The Essence of Leadership


Dr. Kamayani Joshi
Amity Business School
Lucknow Campus


The concept of leadership has become more relevant in this new millennium. Effective leadership gives a huge competitive edge to the organisation. Leaders provide encouragement and support to their followers. Their creativity inspires and moulds the actions of their followers and helps them to accomplish the goals of the organisation. The expectations from the leaders have changed drastically in the twenty-first century. A leader has to think globally and keep abreast with the changing business environment.

Leadership is the ability to influence subordinates in achieving the objectives of the organisation. It helps in giving a new direction to its followers and helps in accomplishing the stated goals. Without effective leadership, organizations, businesses  and nations will collapse.

Leadership has four indispensable elements. Firstly, leaders have a sphere of influence on their followers. Secondly, they have the vision to solve problems. Thirdly, they inspire the followers to achieve the impossible and fourthly, they monitor actions of subordinates and teach them to learn from their mistakes. Good leaders have the charisma, desire and will power to motivate people. They question the status quo and are quite quick to make and adapt changes.

Two examples of what exemplary leadership does to the organizations are IBM and Wal-Mart stores. IBM was losing its lost glory in 1993 which Louis Gerstner became CEO. Through his poise, and personal leadership, he pushed IBM out of deep trouble. Sam Walton also single handedly created Wal-Mart in 1962 and today Wal-Mart is operating in many different countries.


The characteristics of good leaders are as under:

* Vision: Good leaders have the vision for the future. They identify the aspirations of the organisations and set the plan to achieve them.

* Creativity: Good leaders bring new ideas and search innovative solutions for any problem. They conceive of the new possibilities which were never thought of before.

* Emotional Intelligence: Recent researches have shown that good leaders are emotionally intelligent. Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage emotions of one and of others. Emotionally intelligent leaders set manageable goals, know how to handle conflicts, act as a change catalyst and inspire followers.

* Caring: Good leaders are sympathetic and affectionate towards their followers. If somebody commits mistakes, good leaders never loose their patience and try to provide their help to followers.

* Courage: Good leaders have the fortitude to stand for what is right. They adopt integrity and honesty as the prime guiding principle and resist temptation.

* Lead by Example: Good leaders are proactive and set standards of excellence for others to follow. They become role models for their followers. 

Role of Leadership

The leader plays the following role in an organisation:

* Delegation: Leaders authorise their subordinates to make certain decisions through delegation. Effective delegation helps followers to develop their knowledge, skills and helps in succession management. Followers also learn to take initiative and responsibilities.

* Open Communication: Leaders encourage open communication with their followers. They listen patiently to the problems of the followers and encourage them to ask questions. Open communication accelerates the time needed to achieve any work and helps in building trust between the leaders and followers. 

* Bring Optimism: Leaders bring a lot of optimism. They believe that they can reach the stars. Leaders take the adversity head-on and believe that their out-out-the-box thinking will lead them to success.

* Inspire and Motivate: Leaders inspire and motivate people by affirming their value to the organisation. They motivate subordinates to give their best, overcome challenges and reach their dreams.

* Attracting and Retaining Talent: Leaders play a crucial role in attracting and retaining talent by giving rewards and recognition to good performers. They celebrate the success of their subordinates. Whether it is monetary incentives or a pat on the back, these go along way in encouraging subordinates.

Leadership Style

Leadership style is the approach of the leader for the accomplishment of his task. Henry Ford, Aziz Premji, Dhirubhai Ambani, all have exhibited different leadership styles. Each of these leadership styles has their own positive or negative characteristics. Some of the important leadership styles exhibited by different leaders are as under.

* Autocratic Leadership Style: In this type of leadership style, leaders take unilateral decisions and believe that subordinates can be persuaded to perform their tasks only when they are threatened or punished. Efficiency is the sole objective of such a leader and he has no sentimentality.

* Democratic or Participative Leadership Style: In the democratic style, the leader seeks the opinion of their subordinates while making decisions. However, final decision making authority remains with the leader. This leadership style creates an environment of trust between the leaders and subordinates. Hence subordinates are motivated to give their best.

* Laissez Faire Leadership Style: It is called the hands-off approach to leadership. A leader does not keep much control and gives full freedom to the followers for achieving organisational objectives. It works well in situations where subordinates are highly motivated.

* Transformational Leadership: Transformational leaders have a vision and commitment of where they want to reach. They lead the change and allow subordinates to develop by encouraging creative and innovative ideas. Transformational leaders are warm and caring and motivate their subordinates to give optimum performance. Bill Gates of Microsoft and Jach Welch of General Electric are considered transformational leaders.

* Transactional Leadership: Transactional leadership is based on the assumption that people are motivated by rewards or punishment. Leaders make clear the objectives which the subordinates have to achieve and give rewards only when they feel that subordinates have given their best. Management by exception is used by transactional leaders to suggest corrective action if employees fail to achieve performance standards set by the leaders.

