The Art of Leadership

Introduction

We sometimes ask whether leaders are born and not made. If we try to scan the pages of history, we find that leaders have their unique way of dealing with people. Psychologists posit that leaders have motives. For example, some have parents or ancestors who have been leaders, while others have the desire to control and rule. There are those who have the motive of vengeance, or children of abusive parents. Doug Wead described how parents of presidents of the United States treated their children. Most of the presidents experienced some form of abuse when they were children. He proposed a theory which states that a child’s experience with abusive and domineering parents is associated with the child’s determination to succeed in life as an adult.1

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Traditionally, a leader was known to be someone with much wealth, including many children and resources. Today, the definition of a leader includes his/her characteristics, qualities, behaviors, and degree of intelligence. Other qualities include intelligence, self-confidence, honesty and integrity, assertiveness, and charisma.

Understanding the complex nature of leadership should lead us to examine the very nature of the parents and how they treated their children. For example, in the United States, most presidents suffered abusive treatment from their parents when they were children. John F. Kennedy’s mother never told him that she loved him, or Abraham Lincoln suffered the abuses and inhuman treatment of his ignorant father.2

Events in history happened because of leaders. To understand the events in history, we study the lives of leaders and how they made their decisions and acted to the dictates of their consciences and the needs of their people. The question is: Are leaders born or made? Historical events and theories in the literature about leadership prove the statement that leaders are born and made. Leaders are made of genes (DNA) to become leaders but they have to be nurtured and provided with the right training and education in order to be good (if not excellent) leaders. If they are not given this kind of training or education, they have to gain experience to reciprocate the required education or learning.

A leader has the power and vision to lead others. Leaders are also endowed with what Gardner3 termed “intelligences”; intelligence is not anymore singular but plural since all of us have the capability to possess any or many of the intelligences (ex. emotional, musical, language, etc.). Leaders have the gift of language and they use this in persuasion. They have effective writing skills and tell stories with virtuosity that their followers are moved and become more loyal to them.

Gardner4 differentiates a leader from a creative individual, or a creator. Specifically, Gardner said that being a leader is one of the “intelligences” and so is being a creator.5 These two are distinct and they come from different worlds. Leaders are concerned with authority, influence, and rule. Leaders need a small amount of intelligence in order to convince or persuade people, but creators are artists who simply know their job.

On the other hand, authority is the ability, power, and control that someone uses to order others, make decisions on their behalf, and even rule them. Authority is always associated with power, or the use of it, and show of dominion by people who are in charge of others.6

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Leadership: Concepts and Theories

Leadership as a trait and practice has evolved for many eons and generations. In consulting biblical history, we tend to view leaders as representatives of God. Leaders of the past, according to this understanding, possessed extraordinary powers. Kings were appointed by God and thus they possessed godly powers. As time passed on and as civilisations attained education, our perceptions of leadership and historical leaders changed. We started to view leaders as “born” and “not made.” Leaders have characteristics that are innate or inherited from parents or relatives who were themselves leaders. But there is also the notion that leaders become leaders because of some factors that motivate them to be leaders.7

This theory states that individuals have “intelligence/s” acquired from birth. A person can be a leader because he/she has the genes of being a leader. The role of education should be to nurture the genes, allow the genes to grow and mature in the individual so that someday he/she becomes a good leader. A good gene nurtured with education will make a good leader. It is not difficult to identify the leadership genes; leadership genes show signs when a person exhibits it even in childhood. The child grows and acts ahead of his/her age. Leadership is also seen as a process and those who behave like leaders have to learn the qualities of being good leaders.8

The trait theory of leadership provides various physical and psychological behaviors and characteristics that define the best quality of a leader. This theory states that having good qualities, such as being honest and intelligent, can make one become a leader. But this in contrast to the theory that a person can be a leader when he/she has the achievement, responsibility, status, and capabilities to offer as a leader. This theory has some limitations, some of which are: it is difficult, albeit impossible, to identify the best and universal qualities of a good leader; and, the theory failed to explain the distinction between a good and a bad leader.

