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Definition of leadership

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The concept of leadership has generated fascinating and confusing debates due to the complexity of the subject, making it therefore difficult to have a consensus on the definition of leadership.

Bass (1981) concluded that there are almost as many definitions of leadership as the number of people who have attempted to define the concept.

We provide a few definitions below:

Leadership may be considered as the process (act) of influencing the activities of an organized group in its efforts toward goal setting and goal achievement.

(Stogdill 1950: 3)

Leadership is the behaviour of an individual when he is directing the activities of a group toward a shared goal.

(Hemphill and Coons 1957: 7)

Leadership is the art of mobilizing others to want to struggle for the shared aspirations.

(Kouzes and Posner 1995: 30)

Your task

Looking at the definitions above, what can you conclude about the meaning of leadership?

Share your opinions with others by using the comments section below.


Bass, B. M. (1981) Stodgill’s Handbook of Leadership: A Survey of Theory and Research. New York: Free Press

Hemphill, J. K., and Coons, A. E. (1957) ‘Development of the Leader Behavior Description Questionnaire’. in R. M. Stodgill and A. E. Coons (Eds.) Leader Behavior: Its Description and Measurement. Columbus, Ohio: Bureau of Business Research, Ohio State University, 6-38

Kouzes, J. M., and Posner, B. Z. (1995) The Leadership Challenge: How to Keep Getting Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Stogdill, R. M. (1950) ‘Leadership, Membership and Organization’. Psychological bulletin 47 (1), 1-14

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This article is from the free online course:

Leadership Theory: The Basics

Coventry University