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Leadership is the ultimate advantage. Without leadership, all other factors of competitive advantage fail to produce results. To bring about changes needed to develop and sustain competitive advantage requires leadership. See management profession for Peter F. Drucker's comments on the manager's profession and leadership as paraphrased from Alfred P. Sloan.

James MacGregor Burns' assertion --
Burns presents a taxonomy of leadership, distinguishing, for example, intellectual leadership from executive leadership. He developed the concept of transformational leadership which stands in contrast to transactional leadership -- the two basic styles of leadership.

  • leadership -- ""I define leadership as leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and the motivations -- the wants and needs, the aspirations and expectations -- of both leaders and followers."" (Burns, 1978, pp 19).
  • transactional leadership -- ""Such leadership occurs when one person takes the initiative in making contact with others for the purpose of an exchange of valued things."" (Burns, 1978, pp 19).
  • transformational leadership -- ""Such leadership occurs when one or more persons engage with others in a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality."" (Burns, 1978, pp 20)

Burns sees transactional leadership as an exchange relationship between leader and follower whereby compliance is agreed, explicitly or implicitly, through reciprocal exchange. Transformational leadership is a more uplifting process with higher goals. Here the leader looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher order needs so that through a process of mutual stimulation they 'unite in the pursuit of higher goals, the realization of which is tested by the achievement of significant change' (Burns, 1978, pp 425. Thus to Burns leadership is a mobilization process by persons with motives and values, various 'resources in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realize goals independently or mutually held by leaders and followers' (Burns, 1978, pp 425). From Pettigrew, 1987, pp 652.

Bennis and Nanus on Leadership Source: Bennis and Nanus, 1985 --

The authors identify four leadership strategies, each with their own themes, areas of competency, and human handling skills (p 25-72):

  • attention through vision -- the creation of focus with compelling visions that pull people toward them.
  • meaning through communication -- the capacity to relate a compelling image of a desired state of affairs -- the kind of image that induces enthusiasm and commitment in others
  • trust through positioning -- trust is based on predictability of people who make themselves known and make their positions clear. Positioning is the set of actions necessary to implement the vision of the leader.
  • the deployment of self through --
    • positive self-regard -- the creative and healthy use of one's self. 1- recognize strengths and compensate for weaknesses; 2 - nurture skills with discipline, having a capacity to develop and improve, being a self-evolver; 3 - the capacity to discern the fit of one's skills with what the job requires. Positive self-regard is related to emotional wisdom.
    • the Wallenda factor -- learning requires trying which involves failure, something from which one can continue to learn. To continue to try in the face of the potential for failure requires a fusion between positive self-regard and optimism about a desired outcome.

Bennis and Nanus emphasize key points that they feel get at the essence of leadership in their introduction to the second edition.

  • Leadership is about character
  • To keep organizations competitive, leaders must be instrumental in creating a social architecture (i.e. culture) capable of generating intellectual capital (engaging people's interest and desires in achieving the objective of the leader or purpose of the organization).
  • A strong determination to achieve a goal or realize a vision -- a conviction, even a passion... defining reality... purpose and direction.
  • The capacity to generate and sustain trust is the central ingredient in leadership.
  • True leaders have an uncanny way of enrolling people in their vision through their optimism -- sometimes unwarranted optimism.
  • Leaders have an action towards bias toward action the results in success -- translating vision and purpose into reality.

Contrast the leadership criteria above with the oft used criteria organizations use to evaluate their executives:

  • technical competence
  • people skills
  • conceptual skills
  • track record
  • taste
  • judgment and character

What is most important to leadership cannot be quantified.

Pettigrew (1987, p 655) leveled charges at Bennis and Nanus's work which is worthy of consideration by the student of management. ""As yet the absence of sustained empirical inquiry into the activities of corporate leaders suggests an over confident and over simple view of their role in organizational transformation. Part of the difficulty here is a rush into prescriptive writing before description and analysis (Bennis and Nanus, 1985), but more important are the analytical deficiencies underlying much of the research on leadership behaviour in the firm. These analytical difficulties include a concentration on leadership episodes rather than long-term leadership processes, a tendency to explore leader-follower relations without reference to the antecedent conditions which may influence their expression, and more significantly, the limited attempts to place leader behaviour in the context of political and cultural forces within the organization, and the wider economic and competitive forces with which the firm must operate.""

John Robert's Leadership Source: Roberts, 2004, pp 62-66 --
Roberts homes in on the elements of leadership necessary to bring about strategic change --

  • strategic recognition -- recognizing the need or opportunity for change.
  • vision -- vision is an ability to see other better patterns, at least in broad outlines.
  • communication -- communication is essential to bringing about change, explaining the new way, what its general features are, and how to get there. Persuasion is part of communication, convincing people of the need for change and the gains that is will yield.
  • courage -- courage emboldens a leader to both act and stay the course when trying for distant or difficult transitions and dealing with the inevitable hardships and challenges along the way.