The situational theory states that the type of leader needed does not depend on the traits and qualities but on the situation. A leader is defined by the ability of an individual in solving problems and making decisions on a given situation.

The contingency theory is both relationship-oriented and task-oriented. The leader should interact with employees or members of an organisation and must have the necessary traits.

Leadership Qualities

Leaders have excellent skills in persuasion and one of these persuasive skills is storytelling. Influencing people’s perception of things will allow them to change their view of the world. A story is an effective tool because it features a main player, a set of objectives, problems that may block the objectives, and a set of planned techniques to achieve the goals.9 Storytelling is a leader’s creative way of informing and influencing followers’ perceptions and beliefs. Stories can be about events of the past that might motivate followers to work for the attainment of the leaders’ goals.

Leaders possess interpersonal talent as they are able to understand the feelings and emotions of others, the people they come in contact with. Good leaders also know their own strengths and the forces that pull them apart from their plans and goals. But real fine leaders know the answers to the many troubling questions about life, and how to go about dealing with them.

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Leadership Creativity

Leadership must be applied with creativity. We have this problem of mediocrity of the present leaders. MacGregor Burns indicated that the literature on leadership is filled with definitions of the word but we find no scholarly one, a school of thought about leadership.10

Effective leaders can positively motivate their employees to become creative. The different types of leaders, to include transformational leaders, autocratic, and participative, have different effects on the creativity of employees or members. The democratic type, also known as ethical leadership, improves workers behavior in the workplace. The democratic type also improves performance and alters, in some sense, deviant behaviors in the workplace.

Employee creativity emphasises improvement, promotion, and application of excellent and novel concepts of products and other business practices of the organisation. Ethical leadership enhances the creativity of employees or followers because it fosters “morality, fairness, autonomy, and people orientation.”11

Ethical leadership, or participatory leadership, is a process of social interaction wherein the leader and the employees learn each other. Social learning theory states that employees learn the behavior of leaders who are role models.12

Ethical leaders have some sense of dignity, honesty, respect and love for others, openness, motivating character, honesty and fairness. This type of individuals makes fair decisions among their employees or followers. Ethical leadership is linked with creativity. Followers are more concerned of their work and express more ideas to achieve their objectives. Ethical leaders also hear complaints of employees and their opinions of certain aspects of their work. Because of this attitude, there tends to be an open communication between the leader and employees, thereby providing mutual trust and confidence. This open communication will encourage everyone in the organisation to be creative, to use their imagination in the development of products and services and improvement of work in general.

Leadership and Authority

Leadership is an individual talent to influence people to accomplish certain objectives. There are leaders who can influence because they have the authority provided by an organization. Authority refers to power to control people or show dominion.13

Authority here refers to a job title, function, or rank. It allows the appointed leader to make orders or commands. Authority can be a form of coercion; in contrast to leadership where followers act voluntarily or out of free will. When leaders order their followers, they do it with persuasion and not with coercion, although leaders with authority can also persuade followers. Take for example Margaret Thatcher, one of the great leaders of Britain. Thatcher used the power of speech in convincing and influencing the powerful unions and leaders in her time to go back to an era where Britain was a proud and independent nation. Thatcher led Britain to regain its place politically and economically in the region. She used her persuasive and innate talent as a leader and not as a person in authority.14

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We can cite examples of leaders and persons with authority from historical events. One example is Hitler. We all know Hitler and the extreme authority he had had over his troops during World War II. During the final hours of the war, when Hitler had committed suicide, his commanders received instructions signed by him, hours after he had ended his life. The order was received by the Commander of the Defence of Berlin and some of the major commanders in the field. The authority that the letter carried was still effective and his commanders had to follow, whether they knew or not of his suicide.15

There are leaders who use persuasion and not authority. But there are leaders who, even with existing authority, use persuasion and charisma to influence their followers. Leaders need the support and help of their subordinates but the effectiveness of their leadership depends on their interpersonal skills.

