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Taking the lead

Mark Jacobs is the managing director of Mdina UK. He specialises in leadership, management and sales development and has been delivering the Mdina programmes since 1999.

Mark Jacobs is the managing director of Mdina UK. He specialises in leadership, management and sales development and has been delivering the Mdina programmes since 1999.

Is one born a leader or becomes one?

We moan about our leaders, but we need leadership

I believe that you can become a leader. I take part in a lot of discussions on professional network LinkedIn and the consensus is largely that people take different leadership roles in various situations.

I was once participating in a training session as a trainee. I remember the trainer had given us a group exercise and we weren’t doing very well. Then suddenly, one of our group, Jeff, just jumped up and pointed out how we could complete the exercise successfully.

Later, during the break, we were all discussing how great Jeff had been. One participant from another group joined us and he was very surprised to hear how Jeff had taken on a leadership role – he knew him as a quiet guy who had hardly said a word in previous group exercises.

This story shows how, in the right context, someone can successfully take on a leadership role.

You might not consider yourself to be a leader, but in certain situations, events can push you to become one. If, on the other hand, you believe that you are a born leader, you will not become one.

What is the best approach to nurturing leadership?

In my professional life, there have been four instances where I have followed a leader – in every instance, I did so for a different reason. In the first instance, it was because the person knew more than I did. In the second instance, the person had fantastic charisma – I just wanted to believe in that person. The third leader had fantastic vision and an excellent plan. In the fourth instance, the person taking on the leadership had a strong charisma which I could trust.

A leader doesn’t necessarily need all these four values. However, what all leaders need is the desire to be a leader – it’s this desire that inspires trust in their followers. When leaders lose trust, they cannot lead.

Does leadership training also affect personal life?

If you’re a leader, can you leave your leadership skills at the office? It depends. If you’re a financial advisor, you don’t need your financial know-how at home. Again, it all depends on the context – you use your leadership skills depending on the situation.

Do all organisations – whatever the size – need leadership?

You need leadership even in the smallest organisations. If a group is left unstructured and doesn’t have any guidelines, what happens is that the group will naturally surf around until a leader emerges. We moan about our leaders, but we need leadership.

Are there different kinds of leadership?

There are different reasons why people follow a leader. In the same way, leaders communicate differently and everyone has their own style of leadership. Every style has different results – an aggressive leadership, for instance, is short-term as it reduces loyalty.

An organisation needs different styles of leadership in different times. If an organisation is suffering a crisis, then it needs a crisis leader. When the crisis is over, a different leader is needed.

What is the best option – hire leadership or nurture it?

The two options have their own advantages. The safest option is to nurture leadership. However, when you hire a leader from outside the organisation, they will be able to see things outside the proverbial box.

Do people still see leadership as inherently male?

Here in the UK, there is the recognition that we need more women at senior management level. However, the reality is that for women to get to that position, they need to be better than the men they are competing with – in other words, they are still competing in a mostly male environment.

What strengths does the modern leader require?

A modern leader needs to have a clear vision, be decisive, and have the ability to inspire people to follow them.

The concept of wisdom coming from the top down is very old fashioned – the more agile organisations empower staff at all levels, which means that good leadership needs to encourage a good level of engagement.

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