The study of leadership has been a very important part of the behavioral sciences for well over a century. There are over 20,000 books, articles or presentations on this topic. Yet, there is still tremendous debate in the current literature as to the nature of the concept we currently call leadership. Leadership is not an easy subject to explain. It means different things to different people which has created great confusion and ambiguity around its true meaning. Bennis (1959) surveyed the existing leadership literature and arrived at the following conclusion:
“Always, it seems, the concept of leadership eludes us or turns up in another form to taunt us again with its slipperiness and complexity. So we have invented an endless proliferation of terms to deal with it …and still the concept is not sufficiently defined.”
In another review of the literature, Stogdill (1974) drew a similar conclusion when he reported that “there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.”
Ideas about leadership produce a continuum that is anchored at several points. At one end, some have described leadership as an innate quality that manifests itself in certain leadership traits, and without these traits, one cannot be an effective leader. Thus, insinuates the “leaders are born, not made” notion. You may have heard of the “Great Man” theory of leadership.
In the middle, there are those who would suggest that leadership does not reside in a given individual, but arises out of the interaction between leader, subordinate, and their situational demands.
At the opposite end, there are some who would suggest that conceptually “leadership” is a redundant construct that does not offer any new description of behavior that is not already accounted for by another theoretical framework. However, given there will always be a lead position that others must follow, leadership is in itself an absolute concept that must be analyzed.
Other views suggest that leadership is an attribution, that resides in the mind of an individual trying to explain organizational outcomes. People who are perceived as the most forefront and vocal in an organization are often called leaders, whether they have succeeded in leader worthy accomplishments or not. Leadership then, according to attributional processes, is a function of being in the right place at the right time.
Therefore, the concept of leadership is important and must be discussed. A common understanding of what it is and what it is not should be established. It is our view that leadership is an important behavioral skill that can be developed through training. Additionally, excellent leadership qualities will influence the behavior of individuals and organizations in predictable and beneficial ways.
Read more in your Manual – Pages 1-25