Many organisations of today have given much importance on leadership because good leadership enhances quality and improvement. The style of leadership and the method used by the leader affects the success of the leadership and the organisation.

Strategic Vision in Leadership

A leader must have strategic vision for the organisation. This is known as visionary leadership. There are a number of visionary leaders in history. Visionary leaders are identified according to the type of vision they have formulated and dreamed for their organisation. Steve Jobs was a visionary leader for an organisation he had founded and spent with most of his life. He formed in his mind a revolution, a technological revolution, and he wanted to achieve this even until his last breath. He knew he could do it because of his talent and skill in technology, coupled with his ability to lead.

When he was ousted as CEO of the company he founded, he never lost hope and did not get discouraged. He still dreamed for Apple until he was re-hired in the 1990s. He worked again on his vision for Apple until the products he had envisioned materialized. Today, Apple Computer still values Steve Jobs’s vision. Jobs is an inspiration to the thousands of employees and the millions of Apple customers because of his talent and vision for the company. Strategic vision is a new idea, a model concept; it capitalizes on leadership and strategy. Leaders have trained to become visionary in their pursuit of organisational goals.16

Techniques and Strategies for Articulating a Vision

Setting the vision for the organisation is seeing the future through the lens of the present strategies. This should paint an organisation of tomorrow, filled with hopes and articulations about what have been and what should still be done by the managers and employees. A vision emphasises two things: the achievement of a goal or objective and motivating people to work for an enviable direction.17

It is important that appropriate strategies are applied to achieve the vision because this is where the organisation is headed. If strategies are not well in place, the vision might not be achieved. The vision statement is important because it helps accomplish the mission of the group. The mission statement tells us the present state of the organisation while the vision statement tells of the longer-term goals or the future of the organisation.

A good strategy may involve proper organisation of the resources required for the group to achieve its vision. But with proper planning, the group can achieve its vision. In pursuit of this vision, the leader should be able to visualize the vision in the minds of his followers and show them the direction where they are heading. To succeed, the leader may study how organisations benchmark, or exchange benchmarking strategies with other organisations. This may include field research, identifying key success factors, and seeking suggestions from stakeholders to ensure that the group is in the right direction.18

A vision must be ingrained in the minds of employees and instilled in the organisational culture. The leader should explain and constantly remind the employees the importance of pursuing the vision. The vision will be most effective if the leader is a role model in embodying the organisational vision.19

Styles of Leadership

Characteristics and behavior of leaders differentiate one from the other. It is important to consider these factors when concluding about the best and most appropriate style of leadership that should be used in motivating others.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership focuses on the qualities and behavior of the leader. Subordinates trust their leader because of the leader’s qualities and behavior. An example is Mahatma Gandhi of India who led his people in the struggle for independence. Gandhi led by example. He convinced his people to practice the unique way of protest, known as disobedience without violence or humility and fasting instead of fighting by force. He was an effective leader as he used persuasion without arms and intimidation which the British feared. Gandhi had the best “interpersonal” skill or intelligence. As a lawyer, he knew how to convince people. He was an eloquent speaker as he convinced the British to give India her long-cherished independence.20

A leadership style that every aspiring leader should emulate is that of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ leadership is the most fascinating and down-to-earth. He came down from heaven to become man and to save humanity. Every Christian knows Jesus’ charismatic and transformational ways; yet only a few know how to follow him. His leadership now spans generations and will always be a shining example of leadership by laying down his life for his followers.

On the other hand, relationship leadership emphasises the leader-member relationship and not on the qualities of the leader. Relationship leadership has two types, the economic and the social relationships. In economic, there is an agreement and the relationship depends on this agreement; while social relationship is not bound by any agreement. In a business organisation, employers have to provide the necessary benefits for the employees. The employees also have the obligation to follow orders of the employer although it is not covered by legal provisions. Transformational leadership aims for improvement. The logic here is that if the people are transformed, they will work for the transformation of the team or the organisation.