* Situational Leadership: In situational leadership, the leader adjusts his styles according to different situations. Situational leadership Model was developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. They believed that leaders provide the following four styles according to the level of competence and commitment of their subordinates:

a. Directing Style: It is needed for subordinates who have low competence and low commitment. Directing leaders decide the objectives to be achieved by the followers and monitor them closely. Communication is one-way.

b. Coaching Style: It is used for subordinates who have some competence and low commitment. Leaders give explanation to subordinates and communicative is two-way.

c. Supporting Style: It is used for subordinates who have high competence and variable commitment. Leaders provide their support to subordinates in decision making.

d. Delegating Style: It is used by subordinates who exhibit high competence and high commitment. Leaders leave the entire responsibility of the task to subordinates. No supervision by the leader is required.

Leadership Development

Leadership development refers to the process of developing leaders. Every person is not a born leader. But through leadership development, one can achieve the necessary competencies needed to be a leader. Leadership development can be achieved through perseverance and regular practice. It also helps in preparing next generation to responsibilities.

* Leadership Development Strategy: There has to be an effective strategy for identifying and developing future leaders in the context of rapidly changing business environment. An organization's future depends on its leadership development strategy. Leadership strategy refers to a strategy meant for encouraging leadership within the organisation. An organisation needs good leaders if it wants to excel. Organisations which do not develop a leadership development strategy will experience attrition.

* Leadership Talent Identification: An organization will be successful if its leadership is passed in the hands of able successors. The high potential employees who have flair of leadership needs to be identified. These subordinates generally demonstrate an appetite for taking responsibilities, ability of solving problems creatively and bring a lot of enthusiasm. Developing a talent pool resolves succession crisis and ensures the availability of employees for current and future needs.

* Creating a Culture of Leadership: Creating a culture of leadership helps in creating future leaders for the organisation. Leaders are the role models for creating the culture of their organization and hence they must set standards of excellence for subordinates to emulate. The ethics and values that a leader brings, how a leader behaves in situations of crisis and the policies adopted by organization for succession management all will help in creating a culture of leadership.

* Leadership Training: Leadership training helps in building extraordinary leaders for the organization. The employees who have been chosen in the talent pool must be sent for formal workshops and seminars to enhance their leadership skills. Challenging job assignments and observing others also helps in learning new skills. Potential leaders must be encouraged to acquire core competencies that will benefit the organization. Leadership training helps employees in making crucial decisions and developing interpersonal skills.

* Mentoring: Mentoring is the process in which leaders as mentors, take a deep interest in subordinates or mentees and help them to develop their careers. Through mentoring, subordinates learn wisdom, values, skills and perspectives from the leader. Employees receive advice from leaders on how to balance new responsibilities and develop professional standards. Leaders through mentoring try to groom their future successors in the organization.


Role of leadership in the twenty-first century is changing rapidly. The leaders must acquire new skills and abilities to survive in the unpredictable business environment. They must bring global perspectives in business strategy formulation and must have the capacity to build alliances and international partnerships. Innovation and creativity will be needed to withstand competition in the new knowledge environment and rapidly changing markets. Future leaders must have a commitment for excellence and excellent management skills. They should be flexible and adaptable. In this new millennium, ethics will play a major role in the success or failure of an organization. Leaders therefore, must be honest and sincere and must always try to link profits with principles.  


Leadership is the process of getting things done through people. It is about commitment, consensus and achieving excellence. Effective leaders express dissatisfaction with statuesque and establish high standards of productivity and quality. They are able to meet deadlines and deliver good results under pressure. Leaders must keep in touch with the international standards and must develop new competencies. They must be able to utilize the whole potential of the organization and must try to build a learning organisation.


1. Adair John, 2007, Leadership for Innovation, Kogan Page India Private Limited, New Delhi.

2. Depree Max, 2004, Leadership Is An Art, Currency press, Australia.

3. Developing Leaders, 2004, The Harvard Business Review Paper Back Series, Harvard Business Press, Boston.

4. Giuliani.W.Rudolph, 2002, Leadership, Little Brown Publishers, London.

5. Luthans Fred, 2004, Organisational Behaviour, McGraw-Hill, New Jersey.

6. Maxwell John, 1995, Developing The Leaders Around You, Magna Publishing Co. Ltd. Mumbai.

7. Maxwell John, 1999, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership , Magna Publishing Co. Ltd., Mumbai.

8. Newstrom. W. John, 2006, Organisational Behaviour, McGraw-Hill, New Jersey.

9. Northhouse G. Peter, 2006, Leadership: Theory and Practice , Sage Publication, C.A. USA.

Dr. Kamayani Joshi
Amity Business School
Lucknow Campus

Source: E-mail April 5, 2008


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