘leadership and management are two distinctive and complementary system of action. Each has its own function and characteristic activities’. He then outlines one big functional difference: managers are meant to deal with the complexity and ‘bring order and consistency’ to guarantee the productivity of the organisation, while leaders deal with change. Leaders set the direction of the company, while managers act and operate to move the company towards that direction (Kotter, 1999: 53-54). Zaleznik (1977: 1) stresses this concept by asserting that ‘The difference between managers and leaders lies in the conceptions they hold (…) of chaos and order’. Furthermore, he analyses the main differences in personality, attitudes towards goals, conception of work and communication which differentiate leaders from managers, emphasising that differences reside not only on the purpose of roles but also on the personal qualities of the people called to take these roles (this point may also be interesting for the analysis of the nature/nurture topic).

I personally tend to share these views and believe that management and leadership should be considered different sides of the same coin: they both are concerned with the main goals of maintaining the productivity of the business and keeping it aligned to its environment but they pursue these goals in different, complementary ways, working on different targets and temporal horizons. Management is more concerned with stability while leadership with change, initiating it and motivating people throughout all the steps of the process.

Does anybody have a different point of view on this subject and think that actually leadership and management functions have more things in common than ones that differentiate them?



Kotter, J. (1999) What Leaders Really Do. USA. President and Fellows of Harvard College. Online at <http://books.google.com> [accessed 27 June 2011]

Zaleznik, A. (1977) Managers and Leaders: Are They Different? Harvard Business Review (Jan 2004). Online at <http://www.capaoftexas.org/mediafiles/leader-manangers.pdf> [accessed 27 june 2011]

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Ageism in Britain

I think it is worth having a look at ‘How ageist is Britain’ a survey on the subject of ageism conducted in 2004, which considers age discrimination not only in workplaces but also in relation to other aspects of the social life. This can be useful to understand the context in which this discrimination happens.

The main findings of the research are quite interesting and highlight how this type of discrimination is spread among the society:

– 29% of people reported they had experienced ageism more than other forms of discrimination (from the age of 55 people were twice more likely to have been discriminated)

– 30% of people believed that prejudices and mindsets against senior citizens had increased during the previous 5 years.

– 1/3 claimed that people over 70 are incompetent or incapable

On the other hand, the research shows also that there is less prejudice if people get to know each other and therefore ‘Encouraging more intergenerational, positive contact may be a key way of tackling ageism against people of any age.’ (p.12). Why then in workplaces, where people can work together and share knowledge as well as experience, is age discrimination a rising issue? Lack of human contact? Higher costs (as some companies claim)? Bad communication?

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What about ‘hard’ HRM?

I think that the term ‘resource’ is often used with a hidden positive meaning. By saying that the workforce is a resource, we tend to overemphasise the positive meaning attached to the word itself. On the other hand, I believe that the approach towards the word resource should be more neutral and realistic. If it’s true that organisations are paying more attention to their employees and try to put in place HRM policies to enhance the potential of their staff members, I think that we should not forget that also questions such as downsizing and redundancies are managed by HRM and this means that companies need to deal as well with the excess of human resources. What I would like to point out here, is that the approach and the influence that HRM has within organisations is oriented towards the optimisation of the workforce in relation to the business strategy  and the outcomes are not always positive for the employees. Especially in ‘hard’ oriented HRM approaches, where a high vertical integration of HRM gives to it a key role tied with the business strategy, we may see that, at a certain point in the life of an organisation, the more strategic thing to do for the business is to dismiss part of the workforce in the attempt to reduce the overall costs of the company (the lifecycle model can be an example) (Beardwell and Claydon, 2010). Therefore, in opinion of mine, HRM is not only the means for companies to achieve a competitive advantage through the development of their resources, but encompass a more broader approach to people management which covers also questions such as cost reduction and resource optimisation.


Beardwell,J and Claydon, T (2010) Human Resource Management Harlow.  Pearson Education Ltd.



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From Personnel Management to HRM

One of the reason of the shift from Personnel Management to HRM is the ‘decline of collective labour organisation’. The WERS report shows how, in 2004, trade unions’ member declined in comparison to 1998 and also questions such as pay bargaining or working conditions are less likely to be discussed with the intervention of unions. Therefore, companies do not delegate to external bodies questions regarding the welfare or well-being of their employees but tend instead to manage these questions themselves (Kersley et all, 2003: 13-13,35-36). This allows businesses to reach a higher level of control on their workers assuring that all the questions related to people management are aligned to the business goals, reducing at the same time conflicts between management and workers.

