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Various leadership qualities have been proposed. They include:

  • Technical/specific skill at some task at hand
  • Charismatic inspiration - attractiveness to others and the ability to leverage this esteem to motivate others
  • Preoccupation with a role - a dedication that consumes much of leaders' life - service to a cause
  • A clear sense of purpose (or mission) - clear goals - focus - commitment
  • Results-orientation - directing every action towards a mission - prioritizing activities to spend time where results most accrue
  • Cooperation - work well with others
  • Optimism - very few pessimists become leaders
  • Rejection of determinism - belief in one's ability to "make a difference"
  • Ability to encourage and nurture those that report to them - delegate in such a way as people will grow
  • Role models - leaders may adopt a persona that encapsulates their mission and lead by example
  • Self-knowledge (in non-bureaucratic structures)
  • Self-awareness - the ability to "lead" (as it were) one's own self prior to leading other selves similarly
  • Awareness of environment - the ability to understand the environment they lead in and how they affect and are affected by it
  • With regards to people and to projects, the ability to choose winners - recognizing that, unlike with skills, one cannot (in general) teach attitude. Note that "picking winners" ("choosing winners") carries implications of gamblers' luck as well as of the capacity to take risks, but "true" leaders, like gamblers but unlike "false" leaders, base their decisions on realistic insight (and usually on many other factors partially derived from "real" wisdom).
  • Empathy - Understanding what others say, rather than listening to how they say things - this could partly sum this quality up as "walking in someone else's shoes" (to use a common cliché).
  • Integrity - the integration of outward actions and inner values.
  • Sense of Humour - people work better when they're happy.

In 2008 Burman and Evans[1] published a 'charter' for leaders:

  1. Leading by example in accordance with the company’s core values.
  2. Building the trust and confidence of the people with which they work.
  3. Continually seeking improvement in their methods and effectiveness.
  4. Keeping people informed.
  5. Being accountable for their actions and holding others accountable for theirs.
  6. Involving people, seeking their views, listening actively to what they have to say and representing these views honestly.
  7. Being clear on what is expected, and providing feedback on progress.
  8. Showing tolerance of people’s differences and dealing with their issues fairly.
  9. Acknowledging and recognizing people for their contributions and performance.
  10. Weighing alternatives, considering both short and long-term effects and then being resolute in the decisions they make.

The approach of listing leadership qualities, often termed "trait theory of leadership", assumes certain traits or characteristics will tend to lead to effective leadership. Although trait theory has an intuitive appeal, difficulties may arise in proving its tenets, and opponents frequently challenge this approach. The "strongest" versions of trait theory see these "leadership characteristics" as innate, and accordingly labels some people as "born leaders" due to their psychological makeup. On this reading of the theory, leadership development involves identifying and measuring leadership qualities, screening potential leaders from non-leaders, then training those with potential.

David McClelland saw leadership skills, not so much as a set of traits, but as a pattern of motives. He claimed that successful leaders will tend to have a high need for power, a low need for affiliation, and a high level of what he called activity inhibition (one might call it self-control).

Situational leadership theory offers an alternative approach. It proceeds from the assumption that different situations call for different characteristics. According to this group of theories, no single optimal psychographic profile of a leader exists. The situational leadership model of Hersey and Blanchard, for example, suggest four leadership-styles and four levels of follower-development. For effectiveness, the model posits that the leadership-style must match the appropriate level of followership-development. In this model, leadership behavior becomes a function not only of the characteristics of the leader, but of the characteristics of followers as well. Other situational leadership models introduce a variety of situational variables. These determinants include:

  • the nature of the task (structured or routine)
  • organizational policies, climate, and culture
  • the preferences of the leader's superiors
  • the expectations of peers
  • the reciprocal responses of followers

The contingency model of Vroom and Yetton uses other situational variables, including:

  • the nature of the problem
  • the requirements for accuracy
  • the acceptance of an initiative
  • time-constraints
  • cost constraints

See also[edit | edit source]

References & Bibliography[edit | edit source]

  1. Burman, R. & Evans, A.J. (2008) Target Zero: A Culture of safety, Defence Aviation Safety Centre Journal 2008, 22-27.

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