The Authoritarian Leadership

The authoritarian or autocratic style uses power to influence others. The leader may use dictatorial ways in dealing with subordinates. The leader has power over the employees and may or may not admit suggestions coming from employees or subordinates. An advantage of the authoritarian type is that it allows decisions to be made and enforced immediately because the leader has the authority to do so. With this method, tasks are accomplished in time and workers tend to be more serious and committed to the job since failure to perform the tasks required by the leader will mean punishment. The leader is authorized to punish erring employees like suspension or demotion.

There are some disadvantages for the authoritarian style and these are: there may come a time that employees will have low morale, feeling that they are being coerced; the leader has to continuously supervise the employees, which affects the performance of the employees. Additionally, the leader’s decisions may not be too effective if he/she refuses to admit and apply suggestions and comments coming from employees. The leader does not consider the employees as part of the team and teamwork cannot be effective.

On the other hand, the democratic or the participative style of leadership aims for transformation, like that of our example of Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ. In the organisation, the leader involves other employees in decision-making and policy formulation to guide the organisation. This cooperation ensures that the decisions and policies made are reliable as they are made for the interest of the employees and the organisation. The achievement of goals becomes a joint effort among employees and managers or leaders.21

This type of leadership is believed the most effective in a democratic society. International organisations go for the democratic type as it encourages employee participation. In public and private pursuits, employee participation creates citisen power. Sherry Arstein’s22 theory of participation states that power must be shared in order to attain a real outcome of that participation. Participation becomes empty if it is not accompanied with power, which comes from the authority. The concept of participation allows ordinary people, the poor and the vulnerable, to acquire a place in decision making where they can set goals, and policies and government programs and benefits are distributed annually.23

The use of the democratic style develops high morale in the employees, leading to high performance. Interpersonal relationship between the leader and members (of the team) is enhanced and work-life balanced is attained. Participation in decision making allows for enhanced authority on the part of the employees or members of the team who are formerly considered subordinates.

Another style of leadership is known as the laissez faire which is about giving freedom to the employees on whatever they want in the organisation. In this type, employees are involved in self-motivation in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the organisation. This is also known as the free rein style of leadership as the employees are allowed to work at their own pace without intervention. This type increases the workers’ independence and encourages them to work together as members of a team. It allows employees to be more creative and innovative, since they are allowed to design their own work plans and decisions without intervention.

The Use of Leadership and Authority to Motivate Others

Motivated character traits emanate from an innate desire that comes to action as the individual sets goals to satisfy inner desires. Motivation is made of four parts, such as: “effort, persistence, direction and goal.”24

Motivation needs a triggering mechanism to set up the need in order to accomplish goals. Various functions of motivation enable the organisation to achieve its goals and objectives. Motivation allows people to sustain and regulate appropriate behaviors. It is important to decide whether to use authority or leadership in motivating others. But as we can see from examples, the democratic way is most preferred, like the example of Margaret Thatcher who personally used her convincing power in motivating others, instead of using her authority or power as Prime Minister of Britain at that time.

Motivation requires people to use reasonable actions and stimulations in order to guide and encourage others. Since motivation is always directed towards the arousal of needs to produce results, it is important that leadership be used in the motivation process. The democratic or participative style of leadership is most favorable because the leader always involves others in decision making and policy formulation to guide the organisation. Thus, the decisions and policies are all inclusive and acceptable in the organisation.25

A person may be motivated by his/her own feelings and desires and by the leader who stimulates the person to action. The importance leadership motivation is that it allows development of skills and competence in an individual to be able to achieve good performance. Sometimes a person can have plenty of self-motivation but is unable to perform due to lack of knowledge and skill. The leader’s role is to provide effective leadership style to acquire good performance from the individual.

