“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” (Forbes, 2012) Leaders are defined by their ability to direct, guide, and influence others. To some this is a clear cut definition however leadership requires much more than its definition. A leader is someone that sets out to change and guide people in a new direction that will help them, not someone that is leading people to perform certain acts deemed as bad. A good leader is authentic in its desire to lead and inspire people by their infection nature of their vision. Being a leader is more than just being in charge but instead is developing a reciprocal relationship that cannot be forged from the use of authority and power. One of the main themes and attributes from the course received is noted in the quote by Warren Bennis, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born-that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” (Forbes, 2012) In any capacity anyone is capable of being leader it is a leaned practice that takes time, practice, and dedication to accomplish the goal. With the aid of assigned readings throughout the course this analysis will focus on integrating the learned theories and conceptual ideas shared into a comprehensive written discourse.
Debating the clichéd thinking that great leaders are born is a tired task. Leaders are not born with a unique DNA different from any other being. Leaders are built from experience, education, practice, and the diligence of others that help to guide them and nurture their growth. Leadership is a worldwide attribute that is sought out by major corporations, societies, and places within the government. Leaders can develop from adversity and strike a chord within society that is influential in driving change in such the likes as Martin Luther King Jr, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and many more. Since early 19th century scholars have diligently tried to define leadership throughout the century its central theme seems to have focused on continuance of group theory, leadership as a relationship that develops shared goals, and leadership effectiveness. (Northouse, 2013) Throughout the years of debate Northouse defines leadership as “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.” (Northouse, 2013) Its central components include leadership occurring in groups, involving influence within groups, and the focus on reaching common goals. Leadership requires a great deal of influencing others to become follows of their purpose, with these followers the leader and the group sets out to focus on a common goal that will benefit all of them. These skills are important in every leader.
It is natural to think that people that are the leadership roles were born with the natural skills that allow them to naturally rise to the occasion. Research theory has presented many case studies and studies that research the traits of leaders and believe in some instances some people do carry a trait that differentiates them from nonleaders. Past research has tried to use the examples of Gandhi, Joan of Arc, and others as a precedent to believe that people are born with innate qualities that create great military, social, and political leaders. These qualities include the physical characteristics of being tall, attractive, personality features that include leaders being extravert and outgoing, and intelligence and fluency factors. More recently after the election of President Barack Obama much research was invested to discover the on how the traits and having a charismatic personality makes a great leader. The research found that, “charismatic leaders consistently possess traits of self-monitoring, engagement in impression management, motivation to attain social power, and motivation to attain self-actualization.” (Northouse, 2013) Research suggests that the traits of making a great leader include; intelligence, integrity, sociability, determination, and self-confidence.
It is clear through varied research that leaders are different from most people, they differentiate themselves through their drive, motivation, confidence, ability, knowledge of their tasks, and integrity traits that can either be learned or inherent. These traits can be used to signify such leaders such as Apple founder Steve Jobs, Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, and Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, among others. The Big Five Personality Factors is a mechanism used to formulate the relationship between the traits and leadership which includes extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The trait approach used in defining a leader is among a straightforward assessment of the qualities and characteristics of who is capable of being a leader. This approach is used in emphasizing that a leader possessing certain traits is a crucial component to having an effective leader. The reason this is an important factor within the course is that is goes against but also complies that anyone is capable of being a leader because these traits presented can either be born or they can be learned through practice which essential in developing leadership skills.
However also presented is that leadership can be developed through knowledge and ability to have a set of specific skills that make for an effective leader. These skills are categorical broken down as technical, human, and conceptual. Skills unlike traits are defined as, “as the ability to use one’s knowledge and competencies to accomplish a set of goals or objectives.” (Northouse, 2013) In particular readings within the course place emphasis that leaders with poor leadership skills can generate poor results. The skills developed within leaders make a vast difference in their capacity to be great, good, or poor. The type of leader generates different results in any situation. The difference in leaders can either cost the company or provide the company with double the profit generated. The goals of every leader is to be better than the average and when leaders assess their effectiveness it is hard for a good leader to understand the differences in being a great leader. According to the reading, “people frequently confuse personality traits for leadership. They assume that assertiveness or the ability to make a compelling speech or giving people crisp order, is leadership. It is not.” (Zengor-Folkmen, 2005) Becoming a great leader is a learned process that takes much practice and time. Like child prodigies research has shown that they were great because for 10 years they practice up to four hours a day every day to hone in on their abilities. Leaders possess these skill also because they open to ideas, they take time to plan out things and they practice with the intent to become a better leader. Great leaders are not born with being a great leader but instead acquire it at a young age with the want to make things happen with those around them.
