Why Study Leadership?
Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers (Proverbs 11: 14 NLT)
Anyone in charge of a household (wife, husband), an organization or venture (small or big), or a group, soon has to face with the phenomenon of leadership. While many are familiar with the concept, it is as popular and controversial as the word peace, love, and democracy. Everyone intuitively understands its meaning; however, its meaning differs for everyone. There have been diverse empirical studies, and classification systems to define the dimensions of leadership in the past years. Business leaders such as executives, project managers, change/program managers, portfolio managers frequently comprehend the phenomenon of leadership as the process whereby a leader influences followers to achieve common organizational objectives through change. It involves directing, controlling, motivating, and inspiring staff towards the achievement of organizational goals (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2009). This article inculcates opinions and insights of various scholars who specialize in the field of leadership. It argues the conceptualization of leadership, its application domestic and abroad, raises the awareness that an individual should outline his own leadership compass within the realm of the traditional model of leadership
Traditional model of leadership
“Great Leaders plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in (Translated Greek Proveb)” (Clegg, Kornberger, & Pitsis, 2009, p. 132).
Many scholars have proposed their definition of leadership due to the fact the concept has been the center of many debates. The term leadership is abundant in the academic, research, and the business world due to its important role in human groups. The traditional understanding of leadership revolves around the perceptive that (Northouse, 2007, p. 3):
a) Leadership is a process
b) Leadership involves influence
c) Leadership occurs in a group context
d) Leadership involves goal attainment
Leadership is a process
Business leaders have spent resources on leadership development for their employees. They understood there is a bi-directional transaction that takes place between leaders and followers. This solidifies the notion that leadership is a process and leaders are made and not born. There may be several approaches to this process such as the analysis of leadership traits and characteristics. Nonetheless, rest assured that one could improve his leadership skills by following some proven techniques. Blanchard (1995) argued, in the bestseller book “Leadership and one-minute manager” a method (figure 1) that organizations can leverage to improve their leaders’ skills in managing their direct reports.
Leadership involves influence
The leadership process facilitates a transactional event that requires influence. This situates leadership in a social environment; which creates interaction among people. Therefore, there must be influence to achieve a particular goal. There must be decision-making, acceptance, and refusal. It is almost unarguable to affirm that Google, Facebook, and Apple have influenced the consumers in some fashion in the technology industry. These companies are well respected as leaders. Business leaders must execute influence on their followers in order to achieve results. Otherwise, there will be a void, an absence of leadership. This is also true in households and other arenas. Chaos often arises when leaders fail to influence. Consequently, there is no leadership without influence.
Leadership occurs in a group context
Although there are many school of thoughts that promote self-leadership, one can assess leadership more effectively in a group context. The group interaction may be the quintessential element of leadership. In such setting, the leaders’ behaviors and those of the followers reflect their core values, culture, and ethics.
This section is not an in depth analysis of culture, ethics, and leadership, rather their correlation and importance. Many interesting studies highlight the impact culture and ethics have on leadership. Some recommended ones with great insights are the work of Geert Hofstede and the GLOBE (Global Leadership Organizational Behavioral Effectiveness).
Leadership appears to be such a complex phenomenon because it encloses notions like culture. Sociologists, human resources have debated feverously the meaning of the term culture. Similar to leadership, many have their own definition of culture that differs from others. How does one lead a group without a basic common understanding of such an important concept? This article will advocate culture as the norms, values, and beliefs that a group of people shares.
Why is culture so important? Globalization currently plays an important role on the world’s economy. Organizations are mostly global. Business leaders interact with individuals domestically and abroad; thus, have to deal with multicultural employees and diversity. It has become imperative for business leaders to be competent in cross-cultural awareness and five cross-cultural competencies suggest Adler and Bartholomew (1992). First, they ought to understand business, political, and cultural environments. Second, they must learn other culture perspectives, and trends. Third, they need to work with employees from other cultures and embrace the fact they are co-workers. Fourth, they need to adapt to communicating in other cultures. Fifth, leaders need to be mindful of ethnocentrism and treat other cultures as equal as theirs.
The group context of leadership places leaders in a quandary situation if they want to be successful over the long term. The 2008 financial crisis has propelled business leaders, even Congress, to talk about ethical behaviors. Some powerful leaders took advantage and abused their powers, and lost the concept of right and wrong. Consequently, their firms went bankrupt and they lost the trust factor. There is an obvious social need to understand what business ethics is. Instead of diving in the abyss of cynicism, business leaders ought to ask the tough questions: Why do they need ethics?
Business leaders are obliged to practice what they preach. Ethics has become a de facto standard for all leaders. Others in their organizations demand their leaders to exert the highest moral standards and ethical behaviors in their decision-making, their behaviors to create and sustain trust. Organizations and any groups need trust to function effectively. Leaders that do not inspire trust have a hard time to achieve results consistently.
Leadership involves goal attainment
What is the main true reason to study leadership? The answer to this question varies depending on the responder. Some business leaders will refer to leadership studies and sustain that leadership is all about setting up goals, strategies, and motivate the worker bees. True seasoned insightful leaders will state firmly leadership is all about achieving results. Leaders should aspire to goal attainment. The next question is how to do so? This paves the way to effective leadership.
Effective leadership appears to be a subjective concept. The current studies highlight conclusions, experiences, and inferences on leadership traits, and styles, but no quantitative data to demonstrate which style brings about results. Therefore, business leaders must embrace the leadership styles: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching to create the right recipe to lead their followers.
Leadership is a combination of art and science. The various scholars and studies reveal unequivocally that leaders should embrace emotional intelligence competencies to lead effectively. It is an art to empathize with others, self-motivated and motivate others, self-regulated, awareness of strength, weaknesses of self and others. Effective leaders accept leadership as a process. They know what style to use, what combination of styles to use with whom, where and when. This is important because they work with people they tend to influence. The adoption of the wrong styles may create resentment with followers exponentially in a group context. The adoption of the right styles will lead to what most effective and insightful leaders sought after, a compass to achieve sustainable results.
Adler, N. J., & Bartholomew, S. (199). Managing globally competent people. Academy of Management Executive, 6, 52-65.
Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P., & Zigarmi, D. (1985). Leadership and the One Minute Managers: Increasing Effectiveness Through Situational Leadership.
Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Pitsis, T. (2009). Managing & Organization: An introduction to theory & practice (2nd Edition ed.). London Sage Publications Ltd.
Munley, A. E. (2011). Culture Differences in Leadership. IUP Journal Of Soft Skills, 5(1), 16-30.
Northhouse, P. (2007). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sage Publication, Inc.