In addition, companies recognise human capital as the only resource able to add value to the business. Capital, land, finance, technology can be effectively used only if people are able to control and use them according to the business needs and strategy. Their knowledge can be considered as a ‘hidden asset’ in an organisation and using methods of selection, appraisal, performance monitor and personal development, can result in a maximisation of the return from employees and in a reduction of the employees turnover, giving the company a competitive advantage (Skyrme, n.d; Ramlall, 2004:52).

Eventually, the shift from a ‘shareholder theory’ to a ‘stakeholder theory’ (which consider the employees’ interests in the business), can be also accounted for the shift towards a more organic HRM, highly integrated with the other capabilities within the company. HRM can be a more effective way than personnel management to address people management both in terms of their contribution to the organisational goals as resources of the business and as a response to their interests od stakeholders.


Kersley, B., Alpin, C., Forth, J., Bryson, A., Bewley, H., Dix, G., Oxenbridge, S. (2005). Inside the Workplace: First Findings from the 2004 Workplace Employment Relation Survey. Department of Trade and Industry.

Skyrme, DJ (n.d.) Developing A Knowledge Strategy. Online at <http://www.iaea.org/inisnkm/nkm/CD-NKM/Handbook%20of%20NKM%20-%20Working%20Material%20-%20November%202008/pdfs/041.pdf> [accessed 13 October 2011]

Ramlall, S. (2004) A Review of Employee Motivation Theories and Their Implications for Employee Retention within Organisations. Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, Sep 2004(5): 52-63. Online at <ftp://ftp.cba.uri.edu/Classes/Beauvais/HPR412/Ramlall_2004.pdf> [accessed 13 October 2011]


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About cutting salaries in economic downturn

during an economic downturn, for companies struggling to survive, interventions on salaries can be an effective measure to pursue cost reduction and minimising redundancies. On the other hand some organisations may take advantage of this situation and act for mere convenience. Generally, the organisation’s behaviour during recession can highlight its real culture towards its business and its relation with the workforce.

I believe that much depends on the way in which companies carry this change out. Dan Ariely in this interview claims that pay cuts can have positive effects on loyalty and morale. Satisfaction level and engagement of employees play a big part: enthusiastic people (he uses the word ‘mission’ to emphasise the highest level of engagement possible) or those who feel an active part within the company, would accept a pay cut to help the cause.

Some points are important in order to limit the detrimental effect on motivation and engagement of this painful change: pay cuts should be a ‘one time thing’, and therefore an action limited in time. Once the company recovers normal wages should be restored. They should be carried out throughout the whole company starting from senior management, so that the relative equilibrium of salaries can be maintained: in this way employees can see that the organisation is fully committed and everybody at all levels is paying the due price.

Nevertheless, some could argue that the choice of reducing pay without distinctions may underlie a lack of decisional power of managers since they are unable to make decisions about rewarding and firing on a merit basis (McGregor, 2009).



McGregor, J. (2009) Cutting salaries instead of jobs. Online at <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/09_23/b4134046752220_page_2.htm>



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Three points for HRD in economic downturn

HRD in economic downturn can offer some advantaged to companies. The IOD Survey Report is really useful to understand some critical points and some of the major benefits of keeping a development attitude also during recession. First of all, it helps companies in planning and delivering trainings which are more effective and focused on their business objectives. In this way the links between a proficient development plan and business outcomes become more evident, while in a period of economic growth there might be the tendency of training people without particular goals in mind. This reinforces the perspective of training as investment and not as a cost burdening on the company. New opportunities arise and the focus on quality is higher hence closing the gap between business and training can maintain or improve competitiveness both in time of recession and economic recovery and therefore can be a good way to invest.

The second point is that organisations are forced to reinvent their ways of training people: using senior internal resources for mentoring is an alternative to external training. This has the advantage of creating better working relationships between workers and building a mentality in which learning is not seen as something external the company but as a daily opportunity. Improvement starts from inside the company and employees are an active component of this process in which knowledge can be spread, maximised and discovered.

A third important point in favour of training during recession is that it minimises redundancies and keeps up the morale of the staff, which can result in a higher level of commitment not only in the short-time but also in the long run.


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