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Leadership: Toward a visionary approach

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  1. Introduction
  2. The need for and meaning of leadership
  3. Leadership, morality, and the common good
  4. Leadership: cultural considerations and environmental pressures
  5. Leadership approaches
  6. The trait approach
  7. The behavioral approach
  8. The power-influence approach
  9. The situational-contingency approach
  10. Motivational approaches
  11. The hero-charismatic approaches
  12. Leadership and management
  13. The leadership distinction
  14. The management distinction
  15. Visionary leadership
    1. Visionary leadership defined
    2. Sashkin, for example, states
    3. Finally, Stephen Harper (2001) writes
    4. Visionary leadership roles
    5. Visionary leadership in action
  16. Visionary Criteria
  17. The Vision Review
  18. Conclusion

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. [...]


[...] Nanus, in his book Visionary Leadership: Creating a Compelling Sense of Direction for Your Organization (1992), states that: There is no more powerful engine driving an organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile, and achievable vision of the future, widely shared there is no mystery about this. Effective leaders have agendas; they are totally result oriented. They adopt challenging new visions of what is both possible and desirable, communicate their visions, and persuade others to become so committed to these new directions that they are eager to lend their resources and energies to make it happen. [...]

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