Learn about the definitions of leadership as given by different authors.
Some of the common ideas included in leadership definitions include exerting influence, motivating and inspiring helping others realize their potential, leading by example, selflessness and making a difference. I have given hereunder some well-known definitions of leadership.
Peter Drucker defines a leader as “someone who has followers”. To gain followers, a leader requires influence as well as integrity in achieving this.
John C. Maxwell feels that leadership is “ability of the leader to influence others – those who consider themselves followers as well as non-followers. Indirectly, it also builds in leadership character, since without maintaining integrity and trustworthiness, the capability to influence others will disappear.”
Warren Bennis says “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.”
Thus the leader selects, equips, trains and influences his follower(s) who have diverse abilities and skills and guides the follower(s) to the organization’ mission and objectives so that they are achieved. The leader achieves this using ethical means and seeks the greater good of the follower(s) in the process. The leader achieves this same state for him/herself as he/she seeks personal growth, renewal, regeneration, and increased stamina through the leader-follower interactions.
The leader should recognize the diversity of the follower(s) and achieve unity of common values and directions without destroying the uniqueness of the person. The leader accomplishes this through innovative flexible means of education, training, supporting and protecting each follower.
The leader, thus enables the followers(s) to be innovative as well as self-directed within the scope of individual-follower assignments and allows the follower(s) to learn from his/her their own, as well as others’ successes, mistakes, and failures along the process of completing the organization’ objectives. The leader accomplishes this by building credibility and trust with the followers through interaction and feedback to and with the followers that shapes the followers’ values, attitudes, and behaviours towards risk, failure and success.
In doing this, the leader builds the followers sense of self-worth and self-efficacy such that both the leader and followers are willing and ready to take calculated risks in making decisions to meet the organization goals/objectives and through repeated process steps of risk-taking and decision-making the leader and followers together change the organization to best accomplish the organization objectives.
Leadership is also one of the key elements of directing. It is an action of leading a group of people or an organisation. It is a state of being a leader. The definitions of leadership have evolved continuously since early 20th century.
“Leadership is the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and induce obedience, respect, loyalty and cooperation.” —B. V. Moore
“Leadership is the behaviour of an individual while involved in directing group activities.” —David Hemphill
These definitions focussed on control and centralisation of power with a common theme of domination. The definitions also emphasised on organisational behavioural approach consisting of formation of groups directed towards certain goals. Based on the above mentioned definitions, leadership can be defined as a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.
Leadership plays a vital role in management of people. It is the ability to secure desirable actions from a group of followers voluntarily, without the use of coercion. It is a personal qualification which is used to direct the followers or subordinates. It may be formal or informal. The formal leadership is used through command and authority while informal leadership is used through personal traits and courage.
According to Robert Tanninbam, “Leadership is the interpersonal influence exercised situation and directed through the communication process, towards the attainment of goals”. Thus, leadership is a process of purposive behaviour. It is an important instrument of motivation also.
Leadership may be ‘Positive’ and ‘Negative’ also. The positive approach towards the leadership is based on rewards, incentive and gain to followers with inducement of their energies to the goals of their organisations. On the other hand negative leadership is based on fear, force and punishment. In this type of leadership the leader uses fear, force, reprimand and scolding’s, to direct his subordinates in a particular desired direction.
Leadership represents an abstract quality in a man. A leader may or may not be a business executive but a business executive must be a leader. The executive must have that quality so that he may be able to inspire confidence in those who are working for the organisation of which he is the in charge. He has no alternative but to provide an inspiring leadership. According to Koontz and O’Donnell-“Leadership is the ability of a manager to induce subordinates (followers) to work with confidence and zeal.”
“The essence of leadership is followership.”
Koontz and O’Donnell assert, it is the followers who make a person leader. An executive has to earn followers. He may get subordinates because he is in authority but he may not get a follower unless he makes the people willing to follow him. Only willing followers can and will make him a leader.
