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Essay on Leadership

Essay Contents:

  1. Essay on the Definition and Characteristics of Leadership
  2. Essay on the Concept of Leadership
  3. Essay on the Emergence of Leadership
  4. Essay on the Approaches to Leadership
  5. Essay on the Functions of Leadership
  6. Essay on the Qualities of a Successful Leader
  7. Essay on the Importance of Leadership


Essay # 1. Definition and Characteristics of Leadership:

Brass (1960) a great contributor of quality research on leadership in his illuminating book “Leadership, Psychology and Organisation Behaviour” has defined leadership as the observed effort of one member to change another member’ behaviour by altering the motivation of other members or by changing their habits. The leader is the crux around which the varied problems of the organisation move.

Sherif and Sherif (1956) have given a definition of leadership based on operational criterion. According to them, “A leader is the member with the top status (Power, Position) in an organisational hierarchy.” It involves the role relationships between the leader and other members and instrumentalities for coordinating interaction.


They hold that the leadership process deals with:

(a) The initiation policy, decisions and activities within the group and with outsiders

(b) Following their course as they are executed and

(c) Applying sanctions for noncompliance.


A leader is always understood in the context of the roles and statuses of other members as he is a very prominent part of the organisational structure. He has no existence without the group or its members.

The role of the leader whether the group is small or big, formal or informal is always formed, determined, governed and regulated by the values and norms of the group. If he deviates too far from the group standards, stabilized expectation or group goals, he is not free from criticisms and actions.

Of course, the leader by rules and regulations enjoys more power than all the rest in a group or party. In other words, any person who enjoys the respect, confidence and goodwill of most of the members of a group is called the leader.

The process through which they influence other persons in the group and guide the group activities is known as leadership. Leadership have profound-influence on the followers and they throw vast influence on the attitude, behaviour and perceptions of other members.


Members of the group also expect higher alliance of the leader with the group expectations and greater adherence to the norms, values and goals of the group.

Essay # 2. Concept of Leadership:

In a complex society of today, the concept of leadership has perhaps attracted the attention of every individual in the society. Starting from an institution, a school system, a football team, a business organisation and above all a political party the importance of leadership is recognized.

Since the cohesion, integration and existence of an organisation largely depends upon the qualities and characteristics of a leader, leadership needs special discussion.


Leadership does not exist only in autocracy or dictatorship. It is also, basically, necessary for a democratic institution as its job is to form an essential link between the different parts of the group for coordination and integration of activity.

Even in higher animals, this phenomena of leadership is observed as held by various anthropologists. Even it has been reported that when two birds of each species out of a larger number of birds gather together, one individual bird invariably dominates and controls others.

The rest of the birds are generally forced to a subordinate position. This is particularly found in sparrows and pigeons. However, in lower species physical strength is a vital factor in the determination of leadership while in human beings mental strength and psychological qualities are more important than mere physical strength alone.

Several studies have been conducted on the leadership of animals and birds. Yerkes and Yerkes have made significant studies on the social behaviour of infra-human primates. They found age, sex, vigour, alertness, resourcefulness and temperamental characteristics as determinants of leadership and dominance.


With the development of human civilization, a number of social institutions have come up and with each social organisation a type of leadership is generally associated. Besides, institutionalised and imposed leadership may also originate spontaneously due to dynamic group interaction.

In a hierarchical system, there is imposed leadership where the organisation decides upon the leadership beforehand. Members have no scope to choose the leader. In an administrative system, in a family or in an army such cases of imposed leadership arises. In a dictatorial and autocratic political system leaders are selected in the above manner.

But in informal groups leadership is not imposed nor it is the result of an institution of tradition. Here the leader may emerge spontaneously because of his qualities or he may be selected by the group. In such groups there cannot be any self chosen leader. The leader must have some followers. Otherwise the leadership would disintegrate.

The question of a leader arises only after the emergence and structuralisation of a group. may be good deal of discussions and suggestions for attaining a common objective. Anybody who comes forward with a good solution may be immediately selected as a leader to guide the future action of the group. People with passive and submissive tendency usually follow the leader.


Leader is the centre around which all the wheels of a group or organisation move. In view of his distinct and special position within the group structure, the leader greatly determines the group structures, group activities, ideologies, morale and goals of the group.

One cannot conceive of a group or an organisation without a leader and any group without a leader will disintegrate within no time as there will be no one to coordinate the functions of the group. In view of these importance, the various aspects of group leadership should be discussed.

