What makes a great business leader? Management expert Peter Drucker offers this definition: “Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” Founder of Virgin Group Richard Branson believes, “Having a personality of caring about people is important.” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos believes empathy is key and so he “asks thousands of Amazon managers, including himself, to attend two days of call-center training each year.”
Obviously, the answers to that question will vary depending on which great leader you ask, but a common thread ties all of their responses together: Being a leader is the result of behaviors, not inherited characteristics. In short, being a good leader is not in who you are, but in what you do.
You Can Learn to Lead
Because it is a set of effective behaviors, rather than some inborn characteristic, good leadership can be taught. In fact, it has been a serious area of study since at least the 1960s, when the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was founded. Over the next decade, a subdiscipline of ABA emerged: the study of organizational behavior. Griffin and Moorhead define the study of organizational behavior as the interplay between “human behavior in organizational settings, the individual-organization interface, the organization itself, and the environment.” This study has three categories of practical applications, according to the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management: performance management, behavioral systems analysis and behavior-based safety.
While these may seem like highly technical terms, they are simply behaviors of effective leaders. Performance management is determining causes of productive and unproductive behaviors and altering those causes. Behavioral systems analysis is zooming out from those causes and effects and examining the organization as a complex ecology. Finally, behavior-based safety is the application of this study to protecting the lives and heath of people in an organization.
Do those terms sound familiar? They should. They are the same behaviors cited by the great business leaders mentioned above. The ultimate aims of performance management and behavioral systems analysis are to improve an individual’s and an organization’s production. Behavior-based safety is aimed at caring for organization members’ lives and health.
Leaders Help Others Succeed
At its core, becoming a leader in human resources involves learning how to help others achieve their potential. Online MBA programs can provide practical, tested methods for achieving those aims. Courses such as Personnel Management or Organizational Behavior & Leadership teach techniques for changing behavior on a variety of scales. That change could be the professional development of an individual employee or an organization-wide restructuring to create efficiency.
As Drucker noted above, great leaders lift others up. Becoming a leader in HR means focusing on both individual and organizational development through behavioral change. Online MBA programs can give you the skills necessary to effect that change and lead others to better performance, collaboration and safety.
Learn more about the UL Lafayette online MBA with a concentration in Human Resource Management.
Drucker, P. (2008). Management.
Griffin, R. and Moorhead, G. (2011). Organizational Behavior.