9.1 The Nature of Leadership

The many definitions of leadership each have a different emphasis. Some definitions consider leadership an act or behaviour, such as initiating structure so group members know how to complete a task. Others consider a leader to be the centre or nucleus of group activity, an instrument of goal achievement who has a certain personality, a form of persuasion and power, and the art of inducing compliance (Bass, 1990). Some look at leadership in terms of the management of group processes.

Leadership is frequently defined as the act of influencing others to work toward a goal. Leaders exist at all levels of an organization. Some leaders hold a position of authority and may use the power that comes from their position, as well as their personal power, to influence others; they are called formal leaders. In contrast, informal leaders are without a formal position of authority within the organization but demonstrate leadership by influencing others through personal forms of power. Effective leadership helps individuals and groups achieve their goals by focusing on the group’s maintenance needs (the need for individuals to fit and work together by having, for example, shared norms; relationships) and task needs (the need for the group to make progress toward attaining the goal that brought them together).

Andre Previn conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo by Tony Barnard, CC BY 4.0 

One caveat is important here: Leaders do not rely on the use of force to influence people. Instead, people willingly adopt the leader’s goal as their own goal. If a person is relying on force and punishment, the person is a dictator, not a leader. Leaders give their followers direction. Leaders are key players in determining the success or failure of coordinated tasks and organizational initiatives. Leaders are people who take charge of or guide the activities of others. They are often seen as the focus or orchestrater of group activity, the people who set the tone of the group so that it can move forward to attain its goals. Leaders provide the group with what is required to fulfill its maintenance and task-related needs.

Leader versus Manager

According to many, the dual concepts of leader and manager/leadership and management are not interchangeable, nor are they redundant. This can be confusing, as generally, to be a good manager one needs to be an effective leader. Many CEOs have been hired in the hope that their leadership skills, their ability to formulate a vision, and get others to “buy into” that vision, will propel the organization forward. This is not always the case. Effective leadership necessitates the ability to manage—to set goals; plan, devise, and implement strategy; make decisions and solve problems; and organize and control. Effective leadership calls for the ability to manage, and effective management requires leadership.

3.1 Leading People and Organizations & 3.3 The Nature of Leadership & 3.4 The Leadership Process” from Principles of Leadership & Management by Laura Radtke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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