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The Meaning of Leadership Essay

“Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. ” (Northouse) I use to believe that leadership shows the confidence that many people do not portray, because my thoughts were that leadership was a group of people who stand up for the things that they believe. After an extensive study on the meaning of leadership, I have come to find that there is no way to specifically define the meaning of leadership, but there are ways to grasp a better understanding of what the aggregate meanings entail.

The big questions that we are faced with are these; how is leadership approached in life, when is it practiced and needed, and who are some leaders in history that portray great leadership skills. Leadership can be defined as many things, but in an overall sense leadership is a process. A leader has a goal that is trying to be reached; in order to reach this goal the leader works with a follower. Leadership consists of influence, common goals, and group work. Great leaders must be persuasive and able to get people to follow what it is that they are trying to accomplish.

In order for leadership to exist at all, influence must take place for the leader to achieve their goal, therefore to influence a situation you must have a certain amount of power in order for a follower to feel that they are following for a good reason. There are five bases of power: Referent power concerns if the follower is fond of the leader. Expert power acknowledges the leaders understanding and knowledge of the subject in which is being lead. Legitimate power is the status in which the leader holds, such as a job or group, etc.

Reward power concerns the leaders ability to provide reward to the followers. The last one is Coercive power, which occurs when the leader has the ability to punish or penalize the follower. Without these five bases a leader would be unable to affect and influence the group of people who are working to achieve a common goal. There are two different theories, many believe that leadership is a trait that somebody is born with, and others believe that leadership can be learned.

At the beginning of the semester I believed that leadership was a trait that someone is born with, and could not be learned. After learning about the different bases of power I found that if one can get a better understanding of their strengths and know where to make them stronger, these five bases of power could change and better as the strengths get stronger, therefore creating a leader out of someone who was not born with leadership skills. Although I believe that leadership is something that can be learned, I also believe that leadership traits are something that people can be born with.

In Northouses’ book he describes the different traits that studies have found to be largely affective for a leader. These traits are intelligence, self-confidence, integrity, sociability, and determination. The reason that intelligence is important for a leader is because having strong “…verbal abilities, perceptual abilities, and reasoning appears to make one a better leader” (Northouse 20). Self-confidence is essential because a leader needs to be confident in themselves enough to get up and talk to people about their goals, as well as their plans to execute the goal.

A leader must be determined in order to have enough desire to show initiative in the situation in which they are working towards as well as being persistent enough to accomplish the goal. In order for a leader to really persuade and influence the follower they must have integrity, because people are attracted to honesty and trustworthiness. Lastly, sociability is important for a leader because they must be able to reach out to the followers in order to contain any sort of power.

There are two types of leadership: Assigned, and Emergent. “Leadership that is based on occupying a position in an organization is assigned leadership…the person assigned to a leadership position does not always become the real leader in a particular setting…when others perceive an individual as the most influential member of a group or organization, regardless of the individual’s title, the person is exhibiting emergent leadership” (Northouse 5-6). The next subject that I will discuss is when leadership is practiced, and needed.

According to Northouse research in administration as well as his own observation in the workplace, leadership takes place based on personal skills: technical, human, and conceptual. Technical Skill includes those who are able to use different tools and techniques in different areas of expertise. This type of leadership skill can be used in computer software companies, accounting firms, architecture, technology design, programming, and many other areas in the workplace. Technical skills are focused more in the middle and lower levels of management, and less in the upper levels for chief executives, CEO’s, and senior officers.

Human skill is the ability to work with people, which is quite different from working with technical things. Human skills help with workers, and superiors and create a cooperative work place in which little conflicts take place, this meaning that the leader with human skills are able to look at all angles of perspective and easily mold everyone’s ideas together to be a fair environment for everyone. Those with the human skill incorporate many other leadership skills because they create a comfortable environment with integrity and encouragement as well as including of others.

An eminent leader who is effective in accomplishing a goal must also portray social judgment skills; they should be able to understand people, and social systems. They provide encouragement to people to get through problems, and change. Human skills are important in both the middle and upper levels of management. Lastly, conceptual skills “are the ability to work with ideas and concepts… and works easily with abstractions and hypothetical notions” (Northouse 42). A leader with conceptual skill is able to take ideas and put them into a less intricate and complicated meaning.

Conceptual skills are important for CEO’s and presidents of companies, because they need to take ideas and create a vision for the people under them in order to understand the full concept of the goal. A great leader must have strong problem solving skills. When different situations occur for businesses or even volunteer programs a leader ought to be creative about how the problem can be fixed in an organizational manner. They must be “able to define significant problems, gather problem information, formulate new understandings about the problem, and generate prototype plans for problem solutions” (Northouse 44).

Leadership is used in businesses, government, schools, volunteer work, hospitals, parenting, even dictatorship, and every part of our society today. In order for us to accomplish our goals such as bettering our environment, helping the poor, and the sick and all other aspects of our world we must have effective and skilled leaders to guide the way. With all the different approaches to leadership we can combine everything we have learned and use them to better improve our society. One of my personal favorite leaders is Alexander the Great, a fantastic militant leader in our history.