The theory presented is that leadership is a processed practice that is developed from interaction between leaders and followers that presents the ability for anyone to become leaders. Leaders have the ability to become leaders out of necessity and matter of convenience, and others become leaders because others respond favorably to them. These positions include become team leader, manager, or supervisor in a plant, department, or corporate environment. Northouse doesn’t view this as leaders but instead emergent leaders that develop from communication skills that include being involved verbally, informed of situations, seeking out others input, creating new ideas, and speak from an authoritative position. These perspectives of the emergent leader falls in line with social identity theory presented that is position is dependent on the how the person fits with the rest of the group. According to the theory, “being similar to the prototype makes leaders attractive to the group and gives them influence with the group.” (Northouse, 2013) When these leaders develop the skills necessary they have the ability to impact their organization. The style of the leader is pertinent in influencing others within the group. Being a resonant leader is essential in the behavior of the leader and the relationship formed with their followers. “People who consciously reach for a dream of a better future for themselves and others tend to live full, passionate, and meaningful lives.” (Mckee, Boyatzis, Johnston, 2008)
Leaders that are passionate about their mission seek out change and use the relationships and visions formed to move people forward. These attributes can be contributed to possessing conceptual skills that help provide the mental capabilities in shaping the meaning of an organization.
The style approach by the leader is engaged through communication with followers or employees. Not every style is appropriate in each organization or situation. There are leaders that place emphasis on the achievement of certain goals or tasks that looks for ways to organize people into being highly productive to meet those goals. Some leaders are open to other opinions and have genuine concern for their followers including their problems, needs, interest, and ideas. Some leaders take an authoritative role were leaders make decisions for other and expect for the rest to follow suit on their decisions. The last style approach is were leaders play the participative role where they share the decision making with others. These styles can be formulated through the relationships help with the situation or environment. Within the leadership role in different situations Doyle and Smith point out three important factors, the relationship between followers and leaders, the structure of the goal, and the position of power. (Doyle, Smith, 2001) According to Northouse when using the situational approach to assess the capabilities of a leader, “the situational approach is constructed around the idea that employees move forward and backward along the developmental continuum, which represents the relative competence and commitment of subordinates.” (Northouse, 2013) These leaderships in certain situations within the organization is best benefited when the leaders use the skills to help others or a means to an end. Once the leader assesses the situation the leader then appropriately adjust their style in order to match the situation. This also coincides with the contingency theory where effective leadership is viewed as being contingent on matching the style of the leader to the right situation.
Leadership is viewed sometimes exclusively as a direct relationship of power as a part of the influential process. The capacity to be influential is a concept of power, and influential people have the power and the ability to affect others’ attitudes, beliefs, and actions. These leadership roles include people in power such as pastors, coaches, teachers, and bosses. The important components is that using the power and the resource to effect changes in their followers. The two major kinds of power are the personal power and the position power. In personal power the leader’s capacity to influence follows is drawn from their attribute of being intelligent and likable. Position power is derived from receiving a specific role within the company that gives the leader a higher status than its followers. In the instance of being a good leader power is a conceptualized tool that is used to promote collective goals of the leaders and their followers. More importantly leadership is measured on how much they can motivate their followers.
According to John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The theory of path goal leadership is designed to incorporate the abilities of defining goals, clarifying paths and removing obstacles, and providing support to their subordinates or followers. This type of leadership theory can also be intuitive to the leadership approach of a transformational leader. This has resurge in popularity due to the election of charismatic President Obama. This type of leaders motivates through emotions, ethics, standards, and values. It transforms people and influences their followers to accomplish more than they thought they could. Another notable iconic figure that possess this capability was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, he used his skills to move forward the Civil Rights movement within the United States. When situation seem difficult people will step aside and let others take the reins in some situations this can be either a good or a bad ideal as charismatic leaders can be bad leaders such as in the case of Adolf Hitler and cult leaders. In these leadership roles if scandal were to happen the leader is easily seen in a bad light which can take away from the purpose that was set out by the leader. In transformational leaders it is easy to get wrapped in the ideal that they are without flaws because they influence such a change in their followers that it changes them too. However leaders can only become great when they realize that they are not without imperfections, “only when leaders come to see themselves as incomplete—as having both strengths and weaknesses—will they be able to make up for their missing skills by relying on others.” (Ancona, Malone, Orlikowski, Senge, 2007)
Transformative leaders possess traits that put them on higher pedestal than most leaders within organizations, transformational leaders differentiate between being just good and being great. The leaders possess attributes that include humility, fearlessness, and willful that sets pride and ego aside in order to create a great change. This is a concept that is mostly grasp by President Abraham Lincoln. A great leader that can be viewed as the top level executive within the organization, “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility plus professional will.” (Collins, 2001) These are the type of leaders that people should aspire to be, they subjugate their own needs to the greater means to something larger and lasting than themselves. Other leader styles include the servant leader that aspires to motivate, and inspire change in their followers by listening, empathy, awareness, healing, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment, and building community. (Northouse, 2013) Just like in the case of transformative leaders, servant leaders put their followers first, and help their followers to succeed and grow. These leaders are generally good as they perform with ethical standards, empowers, and creates value for those around them. This type of leadership can work cohesively with the newest form of leadership named authentic leadership that focuses on genuine and real leaders. In the wake of corporate, political, and even social leaders that have let down the public with scandals ranging from criminal, moral, and just inexcusable the role of an authentic leader is warranted. According to Bill George’s Authentic Leadership Approach authentic leaders demonstrate five key characteristics which include; understanding their purpose, strong values on knowing the right things to do, establish trusting relationships, demonstrate self-discipline, and passionate about their mission. (Northouse, 2013) One of the most important factors of authentic leadership is that it places emphasizes that the values and behaviors held by authentic leaders can be developed within leaders over time. This provides support on the central idea of the course that anyone is capable of being a leader including an authentic leader that do what’s right and what’s good for society.
