The concept of leadership seems familiar to modern people, as it is at the heart of a successful business. However, it is challenging to define who is a leader and what qualities are necessary to fulfill such a role. Even the most successful and famous CEOs who run immense and most innovative companies on the planet consider the concept differently (Morgan, 2019). However, leadership is not an individual trait, but rather “a complex phenomenon in which the followers and the context have a very important role” (Silva, 2016, p. 3). Silva (2016) describes several characteristics defining the concept, which can form an understanding of how a leader emerges and develops. It includes five main features which determine the process and the role of a certain person in it.
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The Meaning of a Leader
First of all, the concept is not a personal quality but a set of actions leading to a certain result. The process is based on the influence arising from the interaction of the leader and his followers. Leadership style depends on the context, so when it changes, the strategy also becomes different. Followers must perceive a particular person as a leader and consider their actions as effective in achieving a certain result. Finally, the process consists of achieving common objectives for all participants, since in the event of disagreement, an authority may be affected. Thus, leadership performs a specific outcome common to the leader and his followers, using the right means and the appropriate strategy. Therefore, a leader is a person who can unite people and guide them to achieve shared goals in a changing context.
The Concept of Influence Process
Influence is a fundamental part of leadership, so its effective building process is key to successful management. The concept implies “the process of moving individuals or groups to the desired mindset, position, behavior, or place” (Middlebrooks et al., 2019, p. 175). Thus, leaders can choose different approaches to gain influence over their followers, depending on the goals set. The process can include physical, psychological, and contextual aspects which need to be considered and properly incorporated into the strategy (Middlebrooks et al., 2019). Thus, the leader chooses several opposite forms aimed to establish influence through communication with followers.
Interaction can appear in different scenarios depending on the current context. The influence process can be direct or indirect, overt or covert, conscious or unconscious, active or passive, individual or group (Middlebrooks et al., 2019). The leader can communicate with the subject personally or through third parties. The influence can also be seen or hidden, depending on the nature of the goal pursued. Consequently, the leader may want the subject to be aware of the impact on him or not notice it. Active influence implies thoughtful steps, while passive does not depend on will. A leader can also interact with either a group or individual subjects.
The choice of either approach depends, first of all, on the set goal and on the roles of the participants, which must be carefully evaluated and considered (Middlebrooks et al., 2019). Thus, the process of influence implies using various forms of interaction to achieve the desired result.
Depending on the approach chosen, the leader can create different tactics to achieve his or her goal. A set of specific actions aims to move other people to a “desired mindset” (Middlebrooks et al., 2019, p. 178). The leader needs to engage and consult followers to articulate their place in the team and their role in achieving a common goal. In this way, the group gains a sense of the shared mission and its importance, using enthusiasm and inspiration to work. It is also important to logically justify your ideas and thoughts to others, explaining their source and intended application. These tactics are the basis for effective influence, which will be the beginning of leadership with the support of other techniques.
There must be a parallel between the leader’s proposed solution or strategy and the team’s values to make them seem rational. It is also critical to build strong relationships between the manager and employees, as well as within the subordinate group. It is necessary to create a coalition of motivated individuals with the same vision and values, which can delegate the organization’s interests. The leader must articulate the benefit which each participant will receive if the result is achieved, for which it is necessary to assess the interests of each individual. A positive attitude and optimism towards the strategy being implemented will inspire followers, which will affect both motivation and productivity. The tactics described are to set the right mood to inspire the team, while there are approaches for more individual impact.
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To obtain the desired result, a leader can use negotiation or bargaining, as people use this technique everywhere daily. People willingly exchange any goods or services for equivalent objects; the main point is to understand which offer will be interesting and valuable for the subject. Personal relationships and individual influence can also be used to achieve results, so a leader needs to establish not only business connections but also friendships. Coercion or pressure is effective when there are formal authority and power. A leader may use such a technique more to establish and maintain discipline than to influence. Finally, ingratiation tactics involve appealing to the followers’ pleasant and important feelings, which will cause them to have a subconscious sympathy for the proposed solution or strategy. Thus, by combining the described techniques, the leader can effectively influence subordinates, motivating them to achieve goals using the right strategy.
The Role of Influence in Contemporary Leadership
In the modern world, conditions are constantly changing, urging the leader to determine various goals and use the appropriate strategy. Leaders take different approaches and management styles, which are reflected in their techniques to influence followers. Modern society is democratic and protects workers’ rights, so they need to be motivated, inspired, and developed so that they become effective members of the team. Thus, the proper alignment of the process of influence can make employees ardent associates who strive for a common goal. In contemporary leadership, it is necessary to become an example and support for followers; it is impossible to guide them only through authority or power.
Method Used to Identify Examined Leaders
To select leaders for comparison, several criteria were used to assess their performance. First, the effectiveness of their management and the success of the organization they run. Second, the innovativeness and importance of their products or services on a global scale. Third, the variety of influence tactics they use to achieve different results. Thus, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk were selected for comparison, as the world companies’ leaders, who revolutionized each in their segment. They have extensive global authority and are also involved in various projects aimed at developing innovative solutions. Their companies are the largest in the world, so they manage a massive number of people.
