Quote“In the new context, organizational leaders are willingly, even enthusiastically, followed not because of unconscious attachments (although these never fully disappear) but because they are good role models who articulate meaningful purpose, are transparent in their communications, encourage dialogue and truth-telling, and treat people as colleagues, collaborators rather than subordinates” (Maccoby, 2007, p. 14).
Leaders are composed of people of character who have influence to motivate other people regardless of ranks or status into action towards the common good. In the organizational hierarchy they sit in established positions that allow them to function with powers to influence others towards the directions the company has to make. Structurally, as to the authority and function they hold, leaders are identified as the frontline supervisors, middle managers and top executives of the company.
Leadership is a social construct, it is meaningful to people in various ways, as people may differ in their perspective about leadership. However, leadership comes in human form, in the bodies of the leaders who demonstrate significant traits that people in turn attribute to leadership. Character, power, authority, influence, action, following, position, and mind and vision are eight key concepts that most people commonly associate to leadership:
- Leaders are people of character – they are persons with individual intricacies, peculiar traits, values and virtues. They are humans as anyone else capable of feeling and expressing their emotions, and they too have inequities. They are creatures of habit, which people identify with aside from what can be perceived from their physical attributes. They operate according to the standards they ascribed to and so weigh things out according to the worth they give them. They are expected to demonstrate positive character according to the norms of social behavior; with integrity, honesty, credibility, trustworthiness, justice and professionalism.
- Leaders have power at their disposal– the leaders’ power may be proscribed, ascribed or prescribed. In management, power is the potential to allocate resources and to make and enforce decisions (Harvard Business Essentials, 2005). This potential to manage resources and compel people to action to meet organizational goals is primarily warranted by the authority that goes with the leader’s functions. Such power is prescribed by the policy and the virtue of the position in the organizational hierarchy. The other source of power is ascribed, and this comes from what the followers risk and put at stake and given to their leader. The third source of power is proscribed, and this does not really need authority or position, but it exerts influence over other people because the leader’s virtue, wisdom and personality.
- Leaders are figures of authority – leaders are images and they have images to maintain to be functional in their position. People follow and have need for leaders because the images of the parents who keep control and assert authority over their children are transferred on them (Lipman-Blumen, 2005). Followers pattern their behavior as to that of their leaders who become their role models. As figures of authority, with prescribed power, they have control over people under their position. The leaders’ image is reflective of their character, habits and worldviews. Followers configure the image of their leaders as to what the latter demonstrates to them, and with whatever they are knowledgeable of their leaders.
- Leaders have influence – leaders work with people whom they need to motivate, and only those who can motivate without coercion have potential influence. Influence is not forced on a group of people, rather the people look up to the leaders as a resource person who value human relationships and add value to their people (Maxwell, 2009). Leaders use their power to change behavior or attitudes, without exerting force, compulsion or direct command; it is a two-way process where the leader allows the influence of others to influence them (Harvard Business Essentials, 2005). Ideally, leaders with great influence are the types of institutional managers who use power in the most effective and ethical way to achieve organization goals while working well with and charismatically motivating others.
- Leaders act and enable others to act – leaders are responsible as sources or agents of something; they have initiative and commitment to act even without the guidance of a superior (Williams, 2005). As catalyst of change, they labor by both thinking and doing to enable others to act. They are role models in their decisions and actions. They lead by example, a good example in their thoughts, words and deeds. To achieve something, they need to do something. Upon taking some time to think, reflect and plan their actions, they roll their sleeves and get things done according to the plans. They don’t stay inert or passive, instead they think proactively by working together with others to achieve their aims.
- Leaders are followed by people – Leaders are not leaders at all without followers; that is when they cannot motivate people to act. The subordinates of a leader may do things as expected because of their own commitment to their work functions and positions, but not necessarily because of the influence of the leader. People follow leaders because of transference which is a psychological concept pertaining to the ideation of parental figures and a better character (Maccoby, 2007; Lipman-Blumen, 2005). When leaders fail to meet the expectations of either of their superior or their subordinates, they lose following.Because people look up to the leaders they follow, leaders should maintain their character and hold responsbility and accountability over their positions.
- Leaders function according to their position – in their position, leaders are instruments of power, with authority to use that to achieve organizational goals; they assess situations to resolve existing problems (Williams, 2005). The power to lead goes with the position, but that power serves the purpose of allocating resources and to enforce decisions, but the success of the leader in his position depends on others (Harvard Business Essentials, 2005). Positions place managers to lead people, they subscribe to the tasks defined and authorized for them. However, to function effectively in their position they need to develop the right bonds and relationships and to persuade others.
- Leaders have both mind and vision – Most successful leaders have inner motivations for growth and development with others in their mind, and power orientation characterized of being fair, just, democratic, yet they see themselves as a source of power – as institutional leaders (Burnham, 2002). The mind of an institutional leader reflects that of a winner’s mindset, that is putting others in winning position equal to that of the leaders themselves. Leaders are highly effective people who know themselves and see the bigger picture of what they want to achieve, as they begin with the end in mind and seek to inspire others with their voice (Covey, 2004).
Character, power, authority, influence, action, following, and position are key concepts associated with people’s constructs of leadership. But leadership is contextualized, that one leader of a field, department, organization or industry may not be as good as he or she is in another place and time. Michael Maccoby’s assertions on contextualized leadership emphasize the need to reflect on how we come to understand the concept of leadership that influences us to act on our function as a leader and as a follower (2007). That, in the fast moving and dynamic changes in the socio-cultural milieus we experience, we can adapt to the leadership challenge.
Burnham, D. H. (2002). Inside the Mind of the World Class Leader. Retrieved April 9, 2012, from Burnhamrosen.com: http://www.burnhamrosen.com/articles/Inside_the_Mind.pdf
Covey, S. R. (2004). 8th Habit of Highly Effective People. New York: Free Press.
Harvard Business Essentials. (2005). Power, Influence and Persuasion. Boston: Harvard University.
Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The Allure of Toxic Leaders. Oxfor, NY: Oxford University Press.
Maccoby, M. (2007). The leaders we need, and what makes us follow. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Maxwell, J. C. (2009). The Gift of Leadership (Book 2). Manila, Philippines: Salt & Light Ventures Inc.
Williams, D. (2005). Real Leadership: Helping People and Organizations Face their Toughest Challenges. San Francisco, CA: Berret-Koehler Publishers.