Leadership is an issue that has captured human mind in all times. Some people consider that leadership qualities are inherited, while others think that it can be learned through practice and experience. There are different approaches to this phenomenon. In order to identify the origin of leadership, various theories, models, and tools have been developed in social sciences. Actually, every individual may support or deny certain approaches to leadership. It is important, therefore, to figure out the person’s own views regarding leadership in order to understand what theories and models can suit him or her on his way of becoming a leader. In a globalized environment, a leader is required to utilize leadership styles in a diversity of complex business situations. In order to become a good and progressive leader, one should possess special leadership skills, abilities, knowledge, and many other factors. This paper tends to examine some personal views of leadership and to conduct an academic research on the theories that explain this issue.
The Nature of Leadership
The nature of leadership has been a subject of interest for philosophers, historians, and ordinary people since ancient times. Though, the scientific research of this issue began only in the twentieth century. There is a wide range of definitions, but it is really very complicated to give a unique one. In his book The Leadership Experience Daft notes that, when thinking of leaders, most people recall such names as Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Jorge Washington, and other prominent people in the world’s history (2008, p.4). One of the most important aspects of leadership is an ability of a person to influence others with the aim to support his or her idea or vision. Thus, a leader uses his or her personal skills and abilities to rich a goal in the future. In order to achieve his/her personal, or common, goal, a leader needs to have followers, who would support him/her in this specific course.
There is an opinion that a leader is a person who stands above others. In reality, a good leader does not have to stand above his/her followers. Actually, an effective leader is supposed to have the same qualities as his followers. Effective followers need to share common ideas and views, but they also need to carry their mission with self-respect and enthusiasm. Moreover, they do not have to follow their leader blindly and support something that does not fit their own interests. Their activity and reliability will be more effective if they have the courage to stand up for what they personally believe (Daft, 2008, p.7). Often leaders in powerful positions are sure that workers must obey and do whatever the leaders tell them to. They believe that, without a strict control, the organization will not function efficiently. Rigid organizational hierarchies, structured jobs, and work processes let everyone know that those at the top had power, and those at the bottom had none.
Leadership Theories and Models
It would be perfect to figure out a common leadership theory and a model that can lead to success. In their book Leadership, Application and Skill Development Lussier and Achua argue that different situations require different leadership styles (2009, p.152). Therefore, leaders have to choose an appropriate one in order to succeed. It is important, therefore, to identify which leadership style may be the most effective in a certain situation. It is worth mentioning the difference between a leadership theory and a leadership model. A leadership theory explains the main aspects of leadership. They help to understand the paradigm better and explain the situation, while a leadership model is an example that is supposed to be used in a certain situation.
DuBrin asserts that there are various leadership theories that are accepted by most scholars and leaders (2011, p.67). Among them are as follows: charismatic, or transformational, theory, contingency theory, leader-member exchange theory, team leadership, and cross-cultural leadership. One of the leadership theories is the attribution theory, which reflects the basis of individual opinions regarding certain events or observations. It also deals with people’s behavior. This theory is based on the works of Heider, Jones and Davis, and Kelley. Attribution theory in leadership tries to explain actions and incidents observing the reasons by collecting information. The ideas in this theory are focused on leadership qualities that help to understand person’s behavior. In doing so, the person will be able to observe his or her own behavior. In attribution theory, expectations are taken into consideration. The authors of this theory consider that observing leadership qualities possessed by other people may be helpful in building their own leadership character. Evaluating attribution theory, one should note that many scholars argue that, in different conditions, individuals may expose different behaviors. Moreover, personal interests of the follower are important. The observed behavior may differ from his or her own objectives. Thus, the result of the observation differs in accordance with individual perceptions and interpretations.
Leadership substitutes include individual, task, and organizational characteristics that tend to have greater potential than the leader to affect employee performance and satisfaction. The leadership substitute theory holds that, if certain critical factors are present in the work situation, the subordinate will perform well without the influence of the leader. Conventional leadership theories argue that hierarchical leadership is always critical to subordinate response, but the substitute leadership approach identifies many situations in which leader behaviors are irrelevant. Individual subordinate characteristics that tend neutralize leader behaviors include experience, knowledge, training, ability, indifference toward organizational rewards, a need for independence, and professional orientation. Task characteristics that may appear as substitutes for leader behaviors are intrinsic satisfaction, frequent feedback, and a high degree of structure. Characteristics of the organization that may make leader behaviors irrelevant include rules and regulations, explicit goals and plans for their achievement, a rigid reward structure, and physical distance between the subordinate and the supervisor. These characteristics of the subordinate, the task, and the organization can serve either to make leader behaviors irrelevant or determine what leader behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate in given work situations (DuBrin, 2011).