Bill Gates is an American businessman, founder, and former head office of Microsoft. He is considered one of the technology industry founders, as his company was one of the first manufacturers of computer software (“Bill Gates Biography,” 2018). During his time at Microsoft, he held the positions of “chairman, CEO, and chief software architect” (Ban Sattar, 2019). Gates is also one of the richest people on the planet, currently involved in charity.
Mark Zuckerberg is currently the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Facebook, the largest social network in the world. The platform he created has around 1.7 billion users, and its market value is over $ 500 billion (“Mark Zuckerberg Biography,” 2018). Despite being the most famous college dropout, Zuckerberg has outstanding leadership qualities which have allowed him to create the largest social media network, which changed the Internet once and for all.
Elon Musk is the most radical innovator and dreamer of the high-tech industry. In 1999, he founded X.com, which later became the popular PayPal payment system; he also created SpaceX in 2002 and Testa Motors in 2003 (“Elon Musk Biography,” 2018). The entrepreneur is known for his daring futuristic projects, including electric cars and space missions to Mars. At the moment, he successfully develops and produces reusable launch vehicles.
Leaders’ Influence Process
Bill Gates’ leadership style is based on effectively setting goals and identifying ways to achieve them. To establish an influence on his followers, he prefers to articulate the team’s shared values and each member’s contribution to the common cause (Agrawal, 2016). His work as a chief software architect suggests that he inspires employees by example and establishes companionship with them. Gates uses the knowledge and skills of its employees to achieve the most beneficial results. Thus, in the process of influencing, he relies on articulating a common goal and values, and establishing relationships with followers (Agrawal, 2016). Gates uses utilitarian techniques to distribute skills as efficiently as possible and to emphasize the role of employees in the overall mission of the company, while the other two leaders have more creative approaches.
Mark Zuckerberg is a more passionate and idealistic leader than Bill Gates. As Microsoft’s founder, he relies on relationships with his followers, maintaining open and more personal communication with employees (Shegani-Hamzallari, 2016). As a company, Facebook strives for the innovation which Zuckerberg is driving; he also inspires his colleagues with visionary ideas. Thus, he uses the technique of a coalition of like-minded people who follow the common big idea, as well as influence through the establishment of relationships.
Elon Musk of the three businessmen is the most creative with a wide range of interests and goals. This type of leader is, in a sense, unique as they “act less as commanders and more as coaches” (Wingard, 2019). Elon Musk trusts his most daring ideas and inspires his employees with them. In the process of influencing, he fosters a relationship based on the team’s common aspirations. Thus, his style implies a group of like-minded people who perceive the leader more as a companion in a movement towards a common goal.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The main strength of Bill Gates is his ability to unite people of different profiles to accomplish a shared task, creating a team out of them. However, as he notes himself, this is also his weakness, as it often becomes a boring duty that is challenging to cope with (Aghaian, 2018). Mark Zuckerberg’s main strength is his involvement in product creation and his passion for inspiring his employees.
However, as a creator, he cannot often present himself and look confident in public, which is his weakness. On the contrary, Elon Musk is an extremely successful delegator of his ideas, which are shared by his employees. His main strength lies in making mistakes and learning from failure, which gives him adaptability (Wingard, 2019). Musk’s main weakness is not always realistic ideas about his capabilities, which only reunites his team.
In the past, Microsoft has had a leading position as it pioneered the industry. However, today they need innovation, which is what the company faces; it needs new ideas and more adaptive solutions (Gaus, 2020). In the new conditions, it will be necessary to make bolder decisions that require more radical ideas from the leadership. Like Microsoft, Facebook can rightfully be considered a pioneer in the industry. Whereas previously, the main challenge for them was introducing innovations and bold decisions, now they will have to cope with content restrictions and various regulatory laws (Gaus, 2019).
To function successfully, they will need to change their strategy to a more conservative one. Elon Musk’s ambitions can be the main challenge for him both in the past and in the future (Masunaga, 2019). On the one hand, it is difficult to offer a wide audience and investors to believe in an innovative product. On the other hand, big projects and bold ideas require a lot of funding, which is what remains to be achieved. However, Musk’s leadership qualities and influence can help him overcome challenges.
Key Affected Attributes
The main attribute of influence for all three entrepreneurs and organizations in the industry in which they operate. If Microsoft and Facebook have to adapt to new conditions, which requires new strategies. Then Elon Musk’s companies will have to pave the way in the innovation field, which requires bold ideas and thoughtful leadership. As such, Microsoft and Facebook are positively influenced primarily by their reputation and the power they hold. For Elon Musk, the innovativeness of his ideas and proposals is an advantage. Among the negative factors for all companies, one can emphasize high risks, the volatility of market conditions, and the speed of technology development.
To overcome challenges and minimize negative factors, all innovative companies must be adaptive, especially in the technology industry. First of all, the considered entrepreneurs and their companies use their influence to recruit the most skillful and useful specialists who create a team. Moreover, they continuously strive to spread their ideas, which can change both the world of the present and the future. Thus, such companies must support their ideas and use the best people to realize them.
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Leadership is built on the influence which the head of the organization or manager gains using various tactics. Such techniques include, first of all, uniting people to achieve a common goal, building relationships, motivating followers, as well as the correct strategic use of their capabilities. In the companies of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk, lasting influence is of particular importance as they need to inspire people to bring innovative ideas to life.
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