“Leadership cannot be taught or learned” (Drucker, 1955). Critically evaluate this statement.
Peter Drucker as one of the best known writers and management consultants wrote that “Leadership is of utmost importance. Indeed there is no substitute for it. But leadership cannot be created or promoted. It cannot be taught or learned.” (Drucker, 1955) He held the view that leadership is a talent. The purpose of this essay is to critically evaluate whether leadership can be taught or learnt, and in which way it can be taught and learnt. In the first place the definition of the word “leadership” and the approaches to leadership will be presented. Then seven approaches of leadership will be analysed and, the ways of training and the implications will be evaluated. The word Leadership can be defined in various ways. Henry Mintzberg identified ten managerial roles in the book Nature of Managerial Work (1973); they are figurehead, leader, liaison, monitor, disseminator, spokesman, entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator. Leadership concerns the leader roles as Mintzberg defined it. The book management & organisational behaviour states that ‘it is difficult, therefore, to generalise about leadership, but essentially it is a relationship through which one person influences the behaviour or actions of other people.’ The opinions held on leadership differ between the seven approaches. At the very beginning, people simply assume that leadership is giftedness and the attention was rarely given to training for leadership. Thus it is understandable that Drucker made the view above. In the paper Research on Leadership Selection and Training: One View of the Future, Fred Fiedler said that ‘Leadership research before 1945 was primarily concerned with identifying traits, behaviours and personality patterns that would differentiate leaders from non-leaders’ and this is the very first approach to leadership which is usually called the qualities approach. Later there has been a dramatic change. The second approach focuses attention on the function of leadership. According to the book Management & Organisational Behaviour ‘The functional approach believes the skills of leadership can be learned, developed and perfected’, there was greater attention on the successful training of leaders than before. The leader’s behaviour and the group of follower’s are viewed by the functional approach. An utmost important person at that time was John Adair. A general theory on the functional approach is associated with his work and ideas on action-centred leadership which focuses on things actually did by leaders. Task needs, team maintenance needs and the individual needs are the effective areas of the leader within the work group. Any one area can be affected by one or both of the other areas. For training, only these three areas need to be considered. After the functional approach, the kinds of behaviours of people in leadership situations and the influence on group performence were drawn attention. There are two dimensions of leadership behaviour which labelled ‘consideration’ and ‘initiating structure’. From the degree of control manager can be characterised into four main styles: tells, sells, consults and joins. The fourth approach is styles of leadership. The importance of leadership style was drawn by the attention to leadership as a behavioural category. Seeing as the work situations were more easily distinguished than before, managers cannot rely on a simple function of leadership. Leadership is classified into three dimensions: consideration, concern for production and incentive for performance. Based on the belief that there is no single style of leadership, there are contingency theories. There are four major contingency models of leadership include: Favourable of leadership situation by Fiedler, Quality and acceptance of leader’s decision...
References: Arnold Danzig (1999) ‘How Might Leadership Be Taught? The Use of Story and Narrative to Teach Leadership’, INT. J. Leadership in Education, VOL.2, no. 2 117-131
Bass, B.M. (1990) ‘From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision’, Organizational Dynamics, 18: 19-31.
Fred E. Fiedier (1996) ‘Research on Leadership Selection and Training: One View of the Future’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 241-250
Laurie J. Mullins (2010) Management & Organisational Behaviour. London: Financial Times Pitman Publishing.
Muczyk, J.P. & Reimann, B.C. (1987) ‘The case for directive leadership’, Academy of Management Review, 12, 637-647.
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