Leadership is a universal phenomenon that has preoccupied scholars, politicians and others for centuries. In the management context leadership has been consistently identified as playing a critical role in the success or failure of organizations and some surveys have pegged up to 45% of an organization’s performance on the quality and effectiveness of its leadership team. Apart from organizational performance, researchers have consistently found a strong correlation between leadership styles and behaviors and the job satisfaction and performance of subordinates.
In practice, leadership is more than just personal traits and attributes or issuing directives from a list and, in fact, the reality is that leaders must be able to mix creative visioning with the often difficult and time-consuming tasks that must be completed to engage followers and enlist their support to move their organizations, and themselves, through turbulent changes. Practicing leadership begins by recognizing that four primary factors must be considered: the “leader”, who must understand who he or she is and what he or she knows and realize that his or her success is dependent on the leader’s ability to build trust and confidence among the followers and convince them to follow the leader’s directives; the “followers”, who all have their own needs and require different styles of leadership that can only be identified if a leader is attuned to understanding human nature and the factors behind the needs, emotions and motivations of the followers; the form and content of “communications” between the leader and his or her followers, which is interactive (i.e., two-way), frequently non-verbal and central to the development and maintenance of effective relationships; and the “situation” or “context”, which determines the actions that should be taken by the leader and the style that the leader should employ.
Each of these factors is subject to a variety of forces that may impact the choices that a leader makes regarding his or her behaviors. For example, while the idea that a person must have certain inherited traits in order to be a leader has fallen into disrepute, the personality characteristics of the leader will invariably come into play as he or she assesses problems and opportunities and decides what steps need to be taken in working with followers. Other forces that will likely be relevant include the skills and experiences of the followers and how they interact with one another; the history, internal culture and structure of the organization; the societal culture in which the organization operates; and competitive conditions, particularly the strategies being used by peer organizations to motivate their employees. Leaders must approach these factors, and the forces that influence them, with a solid analytical framework that can be referenced from time-to-time to ensure that they are paying attention to the things that really matter. A framework suggested by surveying the literature on leadership might include several elements: the requisite “skill set”, which should be constructed and nurtured by reference to the appropriate performance imperatives for executive leadership; the roles and activities expected from an effective leader; personality traits and attributes which can be learned and perfected by persons aspiring to leadership positions; and styles of leadership, which encompass the strategies used by leaders to engage with their followers.
This month we've added a new chapter to Business Transactions Solution (§§ 23:1 et seq.) that will provide lawyers with an introduction to definitions and conceptions of leadership and a basic understanding of leadership functions and activities, leadership traits and attributes, leadership styles and performance imperatives for organizational leaders. The chapter also covers the history and evolution of leadership studies, cross-cultural leadership studies and leadership practices and styles in developing countries. The chapter includes checklists performance imperatives for organizational leaders, core leadership roles and activities, functions and activities of transformational leaders and leadership traits and attributes. The chapter also includes a slide deck presentation on leadership to be used for law firm training purposes and several guides relating to various aspects of practicing leadership from the Business Counselor's Mini-MBA Program.