What is Leadership?
Leadership is also defined as “the influence that particular individuals exert on the goal achievement of others in an organizational context” (Gary Johns etal. 2005, p. 274).
What is a leader?
“A leader is someone who can influence others and who has managerial authority.” (Robbins, S etal. 2006, p. 568). According to S.A Kirkpartrick and E.A Locke (1991), leaders are intelligent energetic people who are initiative, ambitious and willing to take responsibility.
Hence, in our opinion, a leader is an individual who leads people towards a certain goal; being a figurehead who rules, guides or inspires others. Simply put, a leader is one who is in charge or in command of others.
Characteristics that define a Leader
- One who has an excellent and admirable character A leader has to be trustworthy and must fulfil promises made. He must also take responsibility for his own actions.
- One who takes work seriously A good leader is one who takes his work and role as a leader seriously. He motivates his followers towards a common objective.
- One who is confident and calm in a crisis A leader must display self-confidence and exude a clam disposition so that people will believe in him. He is able to adapt to situational changes.
Examples of Leaders
A good leader can be seen in the form of Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for the civil rights of the black community. His way of doing things earned him respect and admiration from the black community; he was someone they could relate to and believed in. He possessed the above stated characteristics.
Adolf Hitler is an example of a bad leader. His selfish leadership style and dictatorship, adding to his desire to conquer other countries at his citizens’ expense makes him a bad leader. Although he exhibited characteristics from above, he also had one more characteristic:
Only listens to himself and does not like feedback
As his decisions were the ultimatum, no one dared to oppose his imperious ways.
People who are born into Power
Prince William of England, Sultan HassanalBolkiah of Brunei and Emperor Akihito of Japan are examples of leaders who are born into power. Regardless of their characteristics or personality, these people were born into positions of leadership. They are exposed to various leadership situations, causing them to be influential and in their own rights.
People who are born with Talent
“An individual’s personality is the unique combination of psychological characteristics that affects how a person reacts and interacts with others.” (Robbins, S etal. 2006, p. 462). This can be clearly seen in the people who are born with the makings of a leader – there are certain traits that differentiate leaders from non-leaders.
“To suggest that leaders do not enter the world with extraordinary endowment is to imply that people enter the world with equal abilities, with equal talents.” (Cawthon, D L 1996, p. 2)
By comparing a person who is musically inclined and one who is tone-deaf, the musically inclined individual will progress further than the one who is tone-deaf when they go through the same training. Although the tone-deaf individual may improve slightly, the progress of the talented individual will be much more evident. This is the same case with leadership.
Therefore it can be concluded that leaders are born and not made, but only to a certain extent. This is due to certain in-born traits or talent that can never be cultivated via training (e.g. charisma). It is true that people can be trained through leadership programs; however these trained personnel will often pale in comparison with those who have in-born characteristics that allow them to excel in leadership roles.
It is not just the amount of training an individual receives that creates a leader; rather it is the traits an individual possesses and the wilingness to learn (i.e. ability to adapt) that play a crucial role. The training just accelerates the development of the in-born abilities.
- Cawthon, D L, 1996, ‘Leadership: the great man theory revisited, Business Horizons, May-June, pp. 1-4
- Gary J & Alan M. S, 2005,Organizational behaviour: Understanding and managing life at work, 6thedition, Pearson Education, Inc – Prentice Hall, Scarborough
- Kirkpartrick, S A & Locke, EA, 1991, ‘Leadership: do traits matter?’, Academy of Management Executive, May, pp. 48-60
- Robbins, S, Bergman, R, Stagg, I & Coulter M, 2006, Management, 4th edn, Pearson Prentice Hall, Australia