The concept of leadership, therefore, lies in the creation of followers. Because of this concept thinkers have asserted, “Leaders are born not made”. Another group of thinkers assert that “Leadership can be acquired.” This assertion of some of the thinkers has given rise to the concept that “Leaders are both born and made.” It is this school of thinking which has led to a thought that if one has a leadership quality he can use it undoubtedly to his best of abilities and can succeed in his mission.
But those who don’t have can develop the qualities to a greater extent by shear indulgence and hard work and use the same to better advantage through experience if they are given a chance to lead.
“Leadership is generally defined simply as influence, the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly towards the achievement of group goals.”………Koontz and O’Donnell
“Leadership refers to the relation between an individual and group around some common interest and behaving in a manner directed or determined by him (the leader).”
Further Peter Drucker has said “Leadership is the lifting of man’s visions to higher sights, the raising of man’s performance to higher standard, the building of man’s personality beyond its normal limitations.”
As Alford & Beatty has said “Leadership is the ability to secure desirable actions from a group of followers voluntarily without the use of coercion.”
According to Haimanu Theo “Leadership may be defined as the process by which an executive imaginatively directs, guides and influence the work of others in choosing and attaining specified goals by mediating between the individual and the organisation in such a manner that both will obtain maximum satisfaction.”
Thus, it is clear from the above definitions that leadership is the process of influencing the behaviour, activities and efforts of an individual or a group for achieving common goals.
Leadership is an important element in the process of directing. It is a universal phenomenon which is found in every people by which he influences the attitudes and behaviour of others in group activity. A leader guides and directs other people towards the achievement of group objectives. He creates and sustains enthusiasm among them and gives their efforts a purpose.
According to Keith Davis, “Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals”. In the words of Theo Haimann “Leadership is the process by which an executive imaginatively directs, guides and influences the work of others in choosing and attaining specified goals by mediating between the individuals and the organisation in such a manner that both will obtain maximum satisfaction.”
Leadership is an integral aspect of effective management of any enterprise. Leadership relates to coping with change and the challenges of turbulent changing environment. The essence of leadership is followership. People must be ready to follow the person acting as leader. Leading has the mission and vision of the future. It can arouse and inspire the followers by developing a favourable organisation climate and culture.
An enterprise can make a comprehensive business plan, set up a sound organisation structure, but it will accomplish nothing unless it has an inspiring leader. Leadership constitute the real motive power or driving force to achieve the results as per plan. A manager guides his subordinates by telling what to do and by issuing instructions to them. He supervises, i.e., follows up and checks the performance of his subordinates. He gets things done through and with others willingly and with team spirit through motivation of his subordinates.
Leadership is the ability to influence the behaviour of others in a particular direction. It is a set of interpersonal behaviours primarily to influence employees to cooperate willingly with zeal and confidence in the achievement of common objectives.
Leadership is the influence relationship in which one person (the leader) influences others (the led) in a given situation to work together on the related tasks to attain that which the leader desires. It is the ability to influence the behaviour of others in a particular direction.
Management leadership is that part of a manager’s activities by which he influences the behaviour of individuals and groups towards a desired result; it depends upon the values, skills and personality of the manager to meet the wants, needs and desires of the group he leads.
According to Koontz and O’Donnell, “Leadership is generally defined as influence, the process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly towards the achievement of group goals.”
George R Terry says, “Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for mutual objectives”.
To be a good manager and leader, one has to be a good human being. Such a person is big- hearted. He has a genuine concern for his followers. He has the ability to win their trust. He gives praise when it is due. He can be tough, firm but fair. He has the humility to admit his own mistakes. To his mind the target of developing big men, big managers is the most important of all. His moral philosophy can be summed up in these statements.
(i) Do for others what you want them to do for you.
(ii) Practice what you preach.
(iii) Quality begins at the top.
(iv) Expect the best, ask for it, pursue it relentlessly and you will get it.
(v) Absolute purity, honesty, unselfishness and love
The manager and leader must begin change by changing oneself first. Remember every time you point a finger at somebody, three fingers are pointing at you.
Leadership can be defined as the process by which one individual influences others towards the attainment of group or organisational goals. Three points about the definition of leadership should be emphasised.
