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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsNow it might seem odd, that we have discussed leaders before discussing leadership, however, I wanted to take the time to explore our own ideas about leaders and leadership which tend to impact on the way we say things more than academic definitions. Yet academic definitions are essential to any student of leadership. There are a huge number of available definitions of leadership, yet there are three commonalities that unite them all. First, leadership involves influence. Leaders are people who influence the actions of others. Second, leadership occurs in groups. Leadership is usually associated with an individual influencing more than one person, and third, leadership involves common goals. Leaders work toward something such as a vision or an objective.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsFor simplicity, in this unit we will be adopting North House's definition, which is leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. First, leadership does not exist without followership. A leader has to have followers, or they are not a leader. We'll explore this further in one of the later courses. Second, for leadership to be meaningful and effective, it must be directed toward something. