The complexities involved in ideally defining leadership, a leader and a follower. B. Raven and J. Rubin (1976) defined a leader is ‘someone who occupies a position in a group, influences others in accordance with the role expectation of the position and coordinates and directs the group in maintaining itself and reaching its goal.’
Sears (1988) defined the leader as ‘… the one who initiates action, gives order, makes decisions, settles disputes between group members, offers encouragement, serves as a model, and is in the fore-front of group activity.’ Therefore, the leader is the person, who exerts influence on behaviour and beliefs of the people working in the organization.
G. Avery, and E. Baker (1990) defined leadership expanding this concept as a ‘process of influence between a leader and his followers to attain group, organizational and societal goals.’ Let us now consider a few more definitions of leadership. George R. Terry (1960) defined leadership as’… the relationship in which one person, the leader, influences others to work together willingly on related tasks to attain that which the leader desires.’ Lyne Joy McFarland, Larry E. Senn and John R. Childress (1994) have defined it ‘as a process of interpersonal influence by which the executive or manager influences the activities of others in choosing and attaining given ends.’
Harold Koontz, Cyril O’Donnell, and Heinz Weihrich (1993) defined leadership ‘as the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly and enthusiastically toward the achievement of group goals.’ Robert Tannenbaum, I.R. Weschler and F. Massarick defined it ‘…as a process of interpersonal relationships, through which a manager attempts to influence the behaviour of others toward the attainment of pre-determined objective.’
Keith Davis, on the other hand, defines it as ‘…the ability to persuade others to seek defined objectives enthusiastically. It is the human factor which binds group together and motivates it towards goals.’ Reviewing the above definitions, we can define leadership, therefore, as a process of influencing people for achieving organizational goals.
Based on above definitions, we can list the characteristics or of leadership as follows:
1. It Is a Personal Quality:
This quality makes other people to follow a leader. Quality of a leader is the aggregation of his intelligence, communications skills, emotional balance, inner drive, energy and other managerial skills like, conceptual, technical, human relations, etc. To make others to follow or to exert others to do the work, requires the presence of all these qualities. The degree of requirement of these qualities will, however, depends on the situation.
2. It Is a Process of Influencing Others:
Through the process of influence only a leader makes others to work for achieving goals. People may lack initiative or the urge to do the work and may get demotivated. Such behavioural characteristics can seriously impede the achievement of organizational objectives. However, a good leader through his influence can turn the situation in his favour and make people work towards achieving goals.
3. It Regulates Individual Behaviour:
Individual behavioural attributes may stand against achieving group goals. A leader through his process of influence can regulate the individual behaviour and make an individual to submit to group norms. To illustrate, following an approach of ‘Discipline without Punishment’, as advocated by John Huberman, a leader can correct the indisciplined behaviour of an individual and transform him as a good performer.
4. Existence of Relationship between Leaders and Followers:
A leader succeeds by developing relationship with his followers. He cannot flourish in a vacuum. Due to this reason, the other way of referring to leadership is followership. In order to develop such relationship, a leader has to gain the confidence. This is done by developing a two-way relationship, through effective interpersonal relationship and also through participative decision making, i.e., taking decision by group consensus.
5. It Is a Continuous Process:
Leadership is not one-time influence of subordinates or followers. In order to be a good leader, a manager should sustain the leadership continuously. Hence, once a leader does not warrant always a leader.
6. Leadership Is Situational:
Leadership is exerted in a situation, which varies from time to time. Responding to varying situations requires different leadership approach. One situation may require to take a lenient view, whereas, the other may require to be tough. In order to remain competitive in the industry, organizations need to respond to changes and that too swiftly. This requires leaders to change their approach and develop multi-skills and abilities, so as to come out as winners.
Another way of identifying characteristics and features of leadership was suggested by Bolman and Deal. They have listed four important characteristics of leadership as follows:
7. Ability to get others to do what an organization wants. It means the power to make others work towards achieving organizational goals.
8. Motivate people to get things done mostly through persuasion.
9. Provide a vision.
10. Empower people to do what they want.