The study of leadership has an extremely long history, and presently is one of the most popular areas of management study and publishing. Yet, despite this long history of interest in the subject of leadership much is still unknown and unresolved about the idea of leadership. Today, there are many different conceptions about what constitutes leadership and effective leaders. Notice that most people talk about leadership as if they clearly understand what constitutes leadership. They also assume that other people share that unspoken understanding. Yet, both of these assumptions are probably false most of the time.
Leadership in General
For example, try to clearly and concisely define what you mean by "leadership." Then ask someone else for their definition of leadership. Can either of you define it well? Do your definitions agree? Are your definitions so broad that they could describe activities that you do not think constitute leadership? Conversely, are your definitions so narrow that they cannot describe leadership in a variety of different situations? Now define "management." Is your definition of "management" different than your definition of "leadership?" Should "management" and "leadership" be defined differently, or are they in reality the same concept? The questions could go on, but you get the point. Leadership is difficult to define and differentiate from other concepts. Now think about what constitutes “effective” leadership? Hundreds, if not thousands, of books on leadership have been published over the past two or three decades. Each book propounds a somewhat unique theory of what constitutes “effective” leadership; each supporting its claims with anecdotes and testimonials. Similarly, magazine articles, television shows, and books constantly herald the newest effective leader. Often, a few years later, either the company fails or the leader acts in a manner that calls into question whether that person ever possessed the leadership qualities and behaviors attributed to him or her. Think about the rise and fall of some chief executive officers over the past few years. But, does defrauding people, ending up in jail, or bankrupting a company necessarily mean that the person was never an effective leader? Some might argue the final results determine the effectiveness of leadership; others might argue that it is the process of leading, not the outcome, that defines effective leadership. Despite all this uncertainty, people are so fascinated by the idea of “leaders” that they continue to believe that “leadership” exists and matters. This course cannot possibly reconcile all the competing leadership theories, nor can it do much to explain why some apparently effective leaders fail miserably later, or fail as leaders in some other aspect of their life. Moreover, few of us want to read about every leadership theory ever espoused by someone. Rather, the primary objective of this course (and the textbook) is to introduce you to a variety of different leadership theories that have some research support and have stood the test of time (to varying degrees). When people make conflicting claims about leadership, the scientific model proposes that research should be conducted to determine which of the competing theories has more factual support. Without research, there would be no way to determine which plausible theory better reflects reality, or whether any theory actually reflects reality. Chapter 1- The Nature and Importance of Leadership
There are many different definitions of leadership, and the textbook outlines several definitions. However, most definitions have the common theme that leadership is about influencing people to achieve goals that are accepted by the group members, or followers. Notice that this theme doesn't limit leadership to formal leadership positions, nor does it say that there can only be one leader at a time, or that leadership only flows from the "top-down." The other...