Essay # 3. Emergence of Leadership:

Leadership generally arises in group formation and particularly when the need is to attain the group goal. The convincing suggestions of a member which is acceptable to larger members of a group, generally carry the day and this member emerges as a leader. In a true democracy, at least, everyone is given a chance to be the leader.

Leadership may also emerge in an unstable group structure, even when the group has not taken proper and clear shape, even when it is not very clear of its aims and purposes and goals.

One person takes the responsibility to stabilize the group, to spell in clear terms its aims and purposes and to lead it towards equilibrium for the attainment of the group objective. Such a person takes the role of the leader who becomes the custodian of the whole group. Such a leader becomes necessary at this stage for coordination and organisation.


Leadership may also emerge in a problematic situation. When the integrity and stability of a group is threatened by internal or external forces, to the point of extinction, a leader may emerge to solve the immediate problems.

A man who can come up boldly with novel suggestions to save the group from such difficulties has a chance to become the leader of a group. When a political party is going to break because of internal jealousy and quarrel a new person who has the ability to maintain the cohesiveness of the group is elected as the leader.

Antheny Eden resigned because he could not solve the Suez problem. Thereafter, another group choose Ballard in his place. Chief Minister of different states are also changed on this ground.

In a group, leadership may also emerge for the satisfaction of individual needs. Needs like dominance, prestige, power, recognition of individual members can be satisfied through the leader. Leadership also emerges in response to the needs of the leader.

A person with the strong desire of power, prestige, recognition and dominance likes to be a leader. Thus, the need for leadership is a quality which makes one a good leader.

Essay # 4. Approaches to Leadership:

i. Trait Approach:


Otherwise known as the Great Person theory, this approach holds that the history of the world is the history of great men. By examining the personality traits of great leaders of the world, a catalogue of qualities can be developed that differentiates leaders from followers.

Although some traits are commonly required for the post of a leader, the correlation between characteristics and leadership is only .20 to .30. The trait approach hence has not been effective in identifying universal character of great persons.

Thus the view that there exists a specific set of traits common to all leaders has not been successfully proved. Of course, traits play atleast a partial role in determining leadership in particular situations and under specific conditions.

ii. Situational Approach:

As discussed earlier different situations very often call for different types of leaders. A football team may require a leader who is skilled in the game, aggressive, competitive, tough and has the capacity to take right decision. On the other hand, a negotiating team may need a leader who is calm, persuasive and charming.

Thus, the situational approach holds that selection of a leader for a particular situation or purpose in view should have full understanding of who becomes a leader involving careful attention both to the traits of potential leaders and to situational constraints. Since the trait theory proves to be unimportant the situation hypothesis suggests that anyone can be a leader given a chance.

Baron and Byrne (1988), therefore, hold that selection of a leader should involve a process of matching i.e., a person whose particular mix of skills and characters is closely aligned with the requirements of the current situation, should be selected as a leader. A number of studies also show that group size has an important bearing on leadership emergence. The larger the group the more likely is that a leader will be required.


Homogeneous groups are more likely to produce a leader than heterogeneous groups. The greater the communicative opportunities given to a person relative to other members, the higher the likelihood of a person becoming an effective leader.

But the situational approach is that it provides absolutely very little attention to the role and impact of followers. Hence the situational approach is replaced by a more sophisticated approach called “transaction approach.”

iii. Transaction Approach:

This view is presently accepted by most modern social psychologists. The crux of this approach is that while leaders exert influence upon their followers these persons in turn frequently exert reciprocal influence upon leaders. No one should deny that the attitudes of the followers strongly influence the leaders. The followers in turn frequently exert reciprocal influence upon the leader.

Keeping this in mind, wise leaders take feedback from other group members and use these in planning future action. A leader who neglects the opinion, views, suggestions and perceptions of his followers cannot continue as a successful leader.

Studies of Price and Gerland (1981), Sims and Manz (1984) indicate that leaders do indeed respond to the wishes and perceptions of their followers. They may even shift leadership style to take account of follower characteristics.

iv. Interactional Approach:

According to the interactional approach, neither the personality characteristics nor the situational factors alone fully explain leadership effectively. Thus, according to this approach, the effectiveness of leadership depends upon both the person and the situation at hand. Under certain kinds of situations one kind of leader will prove effective while in another situation they may not prove effective and vice versa.


The effectiveness of a leader, therefore, is possible by interaction between situational factors and personality of the individual holding the leadership role. 

v. Contingency Model:

Built upon the above interactional approach to leadership a theoretical model was developed by Fred Fiedler (1978,1981), named the contingency model to explain leader effectiveness. This model was based on more than 300 studies. It is generally effective in identifying in what situation a particular type of leader would be appropriate. A leader’s contribution to successful performance by his group is determined both by the leader’s traits and by various features of the situation in which the group operates.

