After reading this article you will learn about the Definition and Key Elements of Leadership.

Definition of Leadership:

Harold Koontz and Heinz Weihrich have defined leadership as the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically towards the achievement of group goals. In other words, “leadership is the ability to persuade others to work towards defined objectives enthusiastically”.

It is the human factor, which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals. Leaders help a group attain objectives through the best use of its capabilities.

Based on the above definition, some of the features of leadership can be set out as follows:


i. Leadership is the use of non-coercive influence to shape the group or organization’s goals, and motivate behavior towards the achievement of those goals.

ii. It is a process in which one individual exerts influence over others.

iii. Leadership involves other people – employees or followers – who by the degree of their willingness to accept direction, help to define the leader’s status.

iv. It involves authority and responsibility, in terms of deciding the way ahead and being held responsible for the success or failure in achieving the agreed objectives.


v. Leadership involves an unequal distribution of power between leaders and group members. Group members are not powerless; they can and do shape group activities in a number of ways. Still, the leader will usually have more power.

Leadership involves the application of certain values. Leadership based on moral principles requires that followers be given enough knowledge of alternatives to make intelligent choices when it comes to responding to a leader’s proposal.

Key Elements of Leadership:

It has been observed that every group that attains its goals or performs efficiently has a skilled leader.

A leader’s skill comprises of four major elements:


(1) The ability to use power effectively and in a responsible manner,

(2) The ability to understand the fact that people are motivated by different forces at different times and in different situations,

(3) The ability to inspire and

(4) The ability to behave in a manner that will develop a harmonious work culture.


Developing Leaders at Infosys

The founders of Infosys wanted to build an organization that would last and could operate even under uncertain conditions; With this in mind, the Chairman of Infosys, Nurayana N.R. Murthy, established ail advisory body known as the Management Council entrusted with taking strategic decisions for the company. 

He noticed that during the management council meetings, young achievers in the company were reluctant to make suggestions. On probing further. Murthy found that these employees did have plenty of good ideas, but hesitated to contribute to the discussions due to the fear of intimidating their superiors.

This troubled Narayana Murthy and he decided to build a leadership institute, that would help promising employee? at all levels to develop into leaders. It would also provide them opportunities to shape the future of Infosys.


Infosys Leadership Institute (ILI) was created in early 2001 ro help promising Infoseions develop into good leaders.

The aim of Infosys was to respond to the following specific challenges:

i. To help people manage the phenomenal growth of the company

ii. To make the employees of Infosys ready for the complexities of the market and the dynamic external environment.


iii. To create greater customer value through ‘thought leadership’.

In Infosys, leadership is regarded as a journey, and it begins with the selection of high-potential employees. The top management identifies a pool of candidates on the basis of their past performance. They are also assessed for leadership potential. Each high-potential employee has an ILI faculty assigned to him.

The faculty members guide these employees by developing personal development plans (PDPs) and by creating action plans for employees. Most high-potential employees are trained in one or more leadership skills. The duration of this training is three years and helps high-potential employees to develop into effective leaders.

Infosys employs the ‘nine pillar’ model of leadership development. This model was developed after a careful analysis of the processes followed by 18 highly successful global corporations. Each pillar in the model has a unique relevance to development of individual’s leadership competencies.


The Nine Pillars in this Model are:

360 degree Feedback:

This a method of systematic collection of data regarding a person’s performance and abilities front many co-workers, including peers, direct reporters, managers, and internal and external customers. Feedback thus obtained is used to prepare individual personal development plans (PDPs).

These serve as guides to the individuals for acquiring new skills, and to enhance their existing skills. Each individual is assigned an ILI faculty to help him/her draw up a PDP and put it into action.

Development Assignments:

Highly talented employees are offered experience in diverse functions by means of job rotations and cross-functional assignments. Development assignments help employees to develop practical leadership skills beyond their areas of experience.


Infosys Culture Workshops:

These workshops give employees an understanding of the core values, purpose and processes used in leadership development. These workshops allow participants to interact with each other and reinforce the culture of Infosys. They also ensure adherence to culture and help in empowerment of people.

Developmental Relationships:

Infosys regards mentoring as a development relationship. The employees have a mentor who facilitate the sharing and transfer of knowledge and experience.

Leadership Skills Training:

Infosys has initiated the Leaders Teach Series’, which are workshops conducted by the Board of directors with assistance from the ILL faculty. Workshops are also conducted by the Chairman and Chief Mentor, Narayana Murthy, and the CEO and MD, Nandan Nilekani, and other director of the board This indicates the commitment of me senior management to lite development of future leader.


Feedback Intensive Programs:

These programs are based on formal and informal feedback received from different people who come in contact with the employee. In these programs, participants receive and give feedback and work out a plan for continuous improvement and professional development.

Systemic Process Learning:

This allows the participants to view an organization as a system which consists of different Interacting subsystems. Employees learn how to develop and implement plans for continuous improvement in systematic processes.

Action Learning:

This is a team-based approach which uses the process of solving unresolved, real life organizational problems. The process also involves setting goals for continuous development and framing strategies for attaining them.


Community Empathy:

ILI provides opportunities for talented personnel to get involved in social causes. Infosys believes that community empathy is necessary for overall leadership development. Therefore, social conscience has to be nurtured and enhanced in potential leaders.

The first element of leadership is using power in a responsible manner. Power is the control a person can exercise over others. In other words, it is the capacity to affect the behavior of others. Leaders in organizations typically rely on some or all of the five major bases of power. These five bases of power – coercive, reward, legitimate, expert, and referent power.

The second element of leadership is the ability of a leader to understand people at a fundamental level. Understanding of motivation theories, kinds of motivational forces, and the nature of a system of motivation is not sufficient; the leader must also be able to apply this knowledge to people and situations.

A manager or a leader, who understands the elements of motivation, should be able to use his greater awareness of the nature and strengths of human needs to work out ways of satisfying these needs, so as to get the desired results.

The third element of leadership is the ability of a leader to inspire followers to perform a task to the best of their capacities. Although the superiors can inspire subordinates by means of various incentives, the behavior of superior’s acts as a stronger motivating force.


A leader’s charismatic nature and personality may give rise to loyalty, devotion, and a strong desire on the part of the followers to carry out instructions. In such a situation, the followers do not merely try to satisfy their own needs but give unconditional support to the leader.

The fourth element of leadership concerns the style adopted by the leader, and the resulting influence on the work climate in the group or organization. The strength of motivation of followers is influenced by expectancies, perceived rewards, the task to be done, and other factors that are a part of the work climate in an organization.

Leadership behavior has a considerable impact on these factors that affect the work climate, and therefore there has been a large amount of research into this area of leadership behavior. Many management scholars regard good leadership to be the result of an appreciation of the psychology of interpersonal relationships.

Given that the most important function of managers is to design and maintain an environment which will help the organization to achieve its goals, a good manager-leader should attempt to make the work of almost every member in the organization more productive and satisfying by acting on an understanding of their underlying motivations such as status, power, money, pride, etc., and working to fulfill them.

In sum, the fundamental principle of leadership can be described as follows:

“Since people tend to follow those who, in their view, offer them a means of satisfying their own personal goals, the more managers understand what motivates their subordinates and how these motivations operate, and the more they reflect this understanding in carrying out their managerial actions, the more effective they are likely to be as leaders”.