What is Leadership?
April 23, 2013
Studies of Leadership
The Business Dictionary states that “a leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations. Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, although it may be learned and enhanced through coaching or mentoring” (Leadership). A definition of leadership that I find accurate defines leadership as “The action of leading a group of people or an organization” and, “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” (Hill). In this definition, I noticed the word “action”, there can be no success without action. There is no substance, nothing to encourage the forces of nature to work in favor of the leader if there is a plan without action. Leadership and the qualities of a leader are easily recognizable by virtue of action and the presence of compassion in those who live up to the title of a leader. The definition of leadership mentioned “social influence”. It is a direct result of social influence that others choose to follow. If you want to be a great leader, then you must learn to follow. You must learn that being a leader is not about you, it’s not about your ego – it’s about others. It’s about being selfless; the first one in and the last to leave. Leadership differs from management and supervision although some people and organizations use the terms interchangeably. While the definitions of the terms differ, an individual may have the ability to provide all three. “Supervision means that an individual is charged with providing direction and oversight for other employees. The successful supervisor provides recognition, appreciation, training and feedback to employees. Management means to conduct the affairs of business, to have work under control and to provide direction, to guide other employees, to administer and organize work processes and systems, and to handle problems. Managers monitor and control work while helping a group of employees more successfully conduct their work than they would have without the manager” (Heathfield). One quote from Warren Bennis, Ph.D. in On Becoming a Leader distinguishes management from leadership: “Managers are people who do things right, while leaders are people who do the right thing.” While a supervisor and a manager may also exhibit leadership skill or potential, true leaders are rare. Key leadership success secrets set the great leaders apart from the average leaders in today’s organizations. Leadership style is learned from mentors, learned in seminars and exists as part of a person’s innate personal leadership skill set developed over years, and existing possibly, from birth. Nature or nurture is a question often asked about leadership. I believe the combination of natural leadership skills and nurture through leadership development defines your leadership style. According to Don Clark, on his excellent leadership resource, Big Dog’s Leadership Page, Bernard Bass’ theory of leadership states that there are three basic ways to explain how people become leaders. “The first, says some personality traits may lead people naturally into leadership roles. This is the Trait Theory. The second way people become leaders in through a crisis or important event that may cause a person to rise to the occasion, which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is the Great Events Theory. Lastly, people can choose to become leaders. People can learn leadership skills. This is Transformational Leadership Theory.” (Bass). Personally, I think that the most important characteristic of a leader is the decision to become a leader. At some point in time, leaders decide that they want to provide others with vision, direct the course of future events and...
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