Leadership Skills Used in Communicating, Influencing and Negotiating

Communication is the art and process that involves exchange and transmission of ideas, feelings, and information in order to convey or receive a message. Leaders must know the important aspects of communication skills since without effective communication between the leader and the members, projects may fail. Effective communication requires the ability to use correct words, both written and spoken, so that the speaker can express his/her thoughts clearly and the intended recipient of the message can fully understand it. Free flow of information is important for leaders and members. Every message in the communication process should have an intended purpose.

Listening is part of communication, which a leader must always be competent. A leader is supposed to listen twice as much as he speaks in order to get or relay the right message. The leader has to listen to all issues and ideas raised by his followers and address them accordingly. It is important that leaders use simple words when communicating and avoid using difficult jargons that may confuse others. Both parties should try as much as possible to be in the same level of communication so that they clearly understand each other. Leaders should focus on the needs of others.

Negotiation must be done jointly so that they can come to an agreement and both parties are satisfied. Leaders and members should have mutual trust. Leaders must also see things from the others’ point of view, or put themselves in the shoes of those they lead. Clarification of important issues will make negotiation much faster for the leaders. Negotiation can use either written or spoken communication.

Leaders should try to be supportive and encourage the members. They should have relevant skills and knowledge in order to consider others’ interests. They should be ready to take responsibility and go an extra mile in helping others. Innovativeness and creativity are two most important traits leaders should possess.

Conclusion

The literature focused on leadership as an art, including its various concepts, theories and background. The various types of leadership were discussed, and the most important and recommended type in which many also prefer, is the democratic or participative type of leadership. Most countries and societies prefer the democratic system where respect is a part of being human.

The use of authority is peculiar in the sense that this is being used in organisations or businesses. In some organisations or businesses however, participative type is used and there are some which use the laissez faire. In business, these types of leadership have different output. For example, the democratic type may provide business benefits in the form of profits. This conclusion however needs some empirical data to support.

The use of authority is popular among businesses even in democratic systems of government. There are valid reasons for this just as there are valid reasons for using the participative type. Leaders have their own motives too for practicing the type of leadership they want. But as discussed in the literature, it is in how they were trained and how they acquired the skills of being leaders. Leadership and authority perform differently when it comes to motivation of subordinates, with leadership tending to be more effective in boosting the morale and performance of employees. Authority tends to be more performance-oriented but it is so without regard for employees’ personal growth and motivation. Effective motivation requires understanding people’s varied needs.

Leadership skills are important in effective communication process, as well as in influencing negotiations. Leaders must be ready to consider the interest of others and be ready to develop new skills. They need to be intelligent and self-confident in order to direct and guide others without fear or favor. The various examples of leaders discussed in this paper guide us to the thought that being a leader is a calling that needs personal sacrifice for the sake of the members of the organisation.

Bibliography

Arnstein, S, ‘A ladder of citizen participation’, JAIP, vol. 35, no. 4, 2006, pp. 216-224. Web.

Bens, I, Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools and Techniques to Master Difficult Situations, John Wiley & Sons, California, 2012. Web.

Cunyat, A. & C. Melguizo, ‘Effective Leadership in Teams: A Simple Model,” Applied Economics Letters, vol. 20, no. 16, 2013, pp. 1459-1461. Web.

Dagmar, A, ‘Authenticity and Respect: Leading Creative Teams in the Performing Arts’, Creativity & Innovation Management, vol. 22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 295-306. Web.

Gambrel, P & R Cianci, ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Does it apply in a collectivist culture’, Journal of applied Management and Entrepreneurship, vol. 8, no. 2, 2003, pp. 143-161. Web.

Gardner, H, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, Perseus Books Group, New York, 1999. Web.

Levine, A, ‘On the edge: The art of high-impact leadership’, Publishers Weekly, vol. 52, 2013, pp. 260-435. Web.

Low, A, ‘What is leadership?’ ReVision, vol. 30, nos. 3-4, 2010, pp. 20-27. Web.

Ma, Y, W Cheng, B Ribbens & J Zhou, ‘Linking ethical leadership to employee creativity: Knowledge sharing and self-efficacy as mediators’, Social Behavior and Personality, vol. 41, no. 9, pp. 1409-1420. Web.