Fiedler suggested that there are three important characteristics of a situation that need to be examined:

(1) The effective and emotional relationship between the leader and the followers should be assessed while in some situations the group members are very loyal, respectful and supportive to the leader, in other situations the opposite may be observed.

For effective leadership the support, loyalty, love and respect of the followers are essential. When the effective relationship is positive, the task is highly structured and the power position of the leader is strong. When the relationship is poor the reverse is found to be true.

(2) The degree of structure in the task with which the group is involved is also an important characteristic of a situation which helps in leadership effectiveness.


(3) The third aspect of the situation that affects leadership performance is the power and position of the leader. Power here means, the degree of rewards and punishments that the leader is able to control. The degree of power that the leader affords to assert over the members of the group also determine the level of effectiveness of a leader.

The leader’s ability to enforce compliance by subordinates is a very positive factor for making a leader effective. When the above three factors arc combined the leader can control the situation in a group very well. Depending upon the degree of effectiveness of the above three factors the leader’s situational control can range from very high to very low.

Fiedler has further identified esteem for least preferred coworker as the most important characteristics of a leader. This refers to the tendency of the leader to evaluate a person with whom he finds it most difficult to work either favourably or unfavourably.

He says that leaders who perceive the least preferred coworker (LPC) negatively seem primarily concerned with successful task performance. Conversely, those leaders who perceive the low preferred co-workers positively seem mainly concerned with establishment of good relationship with their subordinates.

The low LPC leaders are task or work oriented while the high LPC leaders are people worker oriented. Fiedler views that when the situational control is either high or low, low LPC leaders are superior. On the other hand, high LPC leaders prove better when situational control falls within the moderate range.

Since low LPC leaders are more likely to provide considerable guidance and direction to improve the tasks of their followers than high LPC Leaders they usually prove superior in these cases. Low LPC leaders, according to Fiedler, also prove successful in situations which provide the leader the opportunity for high degree of situational control, But in situations where the leader or the supervisor has the scope for moderate control good interpersonal relations between the leader and the followers is often required.

In such cases, the high LPC leaders have an edge and are in an advantageous position because of their worker or people oriented attitude and interest in people.

What is the current status of contingency theory? Do further researches in this area support Fiedler’s model ? A review of more than 170 studies conducted to review various aspects of Fiedler’s theory indicate that most obtained positive results.

According to the results of the study of Chambers and his colleagues (1985) leaders whose personal style did not match the level of situational control experience greater job related stress than the leaders whose personal style and the style of functioning matched these conditions.

A recent review further shows that while laboratory studies have tended to support Fiedlers view, Field investigations have not been as favourable in this respect.

Considering the available research findings, reviews plus existing events in this area, it seems necessary to further develop, refine and modify contingency theory. However, the contingency theory of Fiedler has undoubtedly added much to our knowledge and understanding of leadership and leader effectiveness.

Cognitive Resource Theory:

The question whether the intelligence and other cognitive ability of the leader affect leadership effectiveness and success, has recently drawn the attention of many working in the area of leadership. Research findings of Bass (1981) indicate weak positive relationship i.e., .20 to .30 between intelligence cognitive ability and success of a leader.

Fiedler and Gracia (1987) have developed a theory called “Cognitive Resource Theory” to provide answer to this question.

According to them, whether the leader’s intellectual abilities affect the success of this group depends on several factors:

(a) The extent to which leaders are directive like giving concrete instruction and orders to their followers is note worthy. It is seen that when the leaders are highly directive, their intellectual and cognitive ability will be of great necessity as they can communicate better plans, decisions, advice and strategies to their followers with higher intellectual abilities.

On the contrary, when they are not directive, i.e. they are not required to make and communicate plans, decisions and strategies on various issues, IQ will be of lesser importance. It is true that the most outstanding and excellent plans and decisions can have little impact if they are not communicated to subordinates and followers. In such a cases a leader with high intellectual and cognitive ability is merely a wastage.

(b) The relationship between the leader’s intellectual abilities and group performance is strongly influenced by stress. When stress is low, leaders will mainly focus on task related issues and their intellectual ability will be necessary for improving group performance.

But when stress is quite high within a group, the first responsibility of a leader will be to reduce the stress and attend to such matters which are not directly linked to task performance.

