What Is Leadership?
Leadership is a common term but it has many diverse meanings, it has been said that, like beauty, you will know leadership when you see it. This, however, means that leaders and leadership are defined in the eye of the beholder. If this is the case, then there is a multitude of definitions and understandings of what it means to be a leader or to witness leadership. Barnard ( 1991: 81) identified that ‘lead’ is both a noun and a verb and therefore has a double meaning.
The noun could mean ‘to guide others, to be the head of an organization’, while the verb could mean ‘to excel and to be in advance’. Likewise, leadership is used to describe a certain type of social interaction between people and the term leader is used to denote a person (or sometimes a group/company) who has influence over others (Yukl, 2002; Northouse, 2004). The term leadership is also used to describe personality traits, behaviours and also to denote the roles of individuals and collectives. Leadership is inherently complex and is not easily definable; in fact, it is unlikely that any consensus on the term will be found (Grint, 1997). Leadership is currently one of the most talked about issues in business and organization.
It is hard to turn on the television, open a newspaper or attend a conference without coming across numerous references to leaders, leadership and leading. The recent focus on leadership is an international phenomenon, as is increased investment in leadership and management development. Bennis and Nanus opened that leadership is like the abominable snowman, whose footprints are everywhere but who is nowhere to be seen. In a recent review of leadership theory, Northouse (2004) identified four common themes in the way leadership now tends to be conceived: (1) leadership is a process; (2) leadership involves influence; (3) leadership occurs in a group context; and (4) leadership involves goal attainment. He thus defines leadership as ‘a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal’.
This paper intends to show the variation of leadership practices in the banking sector and that is why the competencies of leadership practices are relevant to discuss. So, again, what is leadership? Apparently, decades of research, dozens of theories, and countless dollars haven’t completely answered this question. If it had, then we wouldn’t have vastly different visions of leadership and leadership competency across similar organizations. Or would we? An acceptable definition of leadership might be ‘influencing, motivating, and inspiring others through direct and indirect means to accomplish organizational objectives.’ Defining leadership is an important first step toward establishing how it should be conducted within an organization. However, a simple definition is insufficient for describing the nature, boundaries, contexts, and desirable manifestations of leadership.
According to Astin and Astin (2007), leadership is a process that is ultimately concerned with fostering change. Leadership implies a process where there is movement to some future place or condition that is different. Leadership also implies intentionality, in the sense that the implied change is directed toward some future end or condition which is desired or valued. Accordingly, leadership is a purposive process which is inherently value-based. Consistent with the notion that leadership is concerned with change; the leader is basically a change agent .Furthermore, since the concepts of “leadership” and “leader” imply that there are other people involved; leadership is, by definition, a collective or group process and therefore will not work alone.
There are numerous theories that explain about effective leadership and according to Bass (1990) one of the basic ways to explain effective leadership is through analyzing the personality traits of individual leaders. Mitchell (2008) suggests that several factors account for differences in the attitudes and behaviour of leaders. The level of education and age were identified as important determinants. Mitchell (2008) mentioned that the level of education influences people’s values, wants and needs and makes them think and behave differently. Age, on the other hand tends to give greater or lesser degree of individualism among the leaders with the younger generations feeling more comfortable exhibiting individualistic behaviours. Older leaders were identified to maintain a calmer and more understated demeanour besides showing a greater degree of empathy and concern for others in society.
Leadership occurs at all levels of the organization and all have an essential role to play without the initiative and commitment of middle leader-managers, no change effort will get far. Without the influence of senior leaders, innovative practices rarely spread. Without the vision of the top leader, the overall climate would stifle innovation and direction (Badaracco,, 2002). This is designed to be aspirational, in focusing on the range of behaviors and qualities that are core to leadership roles and are capable of being developed/ nurtured by various means. Leadership resides in trust based on perceived competence and integrity and often involves intangibles such as emotional intelligence, intuition and motivation.
There is often an intense, emotional attachment on the part of staff towards effective leaders beyond managerial successes (Mintzberg).When the attitude and/or behaviors of staff are influenced significantly and as a consequence they achieve goals that otherwise would not have been attainable, then leadership is effective. A leader should have these traits- “I have a dream” by Martin Luther King, “I don’t want a revolution in which I can’t dance” by Emma Goldman are two examples “Vision”, Empower- Leaders are supposed to learn to listen; nothing is more empowering than being heard.
Motivatation- Simple but too often ignored motivators include; praise (telling folks juniors have done a job well – it is hard to overdo this one!), appreciation (a simple “thank you”), and recognition (awards, credit on a report, a letter of commendation). Learning to give positive feedback is crucial! Teambuilding exercises are a great way to build enthusiasm and cooperation.