What is leadership?
A leader is often defined as ‘person who is appointed, elected, or informally chosen to direct and co-ordinate the work of others in a group’ (Fielder, 1995), and leadership is usually defined as the ‘ability to influence others toward the achievement of goals that contribute to a worthwhile purpose’ (Cacioppe, 2000).
There are several theories which have been applied to explain leadership, such as behavioral, personality, situational and transformational theories. According the behavioral approach, there are several behaviors which can be attributed to be an effective and ineffective leader and leadership style usually emphasizes on certain things such as concern for a task, participative leadership, concern for people and directive leadership. Behavioral approaches focus on task and people. The personality theories emphasize on the traits of leaders and states that there are six main personality traits which leader have. These are drive, motivation, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability (analytical skills) and knowledge of the business. These traits are a part of being an effective leader, as leaders must also possess specific skills, have the ability to create a vision and implement strategies.
Transformational leadership theory states that a leader is someone who is able to inspire the people they are leading and provide intellectual stimulation. Transformational leadership is defined as when “one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (Burns, 1978).
All these theories have provided an explanation as to what leadership is and can be applied to any situation and all these theories link in with each other. For example, if an individual carries through on promises, has the confidence to withstand pressure from others, is able to motivate others, and is able to create the proper structure to lead, then they possess the qualities needed in a leader. Effective tools that can be used in organisations to assess, select and develop excellent leaders include the Saville Consulting Wave, the Identity Self-Preception Questionnaire and the Apollo Profile. Additionally, Assessment and Development Centre exercises which include leadship simulations or role plays are also highly valid tools.
Burns, JM., (1978) Leadership: power and purpose, Harper Torchbooks, Harper &Row, New York, United States of America, p 9-46.
Cacioppe, R., (2000) Creating spirit at work: re-visioning organization development and leadership (part 2). Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 21 (2), p 110-119
Fiedler, FE., (1995) Cognitive resources and leadership performance. International Association of Applied Psychology, 44 (1), p 5-28