Alexander The Great exhibited his leadership skills and willingness to work hard and proved these attributes by applying them to most aspects of his worth ethic. For example, when Aristotle encouraged Alexander, by directing him to behave with a malicious attitude and enslave all non-Greeks. Although Alexander adopted the boldness of this attitude, his methods were far more peaceful. Rather than making enemies he made friends, but he also never failed to dominate his rivals with disagreeable views. For the most part, Alexander tried to keep peace, while never losing sight of expanding Macedonia and Greece, and annihilating Persia.

His leadership skills won many victories, and also directed people to come together and have pride in all members of mankind. His greatness could be considered similar to an old timey Gandhi, in his ideas of forming one land, where all people could thrive. Alexander also proves his greatness by his calm agility when taming the horse that was seemingly not tamable. As an onlooker, Alexander watched as the men grappled with the belligerent horse without success. Alexander knew that in this instance it was his time to show the men what it is to be observant and patient with the horse, that was not worth losing because of their ignorance.

With confidence, Alexander proved to the men that he had the kind of knowledge within him that would be difficult to imitate. His profound ideas and skill amazed his father and Phillip and his father knew that one day he would take on a harsher task, but do so with grace and vigor. This act proved his audacious attitude, and it paved the way for his greatness to flourish for the Macedonians and Grecians alike. Apart from Alexander’s excellent skills in society and apparently with animals, he was no small man on the battlefield either. He was deeply intense about leading a productive life, by offering his leadership and talents to his men.

In one instance he remained in solidarity with the entire troop in order to maintain a feeling of brotherhood, and to keep their spirits held high. Alexander acted with confidence to maintain the morale of himself and all of his men. These actions give way to the belief that Alexander was not shedding any lives or conquering cities for his own personal gain, but mainly for the bettering of his part of the world and for all who will and would dwell there. Alexander’s truly great abilities show through in many aspects of his life, and it evidently did not go unrecognized.

Put off by the greed of many men, Alexander tried to destroy individualism and remained in solidarity with mankind until the day of his death. Another incredible leader is Nelson Mandela. He was born in Mvezo, a village in South Africa and the first in his family to attend school. During the violent apartheid policy of racial segregation he began to campaign against the unjust and corrupt rulers using a non-violent approach. Mandela soon found that these non-violent attempts were getting him nowhere and recoursed to guerilla warfare.

In his attempts he was viewed as a terrorist and began his hiding on the run for seventeen months, he was finally captured and imprisoned for twenty-seven years. During his imprisonment he became a renowned leader for black Africans, and a symbol of injustice of the black race in South Africa. People fought whole-heartedly for his release and many refused any discussion with the South African government until he was released. After his release on February 11, 1990 he was broadcasted on live television and taken to a rally with the support of over seven hundred and fifty thousand people.

He became president of the African National congress, and later ran for the first multi-racial elections and became the first black president of South Africa. As president he ended apartheid and granted equal rights to all races. He gained much respect for his peaceful outlook and approach of respect for all races, even after his terrible past of apartheid. I believe that he was a great leader because he had the determination to accomplish the goal he had aspired for, for so long. He was fantastic with people, and had great influencing skills for his followers. The last leader that I will talk about is Susan B.

Anthony, a woman’s rights activist. Anthony’s father raised his daughters as equals to men and believed that they must receive the same amount of education as men, and built a school in their home for his children as well as others. At the age of sixteen she went to houses to tutor children, in the attempts to make money of her own. Anthony became a large believer in equal rights and freedom, and asked by other abolitionists to organize, write, and deliver speeches for a campaign against slavery. Her efforts were to extreme advantage and the thirteenth amendment was passed, granting freedom for the slaves.

She continued her fight for equal rights and the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments were passed, granting citizenship to all who were born in the United States, as well as the rights to vote for blacks. Her fights for women’s rights were difficult, and seemed to be going nowhere. She continued and didn’t quit, going state to state while giving speeches about the enfranchisement of women. She convinced the senator of California to propose an amendment to the constitution for women’s suffrage, and although defeated she fought until her death.

Fourteen and a half years later the nineteenth amendment was granted, giving women the right to vote. Her efforts may have not succeeded while she was alive, but her fight for what she wanted was admirable, never giving up. In conclusion leadership is approached, practiced, and needed in all situations in life. There have been many great leaders throughout history and many more to come. Leaders as well as leadership portray many different skills in order to be effective. We have learned many things about leadership and the influences from other leaders have taught us how to go forward with new ideas and aspects of how to approach them.

Alexander the Great, Nelson Mandela, and Susan B. Anthony are three great leaders and without the knowledge of leadership skills that I have learned in this class, I would not have been able to recognize there hard works and achievements. Without some sort of sacrifice, such as these three leaders depicted the desire for a common goal is less likely to be achieved. Before this class started, my understanding of leadership was minimal and I have learned that our future leaders depend on the discernment of leadership as a whole.


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