Leadership skills

Alaa bin Olayan AlRuwaili - Aljawf Track
This article is written by a Youth Voice program winner. The Youth Voice Program is an enriching dialogue program that aims to engage young people from all over the Kingdom in a number of seminars, discussion meetings and trainings. It focuses mainly on critical thinking and persuasive communication skills.

The word "leadership" is not limited to describing the individual abilities of a person who runs an organization, a company, or even a country. Rather, it is a taught science and approach in which the leadership skills of an individual spread to the rest of the organization and its employees, which transforms it to a managerial culture. A leader can lead towards success or cause frustration through confused decisions.

However,  the leader is not required to be at the top of the administrative hierarchy. In fact, they can be in the middle level in an organization. Many leaders are appointed here. In addition, some people have the qualities of a leader without belonging to an organization or department, as is the case with some entrepreneurs.

In this article, I will address the concept of leadership, the difference between a manager and a leader, leadership from a scientific perspective, the relationship between leadership and age, and the impact of the leader's gender.

A common concept of leadership is: a process by which a person influences a group to accomplish a common goal and directs the organization in a way that makes it more structured and meaningful.

I will, however, summarize in brief words the concept of leadership in my perspective: the ability to guide followers towards a defined objective.

The definition may appear short. However, each word encompasses a concept that may need a whole lecture to be understood in detail and clarity. It is similar to a tree with branches, with each branch having several leaves. For instance, is "ability" innate or acquired? And based on which principle do you establish this ability? Doesn't this ability need to rest on certain powers?

The word "guide" requires explanation, too. Guidance has keys and tools, and in order for me as a leader to guide others, I must have a good relationship with my team and instill a common team spirit.

When thinking about "followers", these differ like any humans; there are both bad and good followers. There are followers who execute and have no opinion, meaning that they are characterized by (subordination); and followers who are factionalized based on personal interests or things they have in common. Each of these groups has its own particular method to deal with.

As for "objective"; in order to reach my goal as a leader, I must understand that objective thoroughly and transform it into a common objective with team members. The best objective for the team as a whole is a defined, good and common objective.

Despite reading this concept, some may confuse leadership with management, when, in fact, they differ from each other. Management often focuses on tasks, short-term works, and details, while leadership focuses on long-term visions and overall views. Through these differences, I realized that a manager is concerned with short-term achievement, while a leader focuses on the future and relationships. The Kingdom’s vision 2030, for example, is a long-term vision and a future vision, meaning it is a leadership vision. The leader is the actual engine of the organization and the fuel that gives it a longer life, given the long-term view of doing what is right and avoiding mistakes.

However, a manager often needs to be educated, while the leader is not required to be educated or be a scientist as long as he or she masters leadership skills. Not every leader is a scientist, and not every scientist is a leader. If a scientist with no leadership skills was placed in a position of leadership, then I am certain that they will not succeed in their leadership, let alone their ability to spread their knowledge. Therefore, they will not benefit the organization, but will rather harm it, themselves and their team. A leader does not have to be a scientist as long as they master leadership skills. I would stand behind a leader if I see both leadership and science within them, but I would not choose the scientist over the leader in this case. By analogy, we can find a historical example of (Hani bin Masoud Al Shaibani), who was a leader among his people through his fine leadership, leading the sons of Rabia in particular and the Arabs in general after he led the Arabs in the famous battle of (Dhi Qar), in which he defeated the Persians despite his lack of knowledge compared to some of his followers.

Since the leader is not required to be educated, then leadership, as I see it, is not linked to a specific age at all. Many a youngling had better leadership skills than those who preceded him. Many young leaders are more successful than their older counterparts. This may be due to several factors that make him excel over others, which instill in him leadership values and skills, creating an innate leader. It might also be due to the environment surrounding him in a young age through his upbringing; reasons concerning the house in which he was raised, that is a leader's home; or life circumstances that shaped and refined him as an outstanding leader.

Hence, a question may arise concerning the gender of the leader. what if a woman leads us in the organization that I follow? Is she capable of leading? The definitive answer to this question is that leadership is not restricted to one gender. Women can sometimes be more competent than men in a leadership position. In this regard, I came across a study in "The 360 Degree Leader" by the author John C Maxwell Men stating that women are distinguished from men by some leadership skills because women do not make quick decisions and are more inclined to reflect and seek more studies, and resort to more extensive consultations, surpassing men in that aspect. This gives women a creative advantage of 25% over men, and in return, this gives men the chance to excel over women in terms of decisive and firm leadership decisions. Leaders of each gender have their own advantage, according to the aforementioned study. There is no harm in a woman becoming a leader, as long as she is the worthiest in acquiring that role and has the ability to efficiently achieve the objective of the organization. I support this study and my opinion about women's leadership with evidence that the Qur'anic verses praised the leadership of (Bilqis) of the Kingdom of Sheba, where she was described as polite, wise and intelligent.

In summary, leadership science refers to creativity and great time management, as well as participation and consultation with team members. The leader is the driver of the organization's objective and vision. And I have a successful personal experience in this regard. I was a member of the scouts. I joined the (Messengers of Peace Helping and Serving Pilgrims) in 1433 AH. At that time, our team was assigned to field survey before the start of the Hajj season. The leader consulted us as a team on how to work, especially since we were tasked with monitoring camps within only four hours and over two days. The leader thought the time was not sufficient, and we had to race with time and move together as a group. I proposed that we split into five groups, three people each, so that each group has four hours, which meant that the total added up to 20 hours. He took my advice and we finished the field survey within the first day. The next day comprised a process of checking and correcting errors, if any. Al-Jawf Scouts got all the honors at the time and the team leader did not hesitate to give me the title of leader even though I was not qualified for that according to scouting regulations.

There is no doubt that participation and advice are features of a successful leader. However, in books and articles, I have found nothing supporting a leader's tyranny. Everything I have read and seen, even on Doroob platform (Be A Leader), always addresses the leader's cooperation, listening to the team, and sharing their concerns and joys. In the event of success, it is attributed to the team. But for every rule, there is an exception, that is in the case of emergency or exceptional circumstances. At times like that, the leader must act on their own, and make decisions on the basis of their own judgement. All of this is does not work without "good measure" supporting their obstinacy and determination.

Sometimes, a leader must be tyrannical in non-exceptional circumstances that require them to be firm and strict. In their tyranny, they eliminate exploitators from the team or organization. This, however, should not be a rule, but rather an exception for special circumstances and goals. Thus, the rule of this exception follows the law of damages, which states "can only be used when there is evidence of damage and shall be dropped with its elimination."

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