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Essay Samples > Definition > Leadership
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Leadership

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“Leadership cannot be taught or learned” (Drucker, 1955).

Leadership can be described as the “process of enlisting the support and aid of other people, so as to accomplish a common task, by one person through social influence.”  Other descriptions are present but are mainly influenced and thus categorized into the different type of leadership styles present. These styles and categorizations are because of the experience, the philosophy and personality of the leader (ship).

Autocratic/authoritarian leadership is all the decision-making powers and authority that are vested and thus centralized in the leader. An example would be a dictator or in royal families. Few if any initiatives or suggestions are entertained from subordinates, with the autocratic management being successful due to the strong motivational incentives it offers. It permits quick decision-making, as it is the preserve of one person to make the decisions (Grint, 2000, P 98).

Free-rein/Laissez-faire is a leadership style that is ‘off-hand’ where the leader allows for maximum freedom to be granted to the subordinates in making their decisions on both methods and policies to be used.

Democratic/participative is a favored group decision-making, where the leadership, after consultation with the group, issue instructions. Decisions are not unilateral due to the consultation and participation of the group members. This cooperation can motivate the group both positively and effectively.

Toxic leadership refers to the responsibility over an organization or a group of people by a leader(ship), who abuses the leader-follower relationship present,  and leaves the organization or group in a worse-off condition than before Muczyk, J.P. & Riemann, B.C. (1987, p 639).

Narcissistic leadership can be categorized into positive, healthy or negative. The positive one is informed on or by the following attributes that include the presence of self-confidence in line with the reality that is built on a healthy childhood and appropriate behavioral traits towards others, real concern for others and for their various ideals with no exploitation or devaluing them. The other one is the presence of power that is founded on values and ideals that are followed through as set plans or goals or guidelines.

From the above, it is thus agreeable, on my part, with the above notion of “Leadership cannot be taught or learned” (Drucker 1955). Leadership is based on a myriad of ideals, methods and styles that all contribute in their different ways to the enrichment of leadership in the long-term. Leadership can be both from the formal and informal sectors, with the formal type being more present and functional in (the formal sectors of) governance, economy, politics and the military, while the informal type being visible in (the informal sectors of) socio-cultural interactions present in the social fabric (Fiedler & House, 1988, 44).

The formal leadership style is set upon a set of rules, regulations, methods and ideals that through experiences and practices continue to be improved on. The informal leadership style is based on a number of factors, such as communication skills, relationships present, shared visions, community/society, guidance and the character of the leaders who though not in a formal leadership position are recognized as leaders nevertheless (Kipnis, Schmidt, Swaffin-Smith & Wilkinson, 1984, p 60).

Leadership today is based on the kind of relationships that exist between the leaders/supervisors and their subordinates or employees. These relationships are unlike depending on the organization or institutions concerned. There may be use of coercion/force or concessions/discussions by the leader (ship) and the staff/subordinate in running of the institution/organization.

In this modern and fast-paced 21st Century leadership has evolved adapting to the different situations and experiences present, this being both in the formal and informal sectors. There are categorized into the following: -

Transactional leadership

This type of leadership represents the transactions/exchanges between the superior and the subordinates, where both parties influence each other in a reciprocatory manner to derive something of value to each. Transactional leaders engage in a mutually dependent relationship with their followers in which both side’s contributions are acknowledged and rewarded. The leader’s influence is recognized since it is in the followers’ best interests in following the leader’s commands/wishes. For effectiveness, these transactional leaders must often accomplish the expectations of their subjects. Therefore, “effective transactional leadership is dependent on the leaders’ abilities to meet and respond to the reactions and ever-changing expectations of their followers” (Kellerman, 1984, p 45).

Transactions ranging from jobs for votes, changes of trust, commitment and respect, subsidies for campaign contributions among others are but a few examples of modern day relationships present between transactional leaders and the subordinates/followers. Transactional leaders have a myriad of transactions available to them; those common being based on the leader’s knowledge of the subordinates’ actions taken in order to achieve desired personal outcomes. These may be rewards for working overtime i.e. increase in pay/wages, or a paid holiday trip/vacation among others. These exchanges involve the leader’s clarification of the subordinates roles and tasks to be completed to reach their personal goals while at the same time fulfilling the organizations goals (Cohen & Bradford, 1989, p 54).

