Knowing the way, going the way and showing the way convey a set of conditions that can unleash tremendous potential for the leader and also for its followers. Although organizations tend to prefer a ‘status quo’ rather than a change, but in fact it is change that creates, or in the context of high performing organizations maintains, excellence. Almost every organization face such challenges from time to time. Since moments of change also encounter the leadership, therefore, leaders should sought after and embrace change rather than avoiding it.
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It is important to recognize the skills or techniques pertaining to leadership. As Jeffrey Glanz (2002), says in his definition of a leader, “we tend to place more importance on the practical performance to the exclusion of the characteristics that may be more important” (p. 12). An educated leader may understand how to establish a budget, set priorities, and carry out a strategic plan. But this individual might, for example, exhibit unethical behaviors or demonstrate lack of empathy for others. The question we need to ask is, “What kind of leader do we want for a particular position?”
These are challenging times for leaders. The day-to-day pace has increased and everything seems to be changing. School leaders think in terms of pre and post “Columbine”. Leadership practices are evaluated differently after the incident of “September 11”. Today’s world is simply different and requires leaders that can adapt to these changes. Good leaders are those who understand the importance of the practical performance. They also realize that with so much going on it helps to take a step back periodically and focus on the foundation of effective leadership.
Traditionally, most leadership studies are dealing with what is called “leadership paradigms,” with each generating a group of theories. House & Aditya (1997) outline the two major research paradigms as:
Leadership Traits: Examining the differences between leaders and followers while using physical, psychological and mental characteristics or abilities; Leader Behavior: Studying the way “leaders” behave, either under controlled laboratory settings or as described by others in the field.
The universal traits possessed by the leaders are intelligence, assertiveness in social situations, self-confidence, high levels of energy, and knowledge aimed more towards task achievement rather than self-reflection or theory. This needs to be placed in a social context to work. According to House & Aditya (1997): “Leadership is embedded in a social context, and the idea of social intelligence implies that differences in cognitive abilities between leaders and non-leaders go beyond conventional IQ measures” (p. 509).
As for Leader Behavior Paradigm, the aim was to pinpoint what makes a leader through the person’s visible actions. This research led to the discovery of two major types of behavior—task-oriented and person-oriented. However, as the research could not come up with agreed-upon universal leadership behaviors, a set of “contingency” theories was created (Fiedler, 1971; House & Mitchell, 1974; Hersey & Blanchard, 1982). Several more modern leadership theories have arisen in the last decade including:
Leader Member Exchange Theory (Graen & Uhl-Bien, 1995): The type of leader-follower relationship can provide more predictive results of how an organization is doing compared to traits or behavior studies;
Implicit Leadership Theory (Lord & Maher, 1991): Along with all the other leadership qualities and behaviors, what makes a leader, is the fact others perceive the person as a leader;
Neocharismatic Theory (House et al, 1996): This is actually a group of theories, stretching back into the 1970s, which attempt to explain how leaders can get their followers to achieve highly-positive results in the face of overwhelming odds.