Leadership has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.  Others in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged. Alan Keith of (Gene Tech) states that "Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for  people to contribute to making something extraordinary to happen".

      THEORIES 

     Leadership is "organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal".  the leader may or may not have any formal authority.  Theories involving traits set the characteristics for leadership as follows: 

   SITUATIONAL INTERACTION

   FUNCTION 

   BEHAVIOR

   POWER

   VISION

   VALUES

   CHARISMA

   INTELLIGENCE among others■

EARLY HISTORY 

     The search for the characteristics or traits of leadership has been on-going for centuries.  History's greatest philosophical writings from PLATO'S "Republic to Plutarch's lives" have explored the question "What qualities distinguish an individual as leader?"

     Underlying this search was the recognition of the importance of leadership and the assumption that leadership is rooted in the characteristics that certain individuals posses.  This idea that leadership is based on individual attributes is known as the "Trait Theory of Leadership".

     The trait theory was explored at length in a number of works in the 19th. Century.  Most notable are the writings of Thomas Carlyle and Francis Galton, whose works have prompted decades of research.  In "Heroes and hero worship (1841)" Carlyle identified the talents, skills, and physical characteristics of men who rose to power.  In Galton's "Hereditary Genius (1869)", he examined leadership qualities in the families of powerful men.  After showing that the numbers of eminent relatives dropped off when moving from first degree to second degree relatives, Galton concluded that leadership was inherited.  In other words, leaders were born not developed. Both of these notable works lent great initial support for the notion that leadership is rooted in characteristics of the leader.

     For decades, this trait-based perspectives dominate empirical and theoretical work in leadership.  Using early research techniques, researchers conducted over a hundred studies proposing a number of characteristics that distinguished leaders from non-leaders:

INTELLIGENCE

SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS

SELF-CONFIDENCE 

     In the late 1940s and early 1950s, however, a series of qualitative reviews of this studies (e.g., Bird 1940, Stogdill 1948, Mann 1959) prompted researchers to take a drastically  different view of the driving forces behind leadership.  In reviewing the extant literature, Stogdill and Mann found that while some traits were common across a number of studies, the overall evidence suggested that persons who are leaders in one situation may not necessarily be leaders in other situations, subsequently, leadership was no longer characterized as an enduring individual trait, as situationals approaches posited that individuals can be effective in certain situations, but not in others.  This approach dominated much of the leadership theory and research for the next few decades.

     New methods and measurements were developed after these influential reviews that would ultimately reestablish the trait theory as a viable approach to the study of leadership. for example, improvements in researchers' use of the ROUND ROBIN*  research design methodology allowed researcher to see that individuals can do emerge as leaders across a variety of situations and tasks.  Additionally, during the 1980s statistical advance allowed researchers to conduct meta-analyses, in which they could quantitatively analyze and summarize the finding from a wide ARRAY* of studies.  This advent allowed trait theorists to create a comprehensive and parsimonious picture of previous leadership research rather than rely on the qualitative reviews of the past. Equipped with new method, leadership researcher reveled the following:

   > Individuals can and do emerge as leaders across a variety of situations and tasks 

   > Significant relationship exist between leadership and such individual traits as;

      ~intelligence 

      ~extroversion

      ~adjustment

      ~conscientiousness

      ~openness to experience

      ~general self-efficacy  

      ~performance

LEADERSHIP MYTHS

     Leadership, although largely talked about, has been described as one of the least understood concepts across all cultures and civilizations.  over the years many researchers have stressed the prevalence of this misunderstanding stating that the existence of several flawed assumptions, or myths concerning leadership often interferes with individual's conception of what leadership is all about.

MYTH #1 

LEADERSHIP IS INNATE

      According to some, leadership is determined by distinctive "dispositional characteristics presented at birth (e.g.   Extroversion, intelligence, integrity)".  However, it is important to note that leadership also develops through hard work and careful observation. thus effective leadership can result from nature (i.e. innate talents), as well as nurture (i.e. Acquired skills)

MYTH # 2

LEADERSHIP IS POSSESSING POWER OVER OTHERS

     Although leadership is certainly a form of power, it is not demarcated by power over people--rather, it is a power with people that exists as a reciprocal relationship between a leader and his/her followers.  Despite popular belief, the use of manipulation, coercion, and domination to influence others is not a requirement for leadership.  In actuality, individuals who seek group consent and strive to act in the interest of others an also become effective leaders (e.g.  Class president, court judge).

