“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis”
In the broadest sense of the word, a “leader” is someone who brings people together and guides them toward a common goal. Anyone can tell others what to do, but effective leadership requires much more than the ability to assign tasks to a group.
Throughout history, much has been written about what it means to be a leader. Chinese military general and “Art of War” author Sun Tzu described a leader as one who “cultivates the moral law, and strictly adheres to proper methods and discipline.” Nineteenth-century historian Thomas Carlyle believed leaders were born and not made, while English philosopher Herbert Spencer argued that leaders were the result of the society in which they lived.
The decades that followed brought countless studies and research reports that detailed a wide variety of skills, styles and characteristics related to leadership. Researchers at the University of Michigan identified three specific types of leaders (task-oriented, participative and relationship-oriented) in the 1940s and ’50s. In the ’70s, author Ralph Stogdill named capacity, achievement, responsibility, participation, status and situation as the six categories of personal factors associated with leadership. Research published in the Harvard Business Review in 2000 by author and psychologist Daniel Goleman uncovered six different leadership styles: commanding, visionary, “affiliative,” democratic, pace-setting and coaching.
Why is good leadership important?
Good leadership is essential to business, to government and to the numerous groups and organisations that shape the way we live, work and play. Leadership is an important factor for making an organisation successful. Here we are concerned with the manager as a leader. Leadership transforms potential into reality.
Leaders are a key human resource in any organisation. We generally think of companies competing by means of their products, but they probably compete more by means of their leaders than their products. Better leaders develop better employees and the two together develop better products.
The importance of leadership in management cannot be overemphasized. To get things done by people, management must supply leadership in the organisation. Team-work is essential for realising organisational goals. Managers must influence the team for work accomplishment through leadership. Secondly, leadership aids authority.
There are limits to the use of authority in obtaining high performance amongst subordinates. Authority alone cannot generate a favourable attitude for improved performance. Because of its main reliance on influence, leadership is essential for obtaining successful work accomplishment.
Thirdly, if management fails to provide able leadership, informal leadership will develop which will eventually regulate the behaviour of the employees and may come into conflict with managerial leadership.
If management cannot provide leadership, people will be forced to rely on informal leadership. Lastly, management is transformed into a social process through leadership action. It is the social skill of leadership which accomplishes organisational goals by utilizing the potential of the people. The leader must be a ‘hero’.