Here the I.Q. and cognitive ability of the leader will be of secondary importance and it will have little chance to influence group performance. In such a situation, the experience of the leader with the immediate task, his relationship with the followers, subordinates and his social and emotional skill will be of tremendous importance than mere cognitive ability and I.Q.

Fiedler and his colleagues have collected a number of evidences in support of the accuracy of the above suggestions.

In conclusion it seems that we cannot totally denounce or reject the need of intellectual ability of a leader. Under certain conditions leader’s intellectual abilities are of importance and they do affect the performance of the groups they head.

But intellectual abilities do not seem to be indispensable under all conditions. High intelligence, therefore, does not guarantee the success of a leader in all cases. As already deliberated, other factors and situations also determine when and to what extent this factor contributes to leader effectiveness.

Essay # 5. Functions of Leadership:

i. Motivating and Guiding Personal:

Leadership provides the vital spark to motivation of human beings. Motivation has its roots in human relations which, in turn, can be fostered and toned up by leadership. Whenever a group of human beings desires to accomplish a common objective the situation calls for the assistance of leadership.

It is the leadership that guides, inspires and directs group members for achieving a unity of purpose and effort. Leadership alone can elevate men’s visions to higher thinking and raise their capacity to a higher standard of performance. It infuses such will-to-do into the group working as to secure the best contribution of human energy. Without leadership, a group disintegrates, destroys its team spirit and fritters away its energy.

ii. Influencing and Shaping the Social System:

Leadership is the concomitant of all human associations in our society. Leadership emerges as a natural process in any grouping of human beings. If there is a lack of formal and recognized leadership in the group, informal leadership is bound to develop from the rank and file members of the group.

After its emergence leadership persuades the group to have an identity of interest, outlook and action. Leadership provides imagination, foresight, enthusiasm and initiative to the group. It exhibits an imitable code of conduct and responsibility, prescribes a high standard of performance and stresses the importance of respect for the individual. Unsatisfactory human performance in any organization can be primarily attributed to poor leadership.

iii. Understanding Followers and Securing Their Cooperation:

Not only the leader influences his followers, but he also is influenced by their problems and feelings. On the basis of information, response and operational facts secured from followers, leader’s behavior and action are modified and made ready for their voluntary co-operation.

To grasp followers’ problem and feelings properly, however, leadership requires a skill of sympathetic contact, careful listening, correct diagnosing and winning their confidence. A true spirit of co­operation grows principally out of the manner in which the leader deals with his followers.

iv. Creating a Climate for Performance:

For enabling the followers to apply their full capabilities for work accomplishment and to extend their unselfish support, the leader is required to create a climate for performance. With this end in view, the leader must know what motivates his followers and how these motivators operate.

The more thoroughly the leader understands the process of motivation, the more effective he is likely to be in getting the work successfully done by his followers.

Essay # 6. Qualities of a Successful Leader:

The concept of leadership is situational. The qualities of a leader is determined by the situation in question.

Hence according to most social psychologists, there cannot be a categorical division between a leader and a nonlcader. Leadership is intimately connected with group situation. Some even maintain that every individual, given some scope and training, may become a leader in certain situations.

Findings of various studies do indicate that no perfect correlation exists in the relative potentialities of a leader among people of all types and in different group situations. Nevertheless, the existence of a substantial amount of correlation cannot be denied.

Most of the studies tend to show a significant fact in one direction that people who are leaders in one group or situation tend to be more than average as a leader in another situation. Along with this, the group situation also matters which suggests that according to the situation and purpose of the group, the leadership emerges. For instance, in a democratic group an authoritarian leader fails.

A great musician may be leader of a musical party but he may not have any importance in a political party. Hence the qualities of a successful leader is obviously situational or behavioural or environmental. A leader is not born but made.

In view of these facts so far as the personality factors are concerned, there is wide variation in the qualities of a successful leader. But it is commonly agreed that a good leader should have a good personality.

Dr. May Smith holds that a leader must have intelligence, good judgement capacity, insight and imagination, a sense of humour, a sense of justice and a well balanced personality. According to Puckey, a leader should be made to coordinate and he should have the power to reflect the progress of the group.

The National Industrial Conference Board has classified the qualifications necessary for a successful leader under three heads:

(i) The leader or supervisor should be of sound health and between the age of 25-45 years.

(ii) Knowledge in the respective area is absolutely essential to guide, direct and control the members of the group.

(iii) The leader or supervisor should have a sound and healthy personality.

According to the National Industrial Conference Board, the ability to analyse and gather new information, the ability to learn, industriousness, resourcefulness and persistency in attacking work problems, willingness to accept criticism, emotional stability, sense of humour, the ability to inspire confidence and respect for others, capacity for decision and ability to express oneself orally are some of the important qualities necessary for a successful leader.

