‘Leader’ now defined more broadly: Survey

One-half of global firms define leaders by influence, performance
|hrreporter.com|Last Updated: 07/15/2013

More than one-half of global companies increasingly define leaders not by their position on the organization chart but by their influence and performance, according to a survey of nearly 1,200 senior business and human resource executives from more than 40 countries by the American Management Association.

Fifty-three per cent of the respondents now consider individuals to be leaders not according to their authority, but their impact. According to another 14 per cent, a leader is “anyone, whether they manage others or not, who is a top-performer in their specific role.”

“Our latest findings suggest we’re reaching a tipping point where pace-setting companies now recognize that the term ‘leader’ applies to a far broader group than just those at the top of the organization chart,” said Jennifer Jones, director at AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of American Management Association.

Respondents were asked: Which one of the following statements best reflects your organization’s definition of a leader?

Anyone whose role allows them to influence a group, regardless of direct reporting relationships (39 per cent)
• Anyone in charge of a group of employees or a function (17 per cent)
• Anyone, whether they manage others or not, who is a top-performer in their specific role (14 per cent)
• Anyone at a manager level and above (13 per cent)
• Anyone at a director level and above (nine per cent)
• Anyone at a vice-president level and above (six per cent)
• Anyone who is in a position that is designated “critical” to our company (two per cent).

“And we’re not talking about just a change in attitude among senior management,” said Jones. “It’s widespread at all levels in today’s flatter, more matrixed organizations. Individuals realize the need for leadership skills while collaborating with colleagues in another business unit, sharing expertise with peers in a different geographic location or working on ad-hoc projects.”

According to Jones, the emerging leadership challenge is to master key human skills, such as being able to work with all kinds of people.

“There isn’t a single way to achieve this, of course, but mastering communications skills, collaborating on a project, focusing on objectives, sharing responsibility, being thoughtful, or even having a sense of humor may be ways of becoming a successful leader, and not just trying to assert authority,” she said. “Interpersonal skills will no doubt move to the center of more leadership development.”

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