There are certain qualities that comprise a universally accepted demarcation of leadership capacity. The notions that a leader should be well-organized, capable of operating under pressure and able to contend vigorously with competition are all commonly accepted. In addition, a leader is expected to be endowed with the proper understanding of the consequences of his own decisions, open to the suggestions of others and willing to admit to himself when he’s made a mistake. A leader should ideally be confident enough in his own capabilities to see the capabilities in those around him. He must delegate responsibility accordingly. These are characteristics that can help guide one to greater efficiency as a leader.
However, there is more to effective leadership than this simple litany of desirable attributes. The necessitated dynamism of a great leader is an indication that to truly be effective in heading a group, organization or business one must be ready for the unexpected. As a leader, one is often burdened, either by choice or by circumstance, to contend with obstacles of myriad unforeseen natures. But it is here that a leader is defined, in the face of difficult decisions and personal challenges. And one who is a genuinely effective leader will find that by contending with difficult decisions and besting personal challenges, he can help bring his organization to greater glory.
It should be noted, before accepting a specific definition of the term ‘leadership,’ that the Wren text describes that in historical literature research, roughly 130 different definitions can be approached. Therefore, our selection will inherently be based on a certain degree of personal prejudice. However, there is a passage in the Wren text which provides a working definition of core value to our understanding of the subject. Wren contends that “a new moral principle is emerging which holds that the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the leader.” (20) This is to indicate that leadership will be defined by some explicit or informal contract or agreement between parties in which one’s leadership is accepted and endorsed. This has been selected as our definition for leadership due to the relative importance that this condition of symbiosis be met in order for leadership to effect any positive meaning.
The presidency of the United States is an ideal example of this leadership issue. With the notion of democracy driving elections, it is understood or believed that the process of public selection helps to create a leadership role that is naturally endorsed by the public and therefore differentiates itself from a dictatorship, a monarchy or some other authoritarian structure denoting something not reflexive of leadership. However, the election scandals that have impacted the impression of our current President Bush to suggest that somehow, the agreement between the led and the leader had not been effectively forged have created a very negative leadership decision. Indeed, as a result, the president is embattled by congressional opponents, criticized by the media and roundly disliked by large majorities of the public. Here, we can see that a divergence from the terms of leadership set forth here above in Wren’s words has ultimately produced a circumstance in which the subject’s leadership capability and entitlement can be seriously called into question.
Here, the Wren text and the real-world case example suggest that leadership differs fundamentally from mere managerial responsibility or the assumption of stewardship duties. Moral philosophy aside, of the functions and qualities attributed to managerial competency in the theoretical setting, perhaps leadership is an organizational and theoretical term most difficult to discern from the overall roles prescribed by a position in the fold of a company’s management core. But in fact, leadership is a concept unto itself, that is necessary for sound management but is not exclusive to the purview of such positions. Indeed, it is a quality which can often mean the difference between effective management or authoritative impotence. However, on a humanist level taken apart from a discussion of management roles and corporate hierarchy, leadership is an ability which, either inborn or, developed through hard work and ingenuity, presents the members of the organization with a paragon to forging action toward rational and collective goals. While it is the responsibility of managerial personnel to issue directives, instructions and clarifications on goal-orientation, it is only a leader who can find ways to motivate the members of his organization. This is to argue that “when we function as leaders, we take on a unique set of ethical challenges in addition to a set of expectations and task. These dilemmas involve issues of power, privilege, deceit consistency, loyalty, and responsibility. How we handle the challenges of leadership will determine if we cause more harm than good.” (Johnson, 2005; 10) In the absence of proper leadership, it may be difficult to channel these responsibilities toward the fulfillment of organizational expectations.
This is certainly illustrated by the example cited above, with presidential goals such as the extension of peace, the improvement of the economy and the progressive advancement of the public interest all falling by the wayside as an authoritarian administration instead has used a distorted ‘leadership’ in order to pursue personal interests.
Johnson, C. (2005). Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership, 2nd
edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Wren, J.T. (1995). The Leaders Companion -Insights on leadership through the ages. Free Press.