In the beginning of this report it would be essential to say what leadership is and its history. According to James MacGregor Burns,
“leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth” (http://www.emeraldinsight.com).
The study of leadership has been important to humans since the dawn of the civilization. The concepts of leadership, leader, and follower are represented in Egyptian hieroglyphics written 5000 years ago. Between 400 and 300BC the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle wrote about leadership and the requirements, characteristics, and education of leaders
Leadership is central to the human condition (Wren, 1995) and has been found to be important to all societies, although specific patterns of behavior vary over time and across cultures (Bass,
Although we can see that leadership is being an ancient notion there was no evidence of existence of the word leadership in the English language until the yearly nineteenth century. According to Bass (1990), the appearance of the concept of leadership in political, sociological, and organizational writings was usually accompanied by a unique and ambiguous definition
(http://www.emeraldinsight.com). Bryman (1992) defines leadership as “a social process in which leaders influence followers to achieve group goals”. Although leadership described in many cases as a process, most of the theories and researches look at the person to understand the nature of leadership.
History of leadership
Leadership can be defined by three phases:
. Leader’s traits
. Leader’s behaviors; and
. Leader’s qualities
From the turn of the twentieth century through the 1940s, leadership research focused on identifying traits that distinguish leaders from non- leaders (http://www.emeraldinsight.com). As example we can see Stogdill’s review of the leader trait research.
This research was based on the idea that leaders were born, not made, and the key to success was simply in identifying those people who were born to be great leaders (http://www.emeraldinsight.com). Nevertheless a lot of work was done to identify the trait, the research failed to identify a universal set of traits that differentiated effective leaders.
In the early 1950s a second major thrust appeared. This thrust looked at leader behaviors in an attempt to determine what successful leaders do, not how they look to others (Halpin and Winer, 1957)
Two primary, independent factors were identified by these studies:
. Consideration; and
. Initiation structures.
“The impact of this work was in part the notion that leadership was not necessarily an inborn trait, but instead effective leadership methods could be taught to employees” (Saal and Knight, 1988). A lot of progress was made in identifying what behaviors differentiated leaders from followers so that the behaviors could be taught (http://www.emeraldinsight.com).
Another impact of this work has to do with the broadening of management’s focus to include both people-oriented activities along with task-oriented activities (http://www.emeraldinsight.com). These studies helped categorize leaders based on their behavior.
Another approach dealt with the interaction between the leader’s traits, the leader’s behaviors, and the situation in which the leader exists
Contingency theories make the assumption that the effects of one variable on leadership are contingent on other variables. In other words, meaning that leadership could be different in every situation. Although he found that certain leadership styles were more effective in certain situations, the contingency approach was more theoretical.
Culture as well plays an important role in leadership research. According to Schein, 1985, culture related issues must be clearly identified in order for leaders to be successful. It is important to notice that one of the aspects of the culture is change. Therefore, leaders must be able to adapt to the change in order to be more successful. Also some words have to be said about culture management as another important aspect of leadership.
“Culture management deals with the ability of leaders to know and understand what the organizational culture is, modifying that culture to meet the needs of the organization as it progresses” (Horner, http://www.emeraldinsight.com). Therefore, it is obvious that leaders need to work within the culture to be most successful.