Leadership Traits and Skills
A group of scholars have created a list of leadership qualities that are essential in creating a leadership behavior and personality. They are as follows: 1) self-confident, 2) energetic and enthusiastic, 3) responsible, 4) a risk taker, 5) respected by peers, 6) diplomatic, 7) knows what is going on, 8) assertive, 9) has new ideas, 10) enjoys power, may dominate, 11) flexible, 12) structured. According to the research, John Maxwell, who is considered one of the main theorists in the field of leadership, identifies the following leadership skills:
- Character. This quality is about taking actions and back up the talk. It is important to face challenges and problems with calmness.
- Communication. Perfect communication skills of a leader are a key leadership quality.
- Charisma. It is an essential personal quality that makes followers believe in the abilities of the leader.
- Competence. This quality means accomplishing more than expected and inspiring others. Moreover, competence is developed through continuous personal improvement.
- Initiative. This means being a risk-taker who never gives up.
- Discernment. This quality means multiplying one’s opportunities by choosing wisely and exercising good decision making skills.
- Passion. This quality fuels achievement. Passion equates to purpose, and the more passion one has, the greater the desire to change and grow.
- Listening. In order to hear, one must listen. Leaders must listen to their mentors, employees, and their competitors.
- Focus. This means concentrating on the areas of interest. It may entail strengthening weak areas or enhancing strengths. Focus means visualizing the task and then performing an action.
Daft noted that leadership skills are considered to be the abilities that leaders are likely to accomplish using their knowledge and competencies (2008, p.156). Leadership skills can be acquired, and leaders can be trained to develop them. In order to accomplish this task, it is essential to apply the mentioned skills in complex. It is worth mentioning that occupational environment may be of great importance for a leader, and it may influence his growth. A person who holds a leading position must be a unique and a strong individual, as well as a team player. Leadership provides an impetus to change cultures and propel societies forward. Thus, one might postulate that little social progress would occur without this aspect of leadership. The leadership of the future will reside in people who can motivate organizations and personnel to set high expectations and achieve great goals.
Leaders are supposed to understand what organizational climate is all about. It is about creating an environment in which personnel can thrive and, in doing so, will make the organization thrive. This does not mean that a leader should acquiesce to every whim of employees. It does mean, however, that leaders should listen to employees, be fair and consistent, and communicate effectively. They should foster a positive atmosphere and encourage the personnel to grow as individuals. When employees are happy to come to work, they are more productive, require few sick days, and help their organization reach its fullest potential (Lussier & Achua, 2009).
The Leadership Challenges
A leader in a globalized environment will be required to utilize leadership styles in a diversity of complex business situations. Given the multiplicity of cultures and the need to modify leadership styles to meet their unique demands, the first challenge would be to become familiar with all the available leadership theories and the growing complexities of global leadership to the maximum possible extent. The main task is to keep up with the literature on leadership and to experiment with the diversity of leadership approaches in order to determine how they work in diverse situations. It is also advised to heed some leadership tips, such as:
- Do not rely on convention or tradition.
- Closely monitor globalization and its consequences.
- Focus on the small while avoiding the big and bureaucratic.
- A critical key to success is lifelong learning.
Lussier & Achua underline that the real challenge of leadership is to lead oneself across his or her life and career in order to effectively lead others (2009, p.201). Modern society is gradually disintegrating. There are so many leaders; yet there still seems to be little if any leadership at all. This imbalance seems to seek a solution at the earliest. Family is a basic foundation, from which all leadership is launched. According to the research, the increasing rate of divorce worldwide is as a result of leadership challenge in the family unit, among other contributing factors. As a result of divorce, children grow up in families that do not provide a leadership model that they need to embody. This lack of leadership in family spills over into institutions and communities. When observing modern society, one will find out that most institutions are characterized by either bad or poor leadership, or worse still, lack of leadership. These institutions are on the verge of collapse. The performance of such institutions can be enhanced greatly provided good leadership is there.
The examples of challengers in institutional leadership include: lack of integrity and, very often, a compromise to sustain the notion that profit must keep rising from year to year; lack of understanding the value of respect for established structures that are supposed to improve decision-making and governance; disregarding other people’s opinions and the thought that they do not look for opportunities to serve others, but rather seek for any opportunity to be served.
In conclusion, it is worth mentioning that in order to identify the origin of leadership, various theories, models, and tools have been developed. It is important, therefore, to figure out the person’s own views of leadership in order to understand what theories and models can suit him or her on his way to become a leader. In order to modify leadership styles to meet their unique demands, the first challenge would be to become familiar with all the available leadership theories and the growing complexities of global leadership to the maximum possible extent.