Craig and Charters have emphasized forcefulness, ability to command and respect, personal interest in employees, ability to praise and blame effectively and self confidence as necessary qualities of a leader.

According to Gibb, professional and technical speciality, knowing subordinates and showing consideration for them, getting channels of communication open, accepting personal responsibility and setting an example initiating and directing action, training men as a team and making decisions are the important qualities of a successful leader.

Blum and Naylor (1968) hold that a successful leader is he “whose men respect him, whose men follow his orders without question, whose men like him, whose work group has high morale and who looks out for his men.” In sum, the leader must act as an ideal for the follower.

The leader must have the skills to tackle interpersonal relationship so that the balance and integrity of the group can be maintained. More than any other member, the leader determines the specific nature of the group structure and by doing so effects the nature of intergroup relations.

The capacity for making alround planning and ready decision are important determining qualities of a good leader. The leader must know how to manage the group with high intellectual power, alertness and quick decisions.

The leader should have also some perceived qualities. He must be perceived by the group members as having appropriate leadership qualities like physical stature, a strong face, persuasive and imposing voice and manner, an air of self confidence and compliance.

But one cannot deny when Fredgold remarks that certain of these qualities do not even exist in the most successful leader of the industry. History adds evidence to this. Some of the most successful leaders of the history have been neurotic, epillptic insane, humourless, unjust and so on.

Hitler and Napoleon with their paranoia tendencies and Ford with his obsessional neuroses were successful leaders perhaps because their defects matched with the existing situations. Hearst, Ford, Carnegie, and Morgan etc. in the words of Brown were by no means either paragons of virtue or normalcy. But they proved to give successful leadership to industry.

However, certain qualities of leaders are essential to make them successful inspite of what situation needs or demands. Long-standing active research has indicated that few consistent traits emerge in all the leaders. Leaders do not simply differ from the followers in clear and consistent ways.

But they do differ in some respects. Research suggests that persons possessing certain patterns of motives like high need for power plus a high degree of self control prove more competent as leaders and managers than persons not possessing this trait.

Observations and studies show that political leaders differ from non leaders in certain respects: Political leaders are higher in self confidence and dominance, Constantini and Craik (1980), Kenney and Zaccaro (1984) observe that individuals possessing certain traits particularly the ability to adopt to changing conditions prove as good leaders in a wide range of different settings.

These results go to show at least certain traits play a significant role in determining who should be the leader in certain contexts, how long he could be the leader in certain contexts and how long he could continue as a successful leader. But, of course, we have seen that leadership is not largely a function of traits of leaders.

Essay # 7. Importance of Leadership:

Effective leadership serves the following importance:

i. Goal Setting:

A good leader interprets the objectives of the group and lays down policies and programmes for attaining them. Because he is a planner and a policy maker.

ii. Motivating Employees:

A good leader inspires people to carry out their task and duty with zeal and loyalty. The leader creates and maintains an environment conducive to high performance. Good leadership is itself a motivating force for individuals, which inspires people to work hard.

iii. Co-Ordination:

Leadership provides a force, which holds the group intact and develops a spirit of unity. He is an arbitrator and mediator to resolve conflicts between his followers.

iv. Creating Confidence:

An effective leader creates and sustains self-confidence and enthusiasm among his followers. He provides advice and guidance by which subordinates can recognize their qualities and capacity. A leader acts as a coach and counsellor to his subordinates.

Leadership serves as an aid to formal authority in obtaining desired results from subordinates. A good leader serves as a father figure and members gain strength and security by identifying emotionally with him.

v. Facilities Change:

Leadership is the mechanism to conceive people about the need for change. Dynamic leadership is the corner stone of organizational change and development. “In a world of change and uncertainty, the business leader becomes a vital element in the very process of change itself.”

vi. Representation:

A leader is the representative of his group; he is the symbol of the group and father figure for his followers.

Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals. The source of this influence may be formal, such as that provided by the possession of managerial rank in an organization.

Since management positions come with some degree of formally designated authority, a person may assume a leadership role simply because of the position he or she holds in an organization. But not all leaders are managers; nor, for that matter, are all managers leaders.

Just because an organization provides its managers with certain formal rights is no assurance that they will be able to lead effectively. We find that non-sanctioned leadership—that is, the ability to influence that arises outside the formal structure of the organization is an important or more important than informal influence in leadership.

In other words, leaders can emerge from within a group as well as by formal appointment to lead a group.