First, leadership is a social influence process. Leadership cannot exist without a leader and one or more followers. Second, leadership elicits voluntary action on the part of followers. The voluntary nature of compliance separates leadership from other types of influence based on formal authority.
Finally, leadership results in followers’ behaviour that is purposeful and goal-directed in some sort of organised setting. Many, although not all, studies of leadership focus on the nature of leadership in the workplace.
Leadership is probably the most frequently studied topic in the organisational sciences. Thousands of leadership studies have been published and thousands of pages on leadership have been written in academic books and journals, business-oriented publications, and general-interest publications.
Despite this, the precise nature of leadership and its relationship to key criterion variables; such as subordinate satisfaction, commitment, and performance is still uncertain to the point where Fred Luthans, in his book Organisational Behaviour, said that “it [leadership] does remain pretty much of a ‘black box’ or unexplainable concept”.
An organisation exists for attaining the pre-determined goals. With a view to achieving the goals, activities are managed. It is the manager who is entrusted with the task of managing. As a result, the manager coordinates the efforts of his subordinates in this direction.
According to Leavitt, a manager may achieve the set goals in three main ways – (i) by using formal authority, (ii) by manipulation, and (iii) by influence. Undoubtedly, out of the three, the last one is considered better and effective because it has lasting effect over the subordinates. This is possible only when the manager becomes the leader of his subordinates. The successful organisation is one that has a manager imbued with leadership qualities.
Leadership is an internal quality of man. It is a comprehensive term. It is viewed as an ability to inspire; as a power to influence; as a quality to direct; as a force to persuade; as a power to create confidence; as an art to induce; as a purposive behaviour; as an initiative quality; and so on. This is, perhaps, the reason why McFarland has remarked, “Leadership is an ephemeral and elusive concept.”
In managerial terms, leadership may be defined as a quality, a composite quality, of directing, influencing and inspiring the people in the enterprise for accomplishing the desired goals. According to Koontz and O’Donnell, leadership is “the art of inducing subordinates to accomplish their assignments with zeal and confidence.”
In the words of George R. Terry, “Leadership is the relationship in which one person, the leader, influences others to work together willingly on related tasks to attain that which the leader desires.” Robert Tannenbaum defines leadership as “interpersonal influence, exercised in situations and directed, through the communication process, toward the attainment of … goals.”
According to Theo Haimann – “Leadership can be defined as the process by which an executive imaginatively directs, guides, and influences the work of others in choosing and attaining specified goals by mediating between the individuals and the organisation in such a manner that both will obtain maximum satisfaction.”
According to Keith Davis, “Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals.” According to Allen, “A leader is one who guides and directs other people.”
George R. Terry, “Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for group objectives.”
Louis A. Allen, “A leader is one who guides and directs other people. He gives the efforts of his followers a direction and purpose by influencing their behavior.”
Alford and Beatty, “Leadership is the ability to secure desirable actions from a group of followers voluntarily, without the use of coercion.”
An executive is required to manage men, machine, material and all other available resources to get maximum results in achieving the tasks assigned to him. Various management techniques are available to him for effective utilisation of the resources. But there are no substitute leadership.
It takes a good leader to put these techniques to efficient use and get the best out of them. Leadership is a means of direction. It is a complex phenomenon and forms vital aspects of human activity. It is profoundly seen in administration, in industrial field, politics and in all walks of life, wherever result- oriented work and efficacy is expected.
Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objective enthusiastically. It involves the way a manager behaves in his man to man relationship. It is the human factor which binds a group together and motivates it towards goals.
In leading, a manager integrates the needs of the people with the welfare of his organisation. He recognises that people have their own desires, but at the same time he knows that cooperation and efficiency are necessary for survival and growth of the organisation.
Some views of leadership are as follow:
Leadership is influencing people to follow in the achievement of a common goal. – Harold and Cyril O’ Donnell
Leadership is the process by which a manager imaginatively directs, guides, and influences the work of others in choosing and attaining specified goals by mediating between the individual and the organisation in such a manner that both will obtain the maximum satisfaction. – Haimann
Leadership can be defined as – the ability to cause others to follow willingly, usually in initiating change. The ability to cause others to follow for a common goal is one sure way of recognizing leadership. Leaders initiate change either by making decisions or by encouraging others to make them. – Robert Dubing
Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts towards goal achievement in a given situation. From this definition of leadership, it follows that the leadership process is a function of the leader, the follower, and other situational variables.