A lesser-known form of this leadership style involves commitments or promises that are rooted in the ‘exchangeable’ values present, such as trust and respect. These values being modal, they bind leaders to their subordinates in an attempt to actualize the needs of both parties (Bass, 1990, p 23).

In lower-order transactions the leaders’ control of resources, such as pay increases, special benefits among others that are desired by their followers, determines their bargaining power. In higher-order transactions, the leadership relies on the exchange of non-concrete rewards to maintain their followers’ performance. Here, the direct control of resources is in the leaders’ domain relying upon non-tangible values and rewards (Muczyk & Riemann, 1987, p 637).

Transformational leadership

This leadership is based on personal values and beliefs of the leaders and not in the exchange of commodities between the leadership and the followers/subordinates. Both Bass (1985) and Burns (1978) indicated that transformational leaders operate out of deeply held or rooted value systems, which include justice and integrity; these being end-values that cannot be negotiated or exchanged between individuals. The expression of personal standards, by the transformational leaders, enables the leaders to both change their followers’ beliefs and goals and unite them. This leadership style results in the achievement of higher performance levels among the individuals.

The concept of ‘charisma’ can be found where leadership, displayed by those who through the force of their personal abilities, are able to have an extraordinary and profound effect on their followers. This type of leadership is reserved for those, who through their power influence their followers to accomplish outstanding feats or deeds. Both charismatic and transformational leaders gain influence through demonstrating important personal characteristics such as self- confidence, strong convictions in the moral righteousness of one’s beliefs and the notion of dominance. Others character traits of successful transformational leaders include good image building, demonstrating confidence, arousing motivation and articulation of goals among others (Fiedler & House, 1988, 32).

Understanding the processes through which people construct or make out the meaning, out of their experiences, may aid in understanding how leaders experience, approach and understand the enterprise of leading. Transformational leadership occurs when the leader (ship) elevates and broadens their employees’ interests, this through generating acceptance and awareness of the mission and purpose of the group/organization and when employees are informed on the need to look beyond their own self-interests for the benefit of the whole group or organization (Fiedler & House, 1988, 34).

Leaders use assertiveness and reason more often when dealing with their subordinates while the use of the coalition and reason was used while interacting with the leader’s superiors. Three types of managerial styles, which include Shotgun management that is characterized by the use of all the available but different strategies with inexperience and un-fulfillment of objectives being characteristic. Tacticians, on the other hand, have high use of reason, high levels of satisfaction and power, and success in achieving objectives. Bystanders, on the other hand, have little or no use of the different strategies coupled with lack of objectives and power, and job dissatisfaction.

These different strategies include the power of upward influence where the subordinates influence the leadership through the provision and possession of information and education or persuasion of the decision makers to adopt one’s proposals or replacing them entirely with those who will adopt the proposals. Others include rewards/benefits to be awarded to the winning team/group, this to encourage hard work, efficiency and effectiveness of the group and upward mobility that is based on performance and loyalty to the institution/organization among others.

Influencing power may come from the following aspects of the leader. First, the position held by the leader, the personal characteristics of the leader, the expertise or experience and knowledge and the connection or centrality of the leader in connection to the organization. Influence that is both positive and critical to an organization’s success may be from/through aspects, such as a reason that uses rational choices to make decisions, friendliness toward others, especially the subordinates, coalition/partnerships that bring a sense of equity, assertiveness that is very effective when there is a need of immediate action. The others include higher authority that is effective when dealing with those reluctant to conform or follow the organizations set of rules or standards, bargaining power that may provide quick results in the presence/possession of something desirable of use when negotiating. The consensus that brings about a sense of belonging and contribution, consistency or commitment that is clear and rooted in the long-term goals and vision of the organization and sanctions that are meted out on those who fail to perform to the required expectations (Bryman, 1986, p 67).

In conclusion, it is clearly visible from the above that leadership cannot be either taught or learnt, but is achieved or gained from a myriad of factors that touch on both the informal and formal sectors of society. Leadership is an attribute influenced by many factors that contribute wholesomely to the betterment of the institutions or organization.

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