MYTH # 3

LEADERS ARE POSITIVE INFLUENTIAL

     The validity of the assertion that groups flourish when guided by effective leaders can be illustrated using several examples.  For instances, according to Baumister "(1988), the bystander effect (failure to respond or offer assistance) that tends to develop within groups faced with an emergency" is significantly reduced in groups guided by a leader.  More over, it has been documented that group performance creativity and efficiency all tend to climb in business with designated manager or CEO's. However the difference leaders make is not always positive in nature. leaders some times focus on fulfilling their own agendas at the expense of others, including his/her own followers (e.g. Josef Stalin).

MYTH # 4

LEADERS ENTIRELY CONTROL GROUPS OUTCOME 

 

     In western cultures it is generally assumed that group leaders make all the difference when it comes to group influence and overall goal-attainment.   although common, this romanticized  view of leadership ( The tendency to overestimate the degree of control leaders have over their groups and their group's outcomes), ignores the existence of many other factors that influence group dynamics.  For example, group cohesion, communication patterns among members, individual personality traits, group context, the nature or orientation of the work, as well as behavioral norms and established standards influence group functionality in varying capacities. For this reason it is unwarranted to assume that all leaders are in complete control of their group's achievements.

MYTH # 5

ALL GROUPS HAVE A DESIGNATED LEADER

      Despite preconceived notions, all groups need not have a designated leader.  Groups that are primarily composed of women are limited in size, are free for stressful decision-making, or only exist for a short period of time, often undergo a diffusion of responsibility, where leadership tasks and roles are shared among members

MYTH # 3

GROUP MEMBERS RESIST LEADERS

     Although research has indicated that group members dependence on group leaders can lead to reduced self-reliance  and overall group strength , most people actually prefer to be led than to be without a leader. This "need" for a leader becomes especially strong in troubled groups that are experiencing some sort of conflict.  Group members tend to be more contented and productive when they have a leader to guide them.  Although  individuals filling leadership roles can be a direct source of resentment for followers, most people appreciate the contributions that leaders make to their groups and consequently welcome the guidance of a leader.

 

RESOURCES

                BOOKS 

   Carlyle, Thomas (1841) "Heroes, Hero worship" Boston MA.

                                     Houghton Mifflin

 

   Heifetz, Roland (1994)  "Leadership without easy answers" Cambridge MA.

                                     Harvard University Press 

 

   Spencer, Herbert (1841) " The study of sociology" New York

                                       D. A. Appleton

 

    Van Wormer, Katherine S., Besthorn Fred, Keefe Thomas (2007) "Human behavior

     and the social environment" 

       Macro Level: groups, communities, and organisations

       U. S. Oxford University Press  

                                                    SOURCE

       Benjamin Franklin Library ( U.S. Embassy Mexico City)

 

    Vocabulary:

     Round Robin.-  A sequence or series

     Array.-  To place in proper or desired order

     I am open to any and every kind of comments, critics, etc. 

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Replies

  • Wow, John!  Are you trying to write a research paper or something?  Anyhow, excellent work!

    I myself believe that anyone can become a leader but not just anyone can become effective.

    True leadership, unlike management, is not just a set of skills and learned behaviors.  What you do as a leader will depend on who you are.  Regardless of your own perceptions of yourself, the people you work with can determine who you are only by observing what you do – through your behavior.

    And in order for us to become true leaders, we must first transform ourselves into the SERVANT LEADER.

    Servant leadership is not about being nice or being loved, nor is it about never having to do the gut-wrenching stuff like firing people.  It is, however, a way of being that the personal characteristics such as: being authentic, being vulnerable, being accepting, being present, and being useful, are combined with self discipline and the unwavering commitment to creating a workplace of efficacy and productivity as well as of opportunity for personal and spiritual growth for all.  It allows the leader to grow personally and to find more meaning in life and work, just as you are helping others grow.

    I believe that servant leadership redefines business.  That it’s not all about money but it’s also about people.  It’s not all about making profit but it’s also about creating an excellent organization where employees and leaders respect and serve each other.

    James Autry wrote an excellent book about The Servant Leader.  One of the very few books I've read years ago.

     

     

    • Thank you very much for your comments miss Ohnie, this is  the part I  enjoy the most when people express their opinion.
  • Hi John,

       "Every teacher is a leader" is a quote which negates your question because teachers comprise a large percentage of number in my country.  

     

        Leadership takes in many forms as you have identified here but to be a very effective leader, one has to possess certain qualities that would make others follow him.  

     

        "He should be wise as a serpent but gentle as a dove."  Great topic, John!

    • Amen to that, Anele.

      I have high regard for teachers!

    • Thank you very much for your comments and remarks
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