“Leadership is both a process and a property. As a process, leadership involves the use of non-coercive influence. As a property, leadership is the set of characteristics attributed to someone who is perceived to use influence successfully.” (Giuliani, 211)
I would like to start by saying that despite numerous definitions leadership is the creative process of leading people, making them do what perhaps they do not want to do, but do it with pleasure. Leadership has numerous approaches and thus is represented by numerous theories starting with the theory of traits and behaviors and ending with the modern contingency theory and the transformational approaches. Leadership can be defined as an ability to lead people, motivate and manage them in such a way as to prompt people follow you, your example or your commands. The concept of leadership, therefore, involves all the tools, approaches and procedures necessary to build communication, trust, and persuasion between the leaders and the followers in order for the leadership to take place. The effects of managers within an organization can be measured by their ability to influence the employees and prompt them to obey the management. The following essay will explore the concept of leadership commenting on the leadership styles of some famous leaders. It will compare and contrast their leadership styles using leadership competencies as well as express any flaws or strengths they my have.
Leadership is related to motivation and interpersonal behavior within the organization. Effective leaders are about delegation of authority to the subordinates in a dynamic manner that encourages utilitarian decisions (Kouzes, 137). Leadership assists the managers in the preparation of the teams for the better and more ethical achievement (Berlew, 176). When looking at any organization, it is of importance to note that there are some people who would show some ‘leadership signs’ or competencies, while others won’t. Still, despite the common belief, leadership does not always have to be associated with the organizational conflict but rather the special wit of people like Gandhi, Napoleon, Lenin, or George Washington (Maxwell, 50). Speaking about the real world examples, one can think of Mary Kay Ash, whose influence created one of the largest network marketing cosmetic firms. Her main competence was trusting her employees and delegating authority to them. Mr. Dell and Bill Gates were capable of leading people to think outside the box and develop novel products and organizations by using authoritarian styles of management and leadership. Even the current US president regardless of what his opponents say, has leadership skills strong enough to persuade thousands of Americans go abroad to die for the abstract principles of democracy in a fight against terrorism. Certainly, he has position power of leadership granted to him by his Presidential status. These people make us understand that there are numerous instances when the decisions and participation of one important person is vital. These people have some outstanding qualities or competencies that allow them to know what can be done, when and how.
The article titled Ambiguity of Leadership written by Jeffrey Pfeffer focuses on the point of view of Pfeffer regarding leadership. The author notes that the concept of leadership is extremely vague and people should not have much influence in the organization. It notes that “the attribution of causality to leadership may be reinforced by organizational actions, such as the inauguration process, the choice process, and providing the leader with symbols and ceremony” (p.110). What it notes that it is some ‘aura’ full of ceremonies, symbols and distinctive signs, which distinguish people in an organization.
The ambiguity of leadership is about different approaches or ways to influence people. A pop star like Britney Spears does lead millions of teens around the world by her example. Many famous rock stars had such a great impact that when they died thousands of people mourned and some committed suicide. The constitutional monarchy in the UK represents another type, when the monarchs also lead millions. Even the Pope despite holding no political power, in fact can persuade governments and nations, i.e. lead them to carry out reforms or stop oppression. The position power given to a newly elected president, prime minister or other government official does make them formal leaders. Informal leaders, who exist in virtually any organization and lead not because they have the authority to do so but because of their special qualities, represent another type of leadership different from those discussed earlier.
One further reads that if a leader was selected haphazardly, others would not really trust him/her to be a leader because everyone expects a certain “ceremony” which makes one person a leader. The same article notes that “leaders are actors…who can separate themselves from organizational failures and associate with the corporate successes” (p.110). Again, while it can hold true in some situations it does not necessary holds true in others. Many famous businessmen which were hired by failing organizations did make successful turnaround, just like many US presidents who were selected at a time of financial distress (like F.D. Roosevelt) managed to lead thousands and millions to success.
To summarize, I would like to note that leadership permits individuals to have a large overall impact on an organization. Just like modern scientists cannot fully understand certain physical, chemical or biological phenomena, which hold true, many people cannot fully understand this phenomenon, which provides people with a chance to lead and drastically impact an organization, individuals or even nations. It appears that sometimes a special ritual or ceremony makes leaders, yet history knows many successful leaders who effectively influenced not only their organizations but also nations. The essay notes that leadership, despite vagueness, does exist as a special quality, trait or ability, and despite certain exceptions, as a rule gives some individuals tools to affect the organization or a nation as much as they want.
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