One of the more important changes in research on leadership is the shift of the men centric ideal on leadership to an increase in women leadership roles. In the past women were seen inferior to men as it was believe that they lack the traits and skills that were necessary to be successful in a managerial role. Issues persisted with women not being able to hold key roles within the organization until the 90s. Women began to be placed in more leadership positions including becoming CEOs, (Ebay, Avon, Yahoo, etc). What held women back was the strains placed on their leadership styles where when women used a more authoritative approach they were evaluated unfavorably, but when they used a more stereotypical approach that was more democratic they were evaluated more favorably. Women were more transformational in their leadership styles they are more contingent on their behaviors and setting that make their leadership more effective than men. The overall conclusion can be said that they are no major differences in leadership effectiveness, but differ in military positions and middle management. The problem lies in that women still do not make up nearly half the labor force in the United States and they are still underrepresented in the higher positions in the political system with only 90 seats in Congress, and on represent 15.7% of higher title in major corporations. The “glass ceiling: an invisible barrier that blocks women, minorities, and gay and lesbian employees from getting ahead is detrimental to closing the gaps created within the workplace. Although women show the same capabilities as men in leadership roles they have been given fewer opportunities than men. These barriers are on extenuated by the fact the more women won’t emerge in leadership roles in groups or promote themselves as leaders. However because of changes in work cultures, greater motivation for women, predominance of women owned businesses, and other factors are contributing to women leadership on the rise.
Ethics is significant factor within leaders. It is the moral compass of knowing the difference between right and wrong. Ethics has been around since the dawn of time, although there is no written laws on ethics many leaders follow a set of guidelines that guide their decisions for the good of others. This ideal is one of the more important described within the course because it represents the three approaches that most leaders follow which include a utilitarianism approach where leaders behave to create the greatest good for the greatest number. An altruism approach were the actions are moral if the purpose is to be in the best interest of others. The last approach is ethical egoism where company and the employees make decisions that maximize profits of the organization. These approaches focus on the character and virtues of leaders that is directly related to their actions. These characteristics can be taught as families create the moral abilities that people will decide what is appropriate. However the virtues presented in leaders is an attribute that is present in leader’s deposition. “In essence, virtue-based ethics is about being and becoming a good, worthy human being.” (Northouse, 2013) This approach encompasses all the approaches and theories presented throughout the course because although many people may feel that leaders are born it is proven that leaders can be develop and resonate with their overall character to do good for others. Ethical leaders and leaders in general respect others, they help to build community, manifest honesty, work to serve others, and show justice. These characteristics are pertinent in becoming an effective leader and can be the difference when becoming a great leader.
Throughout the course there are have been several theories, concepts, and ideas that have help to shape the importance of leadership and how anyone can be capable of being a leader. The readings chosen throughout the course were essential in showing the understanding of the focus of the course. They each provided information and opinions that help to enhance the ideas of being and great effective leader, an authentic leader, and more importantly ethical leader that isn’t born but instead learned through practice and diligence. The specific readings that really resonated were, “Great Leaders Make a Great Difference”, “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader”, and “ Level Five Leadership” These readings among others help to change my perception of being a leader as knowing that leaders don’t have to be perfect and by realizing the imperfections can help others better. Knowing what it takes to become a great leader is a goal to aspire to that requires hard work and dedication that I had to develop in order to pass classes. When prodigies wanted to be great they practice every day for hours over a course of 10 years. The dedication proved to be worth it as great leaders have done the same thing. I have tried to put in the same amount of dedication when it comes to my studies as I want to be great in what I do. Knowing the information that I know now I could have achieved more if I put in the time and dedication. However, the point is to be better than the average and you don’t have to have a title to be leader.
Ancona, Deborah, Malone, Thomas, Orlikowski, Wanda, Senge, Peter. “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader. (2007). Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://www.lifechallengeprogram.org/praise.pdf
Collins, Jim. (2001). “Level Five Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve.” Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://nuonline.neu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-6597194-dt-content-rid-6911325_1/
Doyle, M. E. and Smith, M. K. (2001) “Classical leadership.” The Encyclopedia of Informal Educational. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/leadership/traditional_leadership.htm
Kruse, Kevin. (2012). “100 Best Quotes On Leadership.” Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/10/16/quotes-on-leadership/
McKee, Annie, Boyatzis, Richard, Johnson, Frances. (2008). Becoming a Resonant Leader. Boston, Massachusetts. Harvard Business Press.
Northouse, Peter G., (2013) Theory and Practice, 6th Ed., Sage Publications.
Zengor-Folkman. (2005). “Great Leaders Makes a Great Difference.” The Extraordinary Leader. McGraw-Hill Publishing.