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According to Bass’s theory of leadership, there are three ways a person could become a leader (Stogdil 1989; Bass 1990). The first two ways explain the leadership development for a small number of people. The first theory is that some personal traits in people may lead them naturally to assume leadership roles. This is the Trait Theory. The second theory indicates that a dilemma or crisis can cause a person to rise and deal with the situation, bringing out some extraordinary leadership qualities. This is called the Great Events Theory. The last theory states that people can choose to become leaders, and therefore, learn leadership skills. This is the Transformational Theory. In current times, it is the most widely accepted theory.
There are four main factors in leadership (“U.S Army”, 1983).
How it works
A leader must have an honest understanding of himself as an individual, what he knows, and what he is capable of doing. For the leader to be successful, he must inspire his followers and convince them that he is worthy of being followed.
A true leader must know his followers well enough to understand the style of leadership that suits each of them. For example, a new employee will not be treated the same as an employee who has worked for the company for the last ten years. The newer employee requires more supervision than the veteran worker.
In leadership, communication is a two-way process, occurring between the leader and his followers. However, the majority of this process usually involves nonverbal communication. When a leader sets a standard with his own actions, and the followers align their behavior accordingly, this is an example of nonverbal communication. This demonstrates that the leader would not ask his followers to do something he himself would not do. Communication can either strengthen or completely destroy the relationship between the leader and his followers.
In leadership, a leader will encounter various situations that he or she will need to deal with or address. These situations will differ, and so too should the approach used in handling them. One method of dealing with a situation may not work as effectively when dealing with another. The onus falls on the leader to use proper judgment when determining the best course of action to handle various issues. It is crucial to note that the situation has a more significant effect on the leader’s actions than their inherent traits. Mischel (1968) observed that while some traits possess impressive stability over time, they display little consistency across different situations.
The next step is to examine the traits that make each leader outstanding or sets them apart from the crowd.
To be termed a good leader, it is necessary to possess most, if not all, of the traits listed below. These traits are what set a leader apart. Some people are fortunate to be born with them, while others develop them as they nurture their leadership skills. Ultimately, they are indispensable characteristics for a leader. Firstly, a leader should be a person of integrity, doing things because they believe it’s right and not merely for ego. They should be able to uphold promises made. Confidence is another trait of an effective leader. No one will follow a coward even if he is right. A confident person has a greater chance of being followed than someone who lacks confidence. The confidence of a leader serves to inspire followers, despite any challenges they may encounter. The confident leader will also assure and encourage his team to accomplish what seems impossible because they do not shrink back in the face of challenges.
It is vital for any leader to exude positive emotions. A positive person is far more preferable company than a negative one who constantly complains. Even the Bible suggests it is better to live on the roof of a house than to share the house with a contentious spouse. A positive person reassures others even in difficult circumstances. In any organization, this is beneficial, as employees will not be tempted to quit as soon as they encounter tough economic times. The positive leader focuses on the lessons learned from mistakes instead of wallowing in the errors. Moreover, a leader must be deeply committed to their work and their vision. Lack of commitment often results in unfinished projects. Commitment is crucial because it is the driving force that inspires one to achieve what others deem impossible. This commitment propels a leader to persevere even when on the brink of surrendering, as such leadership by example encourages the followers to do the same. Another key trait of an effective leader is wisdom.
A leader cannot be effective without wisdom. Leadership largely involves decision-making; therefore, a leader needs to be wise in order to avoid catastrophic decisions and the subsequent losses.
In addition, an exemplary leader must be passionate. This quality stimulates everyone to push themselves harder. When a leader is passionate about something, they will do it enthusiastically because it is something they love or enjoy doing. Lack of passion makes it even harder to inspire others. Passion, being a contagious trait, will likely be mirrored by the followers, making the environment conducive for progress.
The final, but not the least, trait is humility. An exceptional leader must be humble. Without humility, a leader cannot reach his full potential. This is because being open to correction when he makes a mistake requires humility. Humility resonates with those in the lower rungs of society. A humble leader does not find it difficult to interact with underprivileged individuals and social outcasts because he is able to align himself with their level. Therefore, they can engage in meaningful interactions.
All the above, along with many other qualities, are characteristics of an effective leader. People who possess these qualities naturally attract followers, because they inspire and motivate them.
These qualities result in a charismatic effect, leading to outstanding leadership. It was once said that a leader is not born, but made. Dr. Freda Turner echoes this sentiment by stating that leaders are not inherently born great; they are instead born as babies. In support of this idea, Jago (1982) posits that good leaders grow through a continuous process of self-reflection, education, training, and experience. They constantly work and study to improve their leadership skills rather than merely resting on their laurels. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable.”
For a person to improve their leadership effectiveness, they need to be focused and persistent. Leadership skills can be developed through classroom training and reading books. The success of leadership development efforts is associated with three factors: the individual learner’s characteristics, the quality and nature of the leadership program, and supervisory support for behavioral change. Leadership development programs could be tailored personally or collectively.
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