MacGregor Burns, J, “The Crisis of Leadership” in J Thomas Wren (ed.), The Leader’s Companion: Insights on Leadership Through the Ages, The Free Press, New York, pp. 8-10. Web.

Northhouse, P, Leadership: theory and practice (fifth edition), London, Sage Publications, 2010. Web.

Stringham, S, Strategic leadership and strategic management: Leading and managing change on the edge of chaos, iUniverse, Bloomington, 2012. Web.

Wead, D,The Raising of a president: The mothers and fathers of our nation’s leaders, Atria Books, New York, 2005. Web.

Westley, F & H Mintzberg, ‘Visionary Leadership and Strategic Management’, Strategic Management Journal, vol. 10, no. 1, 1989, pp. 17-32. Web.

Footnotes

  1. D Wead, The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of our Nation’s Leaders, Atria Books, New York, 2005, p. 3. Web.
  2. D Wead, The Raising of a President: The Mothers and Fathers of our Nation’s Leaders, p. 4. Web.
  3. Howard Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, Perseus Books Group, New York, 1999, p. 125. Web.
  4. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, 125. Web.
  5. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, 126. Web.
  6. A Dagmar, ‘Authenticity and respect: Leading creative teams in the performing arts’, Creativity & Innovation Management, vol. 22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 295-306. Web.
  7. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, p. 126. Web.
  8. P Northhouse, Leadership: Theory and practice (Fifth Edition), Sage Publications, London, 2010, p. 5. Web.
  9. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, p. 126. Web.
  10. J MacGregor Burns, ‘The Crisis of Leadership’, in The leader’s companion: Insights on leadership through the ages, in J Thomas Wren (ed.), The Free Press, New York, 1995, p. 8. Web.
  11. Y Ma, W Cheng, B Ribbens & J Zhou, ‘Linking ethical leadership to employee creativity: Knowledge sharing and self-efficacy as mediators’, Social Behavior and Personality vol. 41, no. 9, pp. 1409-1420. Web.
  12. Y Ma, W Cheng, B Ribbens and J Zhou, ‘Linking ethical leadership to employee creativity: Knowledge sharing and self-efficacy as mediators’, p. 1410. Web.
  13. A Dagmar, ‘Authenticity and Respect: Leading Creative Teams in the Performing Arts’, Creativity & Innovation Management, vol.22, no. 3, 2013, pp. 295-306. Web.
  14. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, p. 127. Web.
  15. F Westley & H Mintzberg, ‘Visionary Leadership and Strategic Management’, Strategic Management Journal vol. 10, no. 1, ABI/INFORM Global. Web.
  16. F Westley & H Mintzberg, ‘Visionary leadership and strategic management’, p. 5. Web.
  17. S Stringham, Strategic leadership and strategic management: Leading and managing change on the edge of chaos, iUniverse, Blomington, 2012, p. 78. Web.
  18. I Bens, Advanced facilitation strategies: Tools and techniques to master difficult situations, John Wiley & Sons, California, 2012, p. 196. Web.
  19. Stringham, Strategic Leadership and Strategic Management: Leading and Managing Change on the Edge of Chaos, p. 78. Web.
  20. Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century, 128. Web.
  21. A Cunyat, & C Melguizo, ‘Effective leadership in teams: A simple model’, Applied Economics Letters, vol. 20, no. 16, 2013, pp. 1459-1461. Web.
  22. S Arnstein, ‘A ladder of citizen participation’, JAIP, vol. 35, no. 4, 2006, pp. 216-224. Web.
  23. S, ‘A ladder of citizen participation’, 216. Web.
  24. P Gambrel & R Cianci, ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Does it apply in a collectivist culture’, Journal of applied Management and Entrepreneurship, vol. 8, no. 2, 2003, pp. 143-161. Web.
  25. A Levine, ‘On the edge: The art of high-impact leadership’, Publishers Weekly, vol. 52, 2013, pp. 260-435. Web.
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