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Leadership is an influence process the dynamics of which are a function of the personal characteristics of the leader and followers, and of the nature of the specific situations. – Max D.Richard and Paul S.Greenlaw
After reviewing the different opinions of leadership, it will be indicating that they are very similar. The common thread on these definitions is that leadership is a process whereby one individual exerts influence over others in a particular situation.
Therefore, some certain characteristic of leadership may be as follows:
1. It is personal quality of a person.
2. The leader tries to influence his followers.
3. It exercises in a particular situation.
4. It requires followers and situation both.
5. It is goal oriented activity.
6. It provides a definite direction to his followers.
Directing is a managerial function that focuses on the execution of plans. Even the best plans may fail to give success in the absence of directing in an organisation. By directing, subordinates are provided guidance, supervision and instruction. Team spirit is encouraged in them to operate towards achievement of organisational targets.
Thus, directing starts with giving instructions to lead the subordinates and ends with completion of a task. To conclude, directing ensures effective mobilization and utilization of the human resources of an organisation so that organisational goals can be attained.
According to Koontz and O’Donneli, “Directing is the executive function of guiding and observing subordinates.”
According to George R. Terry, “Directing concerns the total manner in which a manager influences the action of his subordinates.”
According to William Newman, “Directing deals with the steps, a manager takes, to get subordinates and others to carry out plans.”
To begin a study of any concept, it is important and useful to define it; leadership is no different. However, defining leadership has been a challenge even to the best thinkers in leadership. Most of them tend to round it up, using key inputs on leadership, and leave it without giving a precise definition.
An analysis of the dominant themes suggests that leadership involves two basic themes- creating vision and influencing execution. Terms such as goals, shared goals, purpose, and direction setting have been used by various authors to indicate the vision creating function of a leader.
The term ‘vision’ became popular after the famous 1991 article ‘Organisational vision and visionary organisation’ by Collins and Porras was published. Several world leaders use this term; for instance, Singapore Vision 2020 and India vision 2030. The term ‘influence’ means leader’s ability to generate action towards the vision.
Bernard Bass, an eminent thinker in leadership and the father of the concept of ‘Transformational Leadership’, brilliantly sums up different ways in which leadership can be conceived.
According to him leadership can be conceived as focus on group processes, as a matter of personality, as a matter of inducing compliance, as the exercise of influence, as particular behaviours, as a form of persuasion, as a power relation, as an instrument to achieve goals, as an effect of interaction, as a differentiated role, as an initiation of structure, and as many combinations of these.
This means that we can study leadership from multiple perspectives. It is also the reason why leadership is often defined in different ways. Well, if you would like to have a look at more definitions of leadership, visit www(dot)businessnewsdaily(dot)com/3647-leadership-definition(dot)html.
Based on the various factors/themes, one can define leadership as the art and science of setting direction and influencing people to follow the direction by actively engaging with them. Direction setting/ visioning involves crystal gazing without precise scientific evidence, yet a vision is created based on vital data/inputs (vital input may not be in the form of precise scientific evidence).
There is a well-established process of creating a vision by consulting the stakeholders and including core values, core purpose, and audacious goals in the vision. This means the creating vision has ingredients of art and science. Influencing people implies seeking their willing action, and therefore, one has to engage and create a bond with them. This too has some scientific methods; for instance, application of intrinsic and extrinsic motivators, engaging in inspirational actions, and so on.
The actions of the people who are influenced must be well aligned to the vision. To do this, we use systems and processes such as goal setting, feedback, and performance appraisals. It is for this reason, leadership is considered/defined as ‘art and science’.
The concept of leadership has undergone a sea change from the concept of ‘born-leader’ to ‘situation-leader’ and to effective leader. Views, assumptions and theories of leadership have changed significantly in recent years. Business and industry have set managers more as leaders to achieve the challenges.
