Leadership: Features, Development, and Personalities

Posted on April 13, 2020

Since time immemorial, society have divided the people into two types – those who rule and those who obey. The history of humanity is full of such examples, from ancient tribes, diverse kingdoms, and totalitarian regimes to modern culture. This chronicle signifies that people always tend to endow some persons with nearly mystical powers, skillfulness, and authority. Nowadays, people call this issue the phenomenon of leadership. However, leadership, as a set of direct personal qualities and skills, has transformed significantly. Therefore, for the proper classification of leadership, it is essential to look through real examples of its various main features, historical transformations, religious context, and gender significance.

Leadership is not about massive recognition, title, popularity, seniority, or specific measures. It is all about positive results. The most important task for each leader is to provide his followers with the needed changes, qualitative authority, and active cooperation. Effective leadership means having a strong character and being ready to solve puzzling tasks. Additionally, leadership can be beneficial for both the leader and his supporters only in case of proper communication. Productive leadership signifies the ability to make schedules, plans, goals, and finally achieve them. The leader should be ready to take risks and have enough confidence to make radical decisions. Good leadership requires responsibility because, in case of a mistake, leaders should have the courage to assume their fault. Finally, talented leaders may see the opportunities and perspectives where no one else can find them. What is more, leaders not only have a specific vision of how to make their ideas real but also know how to spread their thoughts among the followers.

Leadership has its roots even in the first stages of civilization’s development. For instance, the Egyptian system of authority was built on the fundamental characteristics of leadership. The pharaohs, who were treated as gods, occupied the highest governmental posts. In this way, they were both the political and ideological leaders of Egyptians. Nevertheless, this is not the only manifestation of leadership in the past. Greek heroes become idols in the Trojan War. They inspired thousands of soldiers with their kindness, strategical thinking, and cold-minded characters. Throughout the Middle Ages, the concept of leadership was represented in the totalitarianism of kings. During the Soviet Union, this issue evolved into the new wave of collective leadership, which veiled the authority of one person (Antonakis and Day). All of the mentioned examples signify the monarchic feature of leadership; meanwhile, there were also other crucial branches of its development.

The great historical chronicles of leadership led to the formulation of several primary paradigm shifts. Thus John Antonakis and David V. Day, the authors of Nature of Leadership, identified such fundamental periods in leadership development: trait, behavioral, contingency, contextual, skeptics, relational, new leadership, information-processing, and biological leadership. Trait leadership school was founded at the beginning of the XX century as the era of great man due to its personality orientation. On the contrary, behaviorists perceived trait ideas negatively. That is why, in the middle of the century, researchers focused on the behavioral styles of leaders. Contingency schools focused on the position of the power of leaders. The contextual approach described the influences of the contextual factors, while the relational school determined the connection between leaders and their followers. Skepticism covered the end of the XX century, searching for the core of leadership existence at all. The legitimization of leadership was the central theme in information-processing. The new school represented the visionary, charismatic, and transformational approaches to leadership. Finally, for the classification of the leadership, the biological school refers to the classic sciences such as biology and evolution (Antoakis and Day). According to this periodontology, leadership was identified by several casual models, each of which analyzes its different features.

The book The Routledge Companion to Leadership provides the traditional definition and primary features of leadership. Hence they regard this issue as a set of specific skills that belong to a particular person, which coordinates work. However, this definition does not fully represent all the aspects of leadership itself. For this reason, the researchers also classify this issue according to the orientation of its basis. Thereupon, five essential types define control. The first one, person-based leadership tends to characterize anything beyond the human-leader: principal psychological features, instincts, and classic behavioral tendencies. Result-based leadership shows the practical significance of the issue, proving that if the leader’s potential is not realized, the person cannot be called a leader. The last one, position-based direction, is the most traditional way of classification as it determines the leader according to his or her position in the social structure (Storey et al.). Although the mentioned definitions are the standard theories in the leadership studies, they reflect only the most general understanding of the concept. Modern psychology proposes another view on this issue. The psychological approach to leadership supports the idea of being in close relationships with the adherents. It is better to replace absolute authority with an in-depth understanding. If a leader realizes the critical values, needs, and preferences of his followers, he has more chances to succeed. Psychology reveals the alternative solution, which represents the leadership not only as a top-down process. Everyone should feel at the same stage as the leader and accept this person as a part of the community rather than its headmaster (Storey et al.). Therefore, the key to effective leadership lies in the right connection with the group.

Modern generations look at leadership through the lens of management or politics; in other words, the areas of strict control. Nonetheless, this controversial phenomenon appears nearly in each sphere of social interactions. It may seem that religion, the field of spiritual faith and morality, cannot have any connection with leadership. However, this aspect of life provides excellent examples of inspiring leaders. Jesus Christ, the critical saint person in Christianity, managed to lead a great number of people due to his masterful leader qualities. The specificity of his leadership style means the ability to change roles. Hence Christ called his adherents his leaders instead of himself. He did not appreciate his high status, position, or powerful influence. He totally dedicated himself to helping humanity, and this self-sacrifice made him an idol for millions of people (Storey et al.). Other religions also prove the reliable connection between spiritual studies and leadership.

In this way, Buddha, a Hindu god, is a leader of a mind and free spirit. Unlike Christ, Buddha is rather a mysterious god. He is a majestic energy that managed to reach enlightenment. As a result, Buddha became a role model, a power that forces changes. Moreover, due to his simplicity, he is understandable for everyone. At the same time, he symbolizes the mystery of nirvana (Storey et al.). Both of these religious personalities, Jesus Christ and Buddha, represent leadership from an unanticipated view. By their own example, they show that leadership is not only about strict control, regulations, and authority of the one person. In a religious context, it may be a display of harmony, wellbeing, and peace.

