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The essence of a leader

TECHNOLOGY is making the traditional office-bound organisation less important. But is it rendering leadership less important?

Not according to Stephen Langsford, managing director at e-business developer Method.

Mr Langsford believes leadership is becoming more important.

“One of the results of the electronic age has been the empowerment of the individual. Individuals are becoming the brand,” he said.

“I have the view that organisations defined by buildings and offices are becoming less important. But an organisation only happens because of some common purpose linking the individuals within it.

“Leadership is still needed to build that purpose. The leader needs to demonstrate what he wants others to do and to embolden people.”

Mr Langsford said communication was one of today’s most important leadership skills.

“It is important for leaders to get the input of others,” he said.

“In the old days information was not shared well within the organisation. Leaders have to encourage an information sharing attitude.

“I think the modern leader sits alongside his or her staff rather than above them.

“It doesn’t mean they should be conformist. They still need to make decisions that they deem to be good for the organisation, whether they are popular or not.”

Mr Langsford said the leader had to become the core of the idea and the process that would take the organisation forward.

“From all of the ideas that are brought to them they need to apply their wisdom and sense of what can be achieved to decide which ideas go forward,” he said.

Wisdom is not a trait often thought characteristic of young leaders but Mr Langsford does not think this is a problem.

“Daring is another trait of leadership and that is where a younger person is at an advantage, particularly in the information age,” he said.

“Their access to information and the experience of others can lead to the getting of wisdom.”

Mr Langsford said technology had changed the emphasis on long-term planning for organisations.

“These days planning is breaking down into much smaller cycles,” he said.

“Before it used to be about mapping out objectives for the organisations over a year or five years. These days it’s more about monthly targets.

“That doesn’t mean the long-term plans are less important, though. Leaders today need both a short-term and long-term focus. They need to create the forums within the organisation that are going to deliver the information to meet those needs.”

Mr Langsford believes leaders need to surround themselves with good people.

“One thing I learnt early in my career was to always recruit to make yourself redundant. I’m always looking for people who are better than I am,” he said.

“I’m looking for the elements in a person that will fit the culture of the organisation.”

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