The quality of leadership provided by the managers determines the degree of success of business. Some people are born leaders and need little training or development. But many managers do not born with qualitative leadership skills. Such managers need training and development to acquire and develop leadership skills. However, born leaders can be more efficient with training.
The leadership may be defined as the ability of the individual that influence the group for the effectiveness of the organisation or the team.
“Leadership is the ability to secure desirable actions from a group of followers voluntarily without the use of coercion.” – Alford and Beatty
“Leadership is the relation between an individual and a group around some common interest and behaving in a manner directed or determined by him.” – Encyclopedia of Social Sciences
“Leadership may be defined as the ability to exert interpersonal influence by means of communication towards the achievement of a goal.” – Koontz and O’ Donnell
“Leadership is a human factor which binds a group together and motivates towards the particular goal.” – Keith Davis
Leadership is an important aspect of managing. Leadership is an art of becoming a leader and a leader is one who possesses the quality of guiding and directing the action of others and makes them follow him. Leadership may mean different things to different people and in different situations. For some, leadership may be a means for guiding others to complete a particular task whereas for others, it may be a motivational tool. Few may find it as a quality of influencing others according to your desires. Despite variation in how people perceive leadership as, general speaking leadership may be defined as an ability and desire of an individual to influence the moves and behaviour of others so as to direct them towards certain goals.
Leadership, although has the same underlying meaning, has been defined by different authors differently.
Few such definitions are as under:
Lisa – “Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.”
Warren Bennis – “Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues and taking effective action to realise your own leadership potential.”
Bolden – “Leadership is a complex phenomenon that touches on many other important organisational, social and personal processes. It depends on a process of influence, whereby people are inspired to work towards group goals, not through coercion, but through personal motivation.”
Tom Hopkins – “Leadership is the ability to make your followers believe that you possess superior knowledge of the situation, greater wisdom to cope with the unknown, or greater moral force. Unless you seem to have more of these things than the average follower does, they won’t follow you around the first corner.”
Chester Bernard – “Leadership is the ability of a superior to influence the behaviour of a subordinate or group and persuade them to follow a particular course of action.”
John C. Maxwell – “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less. This moves beyond the position defining the leader, to looking at the ability of the leader to influence others – both those who would consider themselves followers, and those outside that circle. Indirectly, it also builds in leadership character, since without maintaining integrity and trustworthiness, the capability to influence will disappear.”
Kenneth Boulding – “Leadership is defined as a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organisation in a way that it makes it more coherent and cohesive.”
Leadership is the ability to influence people to willingly follow one’s guidance or adhere to one’s decisions. Obtaining followers and influencing them in setting and achieving objectives makes a leader. Leaders make use of power in influencing group behaviour. For instance, informal leaders in organisations generally combine referent power and expert power. Some managers rely only on authority while others use different combinations of power.
Leadership can be defined in broad terms as a process by which one individual initially exerts influence which cause others to engage in voluntary, goal-directed behaviour.
The following three points about this definition should be emphasised:
(i) Two-way process – First leadership is a two-way process. It cannot exist without a leader and a follower. And one influences the other.
(ii) Voluntary action – Leadership elicits voluntary action on the part of followers. The voluntary nature of compliance separates leadership from other types of influence based on formal authority.
(iii) Goal-directed behaviour – Leadership results in follower’s behaviour which is purposeful and goal-oriented in some sort of organised setting.
In short, leadership refers to the ability to influence employees to voluntarily pursue organisational goals.
Thus there are three aspects of leadership — people, influence and goals. According to R. L. Dafts, “Leadership occurs among people, involves the use of influence and is used to attain goals”. Influence means that the relationship among people is not passive. In addition, influence is designed and exerted to achieve some end or goal. Thus leadership is the “ability to influence people toward the attainment of goals.” This means that leaders get involved with other people in achieving goals.
Another leadership is reciprocal in nature, occurring among people. Leadership is a “people centred” activity, distinct from an administrative job or a problem-solving activity.
