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Leadership has played an important role in the human history since earliest times. The historians have glorified heroes in battle and valued the importance of their deeds for the future generations.

The role of politicians, statesmen and emperors in the development of empires, territories and nations has received considerable attention in the imperial history. In modern society too there is emphasis on leadership.There is continual search for men with leadership qualities.

  • The Meaning of Leadership
  • Leadership versus Power
  • Leadership versus Headship
  • Characteristics of Leadership
  • The Nature of Leadership
  • Functions of Leadership
  • Why a Person Assumes Leadership
  • Types of Leadership
  • Leadership Techniques

The Meaning of Leadership

It is really difficult to attempt a definition of leadership or in other words it is difficult to define what makes certain persons leaders. Leadership is often regarded as the important modifier of organizational behaviour.It is regarded as primarily personal in character as being founded upon individual pre-eminence or accomplishment in a particular field of behaviour.

Thus superior strength ,superior tact, superior intelligence, superior knowledge, superior will power any or all of these may be the means to the attainment of leadership. No one may deny that these personal qualities do pay dividends but leadership is not all personal pre-eminence. It is something more than that and that something more is the essence of leadership. It is the capacity to set new goals to hold forth new and loftier expectations for the group and to show the group its noble potentialities that make man a leader.

Leadership versus Power

The concepts of power and leadership have much in common. Certain people are leaders because they exercise power.It are unthinkable that a leader should not have power. Consequently the exercise of influence is a central part of most definitions of leadership.Accordng to La-Piere, leadership is a behavior that affects the behavior of other people more than their behavior affects that of the leader.Pigor also says leadership is a concept applied to the personality to describe the situation when a personality is so placed in the environment that it directs the feeling and insight and controls others in pursuit of a common cause. According to Allen leadership is the activity of persuading people to cooperate in the achievement of a common objective. Terry defines it as the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for mutual objectives.

Leadership always involves attempts on the part of a leader to affect the behavior of a follower or followers in a situation. Power is not equivalent with influence or with initiating change in another person’s behavior without regard to the situation in which it occurs. A new born infant can influence and change the behavior of his parents but this influence is not equivalent with power in the family.

Leadership versus Headship

Leadership is not necessarily headship. Gibb has noted that there is almost general agreement in the literature of the last few years that leadership is to be distinguished by definition from domination or headship. Headship means a position in the official hierarchy.

Characteristics of Leadership

Leadership denotes a mutual behavior pattern between the leader and his followers. Leadership is a two way affair. The followers influence the behavior of the leader in as much as the leader influences their behavior.

The concept of leadership can be understood only in the context of followers. Without followers there can be no leader. Leadership involves the element of willing and voluntary obedience by the followers. Leadership is based on cooperation and goodwill. Sheer threat and force cannot maintain one a leader for long. Leadership is specific to a specific situation.

The Nature of Leadership

There are two main approaches to leadership- traitist and situationist.In the early times leadership was considered to originate from the personal qualities of the leader and insufficient attention was given to the contribution of the group structure and situation. The early studies focused their attention on certain traits to compare leaders with non leaders.

Gibb remarked that the leader traits are relative to a specific social situation and are not exhibited in isolation. He pointed out that attempts to find a consistent pattern of traits that characterize leaders had failed and said that the attributes of leadership are any or all of those personality characteristics that in any particular situation make it possible for a person either to contribute to achievement of a group goal or to be seen as doing so by other group members. The person who becomes a leader surpasses others in some qualities required by the goal in the particular situation. He writes leadership is both a function of these two interactions.

The situationist approach to leadership provides a corrective to the traitist approach which regarded leaders as uniquely superior individuals who would lead in whatever situation or time they might find themselves. This approach emphasizes that leadership is specific to a specific situation. It is a way of behaving exhibited by individuals in differing degrees in different situations. A leader in one group is not necessarily a leader in another. A leader in the class may not be a leader in the playground. Though leadership may be considered as behavior specific to a given situation yet it does not mean that there is no generality of traits on the basis of which certain persons may be rated leaders.

Carter noted that if leadership is absolutely specific to a given situation then it cannot be a subject of scientific analysis and generalization. Leader is necessarily a part of a group and leadership is status and role in that group. It is obvious that leadership can occur only in relation to other people. No one can be a leader all by himself. The relationships which the leader bears to other individuals are status and role relationships. He is part of the group structure and as such he carries on reciprocal relationship with other members of the group. These relationships define his role in the group. When leadership is viewed as a status in a group structure and a role defined by reciprocal relations with others in the particular structure it is easy to understand why there cannot be a generalization of traits characteristic of leaders.

Functions of Leadership

There is no unanimity of opinion as to what the functions of the leadership are. This is because detailing of functions depends on one’s general concept of leadership. Leadership functions are related to goal achievement and to the maintenance and strengthening of the group. Functions in the former category, instrumental to achieving the goals of the group include making suggestions for action, evaluating movement towards the goal, preventing activities irrelevant to the goal and offering effective solutions for goal achievement. Functions in the second category include encouraging the members, releasing tension that builds up and giving everyone a chance to express himself. The main functions of leadership are to contribute to the achievement of the group goal and to help hold the group together. The leader by himself alone cannot achieve the group goal and help it maintain its solidarity and strength.

