Leadership is an important part of the human condition. It has been an indispensable and necessary factor in defining civilization through the ages. To understand the past, one studies the leaders who have shaped history. The present is comprehended by looking backwards at great and small leaders, and by examining leaders of today who influence the lives of trillions. Interestingly enough, but quite logically, people look to today's leaders for what lies ahead. The vision of these contemporary leaders, it is believed, holds the keys to the future. As leadership is of great importance and concern to humankind, it is reasonable to desire to understand what it is. What is leadership? How do morality and the common good fit into the leadership equation? Are there cultural and environmental considerations at stake in the notion and practice of leadership? What do the experts and researchers say with regard to the differing leadership approaches? According to renowned author, James Mc Gergor Burns (1978), in his seminal work entitled Leadership; one of the greatest needs of our times is leadership. Not just any kind of leadership, but as Burns describes it compelling and creative leadership.
[...] This requires the leader to provide “guidance, encouragement, and motivation.” Next, or second, a visionary leader must comprehend the outside environment and be capable of reacting appropriately to its threats and opportunities. This includes most importantly being able to “relate skillfully” with key individuals external to an organization, but nevertheless essential to it (“investors, customers, etc.”). Third, a visionary leader must be instrumental in shaping and affecting organizational practices, procedures, products, and services. A leader in this sense must be involved or rather engrossed in an organization to bring about and sustain excellence while preparing and leading the way to the future—a successfully achieved vision. [...]
[...] Indeed, visionary leadership is a concept that is gaining increasing attention among experts and practitioners in leadership R&D and actual implementation strategies. The National Malcolm Baldrige Quality Program and other similar quality programs are placing emphasis on the theory and practice of visionary leadership and its importance in achieving future organizational goals and objectives (NIST pp. 12-13). Burt Nanus, a management professor and director of research at the University of Southern California's Leadership Institute, has been instrumental in forwarding the definition and meaning of leadership and its relation to visionary thinking. [...]
[...] Visionary Criteria A vision that a leader constructs is an image, an idea, or mental model of a future organization—its processes, its services or products, etc. This has been the thrust of the discussion in this chapter. With this in mind, what is the criteria, or perhaps better stated, what is fundamental to a vision as conceived and realized by a leader? The criteria of a vision can be somewhat exhaustive, but such a discussion or analysis inevitably leads to ever-increasing complexities and seemingly endless explanations. [...]
[...] The laissez-faire category is a more hands-off, self-determining, and tolerant approach to leading. Yukl (1994) states that researchers and experts began to study the behavior of leaders in two ways. First, they began to look more deliberately and systematically at how leaders actually performed their work. Specifically, leadership researchers evaluated carefully how managers or leaders used their time. This led to the conceptualizing of roles, functions, and duties (pp. 12-13). Activities of leaders such as planning, organizing, directing, staffing, communicating, etc. [...]
[...] The Trait Approach The early part of the 20th century saw researchers in management studies begin to piece together a leadership theory that placed considerable emphasis on the personal traits or attributes of leaders. The underlying premise of the so-called “trait approach,” is that leaders are different from other people in respect to the particular characteristics or traits that they possess. The trait approach states that certain individuals are leaders because they possess extraordinary attributes, such as energy, intellect, persuasiveness, and “uncanny foresight.” Gardner (1993), drawing on the works of Ralph Stogdill, Bernard Bass, and Edwin Hollander, among other experts, provides a taxonomy of attributes as follows: physical vitality and stamina, intelligence and judgment-in-action, willingness (eagerness) to accept responsibilities, task competence, understanding of followers/constituents and their needs, skill in dealing with people, need to achieve, capacity to motivate, courage, resolution, steadiness, 10) capacity to win and hold trust, 11) capacity to manage, decide, set priorities, 12) confidence, 13) ascendance, dominance, assertiveness, and 14) adaptability, flexibility of approach (pp. [...]
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