Self-confidence is one of the most universally agreed-upon traits of a leader. In order for the organization as a whole to have confidence, the leader must exude confidence. There will be moments in any initiative the followers cannot see the benefits of the initiative or do not feel that they will be able to execute the initiative. It takes the confidence of the leader in order to enable the rest of the organization to believe in the initiative.
Locke's knowledge, skills and ability form the second of the four key to leadership. These are relatively self-evident, but they are still important aspects of genuine leadership. Knowledge of the industry, for example, is built up over the course of years. This knowledge allows the leader to make the right decisions and forge the right strategies. In addition, the leader will also have more ability to instill confidence in their followers if they can derive a degree of informal authority from their advanced knowledge o the industry.
The most important of the skills Locke identifies are people skills. This is due to the substantial emphasis the leadership position places on building relationships. The leader must be adept at listening, at oral communication, at network building and conflict management and at assessing his or herself and others. Locke spends little time on other skills, except to note a few others he considers to also be important. The emphasis Locke places on interpersonal skills highlights why technical knowledge is insufficient for a leader. Because a leader needs to ensure that the organization as a whole executes the vision and strategies that he or she develops, it is essential that strong interpersonal skills are possessed, as it is other people who must do the bulk of the work in implementing the vision.
Cognitive ability is the rarest of traits identified by Locke. This involves the ability to process a large amount of information, integrate it, and then draw logical conclusions from it.
Locke emphasizes vision as the third key component of leadership because he views vision as unique to the leader's role. A leader without the ability to generate and articulate vision is little more than a strong manager. Implementing the vision may be more managerial, but the leader needs to envision the constructs by which the original vision can be implemented. The leader, therefore, needs to have strong knowledge of organizational structure and power levers. The ability to design an organization to achieve a specific end goal is the mark of leadership at its highest level. It is important as well that the leader play a role in developing key talent for the organization. The leader must have the right people in place to execute the vision. Further, the training and acculturation systems must also be congruent with the implementation of the vision.
Locke's work is presented in a simple, matter-of-fact manner. The book begins from a starting point that the keys to leadership have already been defined. Drawing upon academic research, Locke simplifies the mysteries of leadership. Early in the book, he identifies that there is no one true leadership style, or one set of skills that will guarantee effectiveness. He operates from the point-of-view that while there are some individual traits that act of predictors of leadership, true leadership is based on very broad traits that, when brought together in a manner appropriate for the organization's internal and external circumstances, are highly effective.
Leaders are critical for all organizations. The blistering pace of change in the external environment of most businesses demands leadership that is able to respond quickly to challenges. Leaders need to have the right set of skills, traits, vision and the ability to implement that vision in order to allow the organization to succeed. For Locke, the equation is just that simple. It is left to the reader to define his or her own leadership style within the context of those four keys, as befits Locke's underlying beliefs about leadership.
Locke, E. (1991). The Essence of leadership: The four keys to leading successfully. New York: Lexington- Macmillan.
Website of Edwin A. Locke, Ph.D., various pages. (2009). Retrieved December 3, 2009 from http://www.edwinlocke.com/