Collins's Level 5 Leadership Source: Collins, 2001 --
Level 5 leadership is a combination of humility and fierce resolve. Jim Collins (2001) identifies three primary factors for being a great company: disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action. Disciplined people results from a leader who strives for level 5 leadership and gets the right people on the bus. Putting these two aspects of leadership first recognizes that without effective leadership all other efforts to achieve advantage are futile. See Level 5 leadership.

John Kotter's Leadership Source: Kotter, 1996, 1990, p 26 --
Kotter defines leadership as follows --

  • Establishing direction -- developing a vision of the future - often the distant future - and strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision.
  • Aligning people -- communicating direction in words and deeds to all those whose cooperation may be needed so as to influence the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and strategies and that accept their validity.
  • Motivating and inspiring -- energizing people to overcome major political, bureaucratic, and resource barriers to change by satisfying basic, but often unfulfilled, human needs.
  • Expected result -- Produces change, often to a dramatic degree, and has the potential to produce extremely useful change (e.g. new products that customers want, new approaches to labor relations that help make a firm more competitive.

Bill George on Authentic leadership Source: George, Bill, True North, Discover Your Authentic Leadership, Jossey-Bass, 2007 --
George defines leadership as -- The authentic leader brings people together around a shared purpose and empowers them to step up and lead authentically in order to create value for all stakeholders. He lists five dimensions that make up an authentic leader --

  • pursuing purpose with passion -- Without a real sense of purpose, leaders are at the mercy of their egos and narcissistic vulnerabilities.
  • practicing solid values -- Leaders are defined by their values, and values are personal - they cannot be determined by anyone else.
  • leading with heart -- Authentic leaders lead with their hearts as well as their heads.
  • establishing enduring relationships -- The ability to develop enduring relationships is an essential mark of authentic leaders.
  • demonstrating self-discipline -- Authentic leaders know competing successfully takes a consistently high level of self-discipline in order to produce results.

Mourkogiannis's View of Leadership Source: Mourkogiannis, 2005, pp 149 - 172 --
Categorizing leaders --

  • Leader as superhero - Example, Bossidy, who when he leaves Honeywell it goes in the tank and he is called back. This type of leader is generally bad for the business organization in the long run. 'Leadership' is not built into the capability of the organization.
  • Leader as adopter of fads - Those leaders who adopt programs like six-sigma, ""...because it worked for GE"" - as opposed to truly understanding their business and organization in order to build its unique capabilities.
  • Presiding leader - Those leaders that view themselves as outside of the business organization. The preside over the business, outsourcing leadership - to their direct reports, to strategy consulting firms, and so forth. They set targets and objectives. Those who meet them get promoted. Those who don't get fired.
  • Disciplined purposeful leader -- This type of leader requires great skill but not superhuman powers. This type of leadership recognizes the need for a leadership team - as expecting a CEO to be a superhero is both unrealistic and ultimately bad for the organization. In this case, the CEO manages the leadership team towards fulfilling a purpose. See the components of this type of leadership below.

Components of disciplined purposeful leadership --
The four preparations that always have to be made for any collective action. These components are stages of iteration - seeking the harmony of cooperation, support, systems to carry on, and direction.

  • Think: Devise a direction or outline plan -- Thinking requires time to think - time to read, reflect, explore - time to let new ideas percolate and rise to the top. Without thinking, a leader cannot possibly discover an organization's purpose, choose a strategic position, and align the two. See purpose -- discovery of purpose.
  • Inspire: Generate collective support for this direction and the kind of action that will be required -- Inspire means to breath into. Inspiration is an act of transmission , generating ideas and passion and commitment from the community around us.
    Identity stories (Mourkogiannis, 2005, pp 165) are used to create group identities by telling stories about the past. In this way, identity is not only uncovered, but created. The most powerful stories contain a purpose and aspiration, as opposed to just history. In these cases, the purpose defines the purpose of the group.
    A true leader can go beyond expressing the firm's purpose. He can also awaken that purpose - acting as kind of a moral coach. In doing so he connects the follower to his own goals.
  • Mobilize: Make sure that all the relevant individuals agree to cooperate and to accept specific roles -- This is a negotiation, not a command and control approach. The intent of the negotiations is not only to achieve buy in but also to lead parties to develop a better solution than either party had envisioned.
  • Empower: Set up the systems to maintain momentum -- This is where delegation takes place, plus insuring that the organization members have the tools to reach their objectives - the resources, people, and systems.

These components of leadership are abstract but also form a basis for assessment.

Leadership vs. Management --
For a comparison of management vs. leadership see management.