Leadership is the quality to influence, inspire and guide others in order to meet certain pre-determined goals and objectives. In the organisational set up, leaders are the managers, superiors and executives who inspire their subordinates to work eagerly for the attainment of company goals and objectives.
It is purely an interpersonal exercise that is practised on the followers in a particular situation. Leadership, primarily includes three things: The leader himself, the follower and the situation.
A leader is usually the manager or the superior, the followers are the subordinates and the situation is the given environment in which leadership is exercised. The situation is a variable and the most crucial factor in this process of influencing the behaviour of others to meet the pre-determined objectives. As the situations vary, different approaches of leadership are adopted to arrive at the goals.
A few definitions of leadership given by management experts are as follows:
G. R. Terry, “Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for group objectives.”
Koontz and O’Donnell, Leadership means “influencing people to follow the achievement of a common goal. It is the ability to exert interpersonal influence by means of communication towards the achievement of a goal.”
Ralph M. Stodill, “Leadership is a process of directing and influencing the task-related activities of group members.”
Leadership is a process of influencing the behaviour of others towards a common goal. A leader has the ability to get people to do something significant that they might not be able to achieve otherwise. Managers at all levels in an organisation have to act as leaders in their area of operation.
Leadership qualities are required to conduct the various functions of management. Every person in an organisation needs a leader to guide, motivate, coordinate and control his efforts. Managerial leadership is, thus, that part of manager’s activities by which he influences the behaviour of subordinates towards a desired objective.
Leadership is a process by which an executive directs, guides and influences the behaviour of others towards the achievement of specific goals in a given situation. It is the ability of the manager to induce the subordinates to work with confidence and zeal.
According to Chester Barnard, “Leadership is the ability of a superior to influence the behaviour of a subordinate or group and persuade them to follow a particular course of action.”
According to Theo Haimann, “Leadership is the process by which an executive imaginatively directs, guides and influences the work of others in attaining specified goals.”
Leadership is one of most studied, researched, written about, discussed and debated upon topics and phenomena which has been analyzed and understood differently by various researchers. Leadership is a concern for everyone and an important dimension in everyone’s life.
Leadership has been defined by various writers such as – according to Koontz at el, “Leadership is the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically towards the achievement of group goals.” According to Davis, “Leadership is the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is that human factor that binds the group and motivate them towards common goals.”
A leader is the one who uses wide range of power basis i.e. positional power, expert power etc. to achieve organizational goals.
In other words, Leadership is the process which directs, guides and influence the work of others in attaining the specific goals of the organization by mediating between the individual and organization so that both will attain maximum satisfaction.
Leadership is an interpersonal and social process. A person’s leadership position exists only in relation to people and not things. A leader is one who happens to hold a control over some of the attitudes, actions and behavior of a set of people.
It is always related to a situation which means that a leader may be effective in one situation while ineffective in another. To be effective, a leader should change his leadership style depending upon the requirements of the situation.
Leader is an integral part of work and social life. Leadership behaviour occurs in all formal and informal situations. In a non-formal situation, such as a group of friends, leadership behaviour occurs where one person takes lead in most of the group activities. Leadership behaviour occurs in organisations where the leader influences people to work towards common goals.
Leadership guides people to contribute to organisational goals with zeal and confidence. “Zeal is ardour, earnestness and intensity in the execution of work; confidence reflects experiences and technical ability.” The ability of people to influence the behaviour of others is known as leadership. Leaders exploit human potential and transform it into output.
“The person who influences me most is not he who does great Deeds, but he who makes me feel that I can do great deeds.” — Mary Parker Follett
Leadership does not do things. It makes people do by creating in them an urge to contribute towards organisational goals.
Different authors define leadership as follows:
Leadership is “influence, that is, the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically towards the achievement of group goals.” — Koontz, and Weihrich
It is “the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically.” — Keith Davis
“Leadership is the process of influencing others to work towards the attainment of specific goals.” — Pearce and Robinson
“Leadership is the relationship in which leader influences others to work together willingly on related tasks to attain goals desired by the leader and/or group.” — Terry and Franklin