If one uses the word leadership to refer to the ability to lead, one can define it as: that blend of human qualities and behaviour exhibited by an individual that encourages others to achieve more success than they would otherwise achieve, particularly in adverse or challenging circumstances.
One of the first to have made a systematic study of leadership was the Italian diplomat and writer
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527). His observations on the autocratic
rulers of his day, included:
It is much more secure to be feared than to be loved.;
The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.;
Never was anything great achieved without danger.;
Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
German economist Max Weber (1864-1920) distinguished three types of leadership:
charismatic (familial and religious), traditional (feudal paternalism) and legal (modern states and bureaucracy).
Weber's countryman, psychologist, Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) preferred a different trio of leadership types:
authoritarian (aloof autocrat), democratic (collective decisions) and laissez-faire (detatched).
Lewin's US contemporary, William M. Marston (1893-1947) looked at both the leader and the the led.
He said people were motivated by: authority, achievement or affiliation and suggested four associated behavioural
profiles in his DISC Theory (D - dominance,
I - inducement, S - steadiness,
C - compliance).
Marston suggested that dominance was the favoured profile in challenging, antagonistic environments.
Controversially he drew attention to a sexual component in this analysis with a male notion of freedom that is inherently
anarchic and violent, and an opposing female notion that provides the complementary state of submission to
David C. McClelland (1917-98) another US psychologist took the authority, achievement and affiliation template into a different direction. He felt that people motivated by achievement made the best leaders although they could be too demanding. Those motivated by power and authority were drawn to leadership but often lacked the flexibility and people skills to handle the role well. While those motivated by affiliation tended to be undermined by their need to be liked.
British consultant, John Adair (1934 -) argues that leadership is a trainable, transferable skill,
rather than an exclusively inborn ability.
However the main focus of his
Action Centred Leadership model is on the key management skills of: planning, initiating,
controlling, supporting, informing and evaluating.
US consultant Ken Blanchard (1939 - ) using ideas from Marston, McClelland and others, links four styles of interaction
with ones subordinates (telling, selling, participating and delegating) with the three types of motivation (achievement,
affiliation and authority) in his
Situational Leadership model.
In the 60s after a long career in a major multinational, Quaker theorist Bob Greenleaf
argued the virtues of a less autocratic style of leadership with the following characteristics:
Listening, Empathy, Healing, Awareness, Persuasion, Conceptualization, Foresight, Stewardship,
Commitment to the growth of people, Building community. Greenleaf referred to this as
In the US in 1988 the inaugural Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award included leadership as one of its assessment criteria: Leadership; Information & Analysis; Strategic Quality Planning; Human Resource Utilization; Quality Assurance of Products and Services; Results from Quality Assurance; and, Customer Satisfaction. In the following twenty years while the criteria have evolved, leadership has remained the one constant feature.
The creation of this US model and associated award process persuaded a group of European business leaders to follow suit.
They set up the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and featured leadership in their own
excellence model : Leadership, People, Policy & Strategy, Partnerships & Resources,
Processes, People Results, Customer Results, Society Results, and Key Performance Results.
Both US and European models have attracted criticism for their alleged inflexibility, lack of practicality and limited academic foundation. But both have stood the test of time and proved popular particularly in large private and public sector bureaucracies where they have often contributed to organisational improvements.
A new generation of thinkers are challenging these copyrighted templates. Ronald Heifetz
(1951- ) argues that leaders should
help people face reality and to mobilize them to make change
even though this may generate some resistance and pain. Peter Block has returned to Greenleaf's
ideas about leaders being
stewards and needing to choose service over self interest.
Others contrast the practicalities of good leadership with those of good management.
UK retail executive Allan Leighton (1953- ) insists that:
Leaders set the strategy - but managers execute and
Leaders create the Will, Managers maintain the Rhythm.
US IT executive Bruce Lynn (1958-) uses another analogy in his informative blog
Leaders plant; Managers weed.
Both together yield the greatest harvest. He has summarised the interaction between leaders and managers as follows:
|Together they ...
|Optimise the upside.
|Minimise the downside.
|Focus on the ends.
|Focus on the means.
|Focus on the what.
|Focus on the how.
|Prepare beyond the limits.
|Focus execution within limits.
|Are the first onto the battlefield?
|Are the last ones off?
|Do the right things;
|Do things right.
|Doing is the right thing.