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When psychologists and other researchers first studied leadership they tried to find out if leaders had special personal qualities or skills. In time it became clear that there was not a set of qualities distinguishing leaders from non-leaders.



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Leadership is needed at all levels in an organization. As Peter Drucker says, 'Leadership is the lifting of a man's vision to higher sights, the raising of a man's performance to a higher standard, the building of a man's personality beyond its normal limitations.'

When psychologists and other researchers first studied leadership, they tried to find out if leaders had special personal qualities or skills. The results of their research were disappointing. In time, it became clear that there was not a set of qualities distinguishing leaders from non-leaders. Some studies had suggested, for example, that leaders were more intelligent, more self-confident, had better judgement etc. than other people. But, it was pointed out, many people with these traits do not become leaders. And many leaders do not have such traits! It is generally agreed now that you cannot say a person is a leader because he/she possesses a special combination of traits. All you can say is that some qualities, like above-average intelligence and decisiveness, are often associated with leaders. An important analysis of leadership has been made by Fred Fiedler, Professor of Psychology and Management at the University of Washington. He has identified two basic leadership styles: Task-motivated leaders 'tell people what to do and how to do it.' Such leaders get their satisfaction from completing the task and knowing they have done it well. They run a 'tight ship', give clear orders and expect clear directives from their superiors. This does not mean that they show no concern for other people. But their priority is getting the job done.

Relationship-motivated leaders are more people-oriented. They get their satisfaction from having a good relationship with other workers. They want to be admired and liked by their subordinates. Such leaders will share responsibility with group members by encouraging subordinates to participate in decisions and make suggestions.

Throughout his work, Fred Fiedler emphasized that both styles of leadership could be effective in appropriate situations. There was no best style for all situations. Effective leadership depended on matching the leader to the task and the situation.

In a book called The Winning Streak, the authors studied leadership in some top British companies. The managers of those companies believed that effective leadership was a crucial factor in their organisations' success.

The authors were able to identify some characteristics of the chairmen and chief executives of the companies, which made them good leaders: firstly, the leaders were 'visible'. They made regular visits to plants and sites, toured round their companies and talked to employees. Leaders made their presence felt.

Besides being visible, the leaders of these top companies provided a 'clear mission'. In other words, they knew where the organization was going and persuaded staff to follow them. Sometimes, they spelled out the mission in a written statement.


Finally, successful organizations have clear values. And it is the job of the leader to show what they are. Thus, the leader is not only someone who 'lifts a man's vision. He/She must also protect and promote the organization’s values.


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