In addition to religion, gender inequality is another representative theme for leadership. The same as most of other social institutions, leadership positions in politics or the workplace have always been affected by gender inequality. The problem is that though women had been interested in leadership roles, they had struggled a lot to conquer discrimination. Deborah L. Rhode, an American jurist and the author of Women and Leadership, states: “One of the most intractable barriers to women’s advancement is the mismatch between the qualities associated with leadership and the qualities associated with women” (Rhode 10). So there are several male and female qualities that differ significantly.

Most of the leadership features, such as assertiveness, dominance, authority, and strength, are considered to be masculine. According to such perception, women can play only family-related roles. That is because of the ancient universal archetype, which depicts woman as a mother. The concept of mother-nature has transformed into a housewife. During the past centuries, society associated woman with her historical role (Rhode). Due to her character and skills, the only appropriate occupation for her was taking care of her family. On the contrary, some researchers prove that women are more competent than men and have emotional intelligence, which is a fundamental key to leadership (Angelovska). However, the critical problem is a lack of confidence and ambition to lead people. Furthermore, there were not enough policy initiatives to propose females leadership positions.

Nevertheless, the XXI century, the era of growing gender equality, vanished strict limits between male and female leaders. Nowadays, talented leaders of both genders may be found in various areas of modern society, from business to politics. Oprah Winfrey, as one of the most influential women leaders all over the world, has become an example of female leadership. Due to her exceptional personal qualities and strong traits, Winfrey gained a significant influence through media. Her oratory skills are one of the fundamental features of her success. Her most famous program, the Oprah Winfrey Show, fully represents her masterful communicative issues. Since 1986, this television program has been reaching the highest rates. Such popularity proves that Winfrey is worth to be considered the leader of minds.

In contrast to the old perception of the woman-mother, Winfrey captivates followers because of the multiple origins of her personality. She not only improves her worldwide famous TV show but also develops the career of an actress, television producer, media executive, and philanthropist. Moreover, Winfrey also uses social media platforms for formulating society’s views and popular trends. Every day she posts several publications on her Twitter and Instagram accounts. In her blogs, Winfrey shows both work and the personal side of her lifestyle. The combination of sincerity and professionalism lets her engage more and more supporters.

Winfrey has been the first black woman to become a billionaire and gain such popularity. She pays attention to enterprises and financial partnerships and invests money in promising projects. Winfrey is the leader who is not star-struck because of her wealth. What is more, she has certain moral principles and remembers about charity. Winfrey opened a leadership academy for young girls in South Africa, which aims to develop their leadership skills (Haynes). By her example, this unique woman inspires people to help each other.

Last but not least, charisma is one more Winfrey’s successful method that makes her so adorable. Besides, Steve Jobs also applied charismatic leadership in his CEO (chief executive officer) career in Apple Corporation. The researchers Loizos Heracleous and Laura Alexa Klaering analyzed Jobs’ speeches and stated that he used different general rhetorical devices to be charismatic. For instance, Jobs used alliteration, antithesis, and three-part-lists to achieve a unique effect: “All of these are rhetorical tactics intended to create a lasting impression and a positive attitude in the minds of the audience with respect to what the leader is rhetorically arguing for” (Heracleous and Klaering 138). All in all, both Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs illustrate the harmony between female and male leaders. They prove that leadership has no gender because it depends only on real actions, personal skills, and strong desire.

To sum up, though everyone thinks that people have a good idea of what it means to be a leader, this issue has many aspects. It is essential to start the classification of this crucial issue from its exceptional history, which proposes a wide variety of examples. Since ancient times, leadership was an important part of social structure. That is why it has always been a sphere of great interest. Thus different scientists dedicated their researches to this issue. John Antonakis and David V. Day analyzed leaders in different historical periods, while Deborah L. Rhode regards the concept of gender concerning leadership. According to their classification, leadership has many diverse manifestations. Consequently, leadership does not belong exclusively to business or governmental administration. A leader is a unique person with extraordinary views capable of motivating people, even in religion or other social institutions. Although being a good leader requires hard work , only such self-sacrifice may force positive global changes.

Works Cited
Angelovska, Nina. “Female Leadership–‘Be Competent Like A Woman And Confident And Ambitious Like A Man'”. Forbes.Com, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/ninaangelovska/2019/04/23/female-leadership-be-competent-like-a-woman-and-confident-and-ambitions-like-a-man/#6338ad92201c.

Antonakis, John, and David V Day. The Nature Of Leadership. 3rd ed., 2018, pp. 15-70.
Haynes, Clarence. “Oprah Winfrey: All The Ways The First Black Female Billionaire Has Made History”. Biography, 2019, https://www.biography.com/news/oprah-winfrey-achievements.

Heracleous, Loizos, and Laura Alexa Klaering. “Charismatic Leadership And Rhetorical Competence: An Analysis Of Steve Jobs’S Rhetoric”. Group & Organization Management, vol 39, no. 2, 2014, pp. 131-161. SAGE Publications, doi:10.1177/1059601114525436.

Rhode, Deborah L. Women And Leadership. Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 10-34.

Storey, John et al. The Routledge Companion To Leadership. 1st ed., Taylor & Francis, 2017, pp. 114-125, 260-270, 319-332.

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