The concept of leadership is very ambiguous, a reason for which it has been defined in various ways by scholars from different fields who were interested in discovering how and why leadership works. According Richard Hughes, Robert Ginnett and Gordon Curphy (2011), who quote another two researchers, Roach and Behling, leadership is “the process of influencing an organized group toward accomplishing its goals” (p.6). This definition was chosen by Hughes, Ginnett and Curphy because, it best comprises the essential elements of leadership, namely the fact that leadership is ‘a process’, rather than a position, and the fact that it involves not only the leader himself, but also the members of the group. What is also important is that the group has the same goals as the leaders, because the latter influences the group in reaching its own goals.
Another definition of leadership is provided by Andrew Dubrin (2013), who explains that “the current understanding of leadership is that it is a partnership between leaders and group members, including a sharing of leadership responsibility” (p.4). This definition is different than the first in that it emphasizes the relationship between the leader and the group members. According to the author, there is a relationship off partnership between leaders and the people who are led. This means that they all contribute actively to achieving the goals and they are not blindly controlled by the leader. Their submission is voluntarily and purposeful and the leader has responsibilities regarding the group the same way that the group has responsibilities concerning the leader, and his decisions.
Thus, whereas in the first definition, the action was placed upon the unity that exists between leaders and the group in achieving their common goals, and also on the dynamics of the relationship (a process supposes change), in the second definition, the stress is placed upon the type of relationship that exist between them, of partnership, which involves the collaboration between leader and group members in the decision making process, and upon the fact that both parties have responsibilities.
According to another definition, leadership is “the influencing process of leaders and followers to achieve organizational objectives through change” (Lussier and Achua, 2010, p. 6). Robert Lussier and Christopher Achua thus also perceive leadership as a ‘process’. However, they determine the nature of the process as one of ‘influencing’. Also, the authors include followers in the process and they state that the purpose of both leaders and followers is that of achieving certain objectives.
Finally, one last definition is the one provided by Lord Moran, a British Army doctor in the First World War (Kolenda 2001). Lord Moran defined leadership as “the capacity to frame plans that will succeed and the faculty of persuading others to carry them out in the face of death” (quoted in Kolenda, 2001, p. 6). Obviously, this definition is quite different, and focuses upon a trait of a person that allows him to lead.
This vision of leadership as being entirely the result of particular traits that characterize the leader is rather old and it may be said that the definitions of leadership have evolved since the time that Lord Moran expressed it, to stress the importance of the followers and the relationship that is created between the leader and the group. However, it is important to recognize the fact that the leader must indeed have certain qualities that allow them to create this relationship.
The four definitions therefore highlight different aspects of leadership. Leadership is envisioned as a process, a partnership, and a combination of traits of the leader. Also, the manner in which the members of the group are integrated into the definition differs, from being partners of the leader in achieving a goal, to being simple agents that are being influenced by the leader to put the plan in action. All four definitions may be included into a new and a more comprehensive one: leadership is a process which involves an intelligent and charismatic individual who will function as leader, and his followers, who willingly join him as partners for the realization of a common goal.
This definition, which tries to include the most important aspects of leadership comprised in the ones discussed earlier, stresses both the importance of the leader, and of the process that involves two sides, the leader and the agents, both being equally important. According to the new definition, leadership is both an innate ability and the result of a series of rational choices and actions that come from experience and from theoretical knowledge.
The new definition involves a series of traits and behaviors which are specific of leadership. Thus, the leader must be intelligent in order to be able to create plans that have chances of success. The leader must also be charismatic, in order for the members of the group to follow him. These are innate traits of the leader. However, the leader must adopt a certain type of behavior that involves engaging the followers into a partnership and directing them towards the realization of a goal.
The first element of my definition is the leader. He can be evaluated using SWOT analysis, which measures, the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an object, of a person, or of a business. By using this model, the leader may be evaluated in terms of his weaknesses, strengths, the opportunities and threats from the environment. Also, the qualities of the leader may be assessed using the MBTI tool. The second element of the definition may be evaluated in itself may be evaluated using the Tuckman model for group development.
My definition supposes certain values and ethical perspectives. Thus, the partnership between leaders and followers supposes a relationship based on equality and mutual respect. In a partnership, no individual is superior to another and no one dominates the other. Another ethical perspective is free will. The definition states that, in a leadership process, the members of the group must follow the leader willingly.
My own leadership behavior is in accordance with the above definition. I consider that a successful leader must be recognized by the group as one of their own and this can only be accomplished in a situation of partnership. Also, the success of the project depends upon the willingness of the group members to act according to the leader’s plans. Therefore, I feel it is important to make sure that all the group members accept my leadership. Finally, no decision can be made with the consent of all group members in a partnership and so, I always make sure that my group members agree with all aspects of the plan before putting it into action.
DuBrin, A. (2013). Leadership: research findings, practice, and skills (7th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.
Hughes, R., Ginnett, R, and Curphy, G. (2011). Leadership: enhancing the lessons of experience (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kolenda, C. (2001). Leadership: the warrior’s art. Carlisle, PA: The Army War College Foundation Press.
Lussier, R., &Achua, C. (2010). Leadership: application &skill development (4th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.