Leadership is not the activity of an individual alone. In a large scale organization it becomes a collective activity for no single individual can meet the tremendous demands of working out the whole organization. This has led to the view that leadership like power is dispersed throughout the organization. No one person has all the leadership functions. The functions of an organization are divided and each individual in his respective position provides leadership in so far as he contributes to the attainment of the group goal and the maintenance of the group cohesiveness. The leadership is provided at several levels in the hierarchy but at the same time individual leadership is important. The leader is the symbolic spokesman, the coordinator supreme, the important participant in decisions as to goals, the primary change content and the example to the organization.

Why a Person Assumes Leadership

Whether a person will assume leadership in a group or not depends upon the reward-cost outcomes expected by him and by his followers. The rewards of leadership are two-fold first are the satisfactions to be gained from successful accomplishment of the tasks. Second are the rewards gained from leadership activity in itself. These include satisfaction of needs for achievement and dominance as well as other social â€"emotional needs. Persons who assume leadership incur a number of costs. They have to spend their time and energy. Besides they bear strains, anxiety, rebuffs, loss of status and blame in case of failure. He also faces the cost of losing the friendship of the members who maybe adversely affected in their position and prestige by his having assumed the leadership. He also risks his popularity. He also faces the cost of loneliness since he is often avoided because of his power and because he may also incurred hostility. Among the rewards of the followers is the goal achievement.

The followers follow the leader because they recognize that without leadership the goals of the group would not be achieved. Secondly by following the leader the followers escape the burden of making decisions to meet particular situations facing the group. Thirdly the followers escape the anxiety over the risk of failure and blame when the failure occurs. As to who will assume leadership depends on the rewards and costs arising out of the inter-play between the demands of the situation and the characteristics of the individuals. Those who have the required skills to a high degree can respond at low cost. Varying characteristics of the group members affect their reward cost outcomes differently in different situations.

Types of Leadership

Many attempts have been made to classify leaders. According to H.T Mazumdar there are three kinds of leadership â€"traditional, bureaucratic and charismatic. The traditional leader gets his authority through the traditional status ascribed to him. Thus the Brahmin is the traditional leader of Hindu society. The bureaucratic leader gets his authority and power through delegation from election or from appointment. The charismatic leader creates his own authority. He may be a party leader, a religious leader, a social leader or a revolutionary leader.

Bogardus has mentioned the following kinds of leadership. Direct and indirect leadership.Social, executive and mental leadership, partisan and scientific leadership.Prophets, saints, experts and boss.Autocratic, charismatic, paternal and democratic leadership. The three most significant types of leaders today are the administrator, the expert and agitator. With the extension of state activity and political controls the power of government bureaucracy has tremendously increased. The complicated industrial and military systems cannot operate without the expert. The agitator in time of grave economic insecurity and widespread anxiety about the future political order assumes an important role in mass society such as ours.

Leadership Techniques

There are three types of leadership technique- authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire.Under the authoritarian technique the leader determines the policy procedures and activities in the group. Under the democratic technique the leader encourages participation by members in deciding group matters and behaves in a friendly helpful manner to the members giving technical assistance and suggesting alternative procedures. In the laissez-faire technique the leader allows complete freedom for decisions and activity keeping his own initiative and suggestions to a minimum.

Authoritarian leadership induced greater dependency on the leader, marked inter-member irritability and aggressiveness, low frequencies of suggestions for group action and group policy, dissatisfaction group activities and high quantity but low quality of productivity. Under laissez-faire leadership the group showed little dependency on the leader. Democratic leadership also produced low dependency on the leader. There is no denying the fact that the democratic technique is a human relation approach which is in keeping with democratic values. It increases independence for all group members and hence increases their morale. But it cannot be applied fully. The advantage of democratic leadership depends upon the demands of the situation, the distribution of skills within the group and the group’s expectations as well as other factors. Gibb notes it is common in our culture at the present time to place negative values on authoritarian leadership. Much of this attitude seems to be due to a prolonged period of ideological opposition to cultures authoritarian organized.

The tendency is to think of authoritarianism in its most extreme form of headship and denounce all forms of individual authority over others. Studies of group action reveal that in certain circumstances authoritarian leadership is highly valued. Under certain situations an authoritarian form of leadership may be more effective. Such situations may of those where the group is faced with a need for emergency action. The leadership techniques have to be related to the attitudes of the membership to the particular form of relation among the members including the leader and functions as a part of the group structure. These are to be reality oriented. Gibb writes it is important that we recognize authoritarianism and democracy as poles of a continuum neither of which is wholly good or wholly bad, but which represent extremes of variable leadership techniques that should be adapted to all the elements of the situation, culture, personality, content, structural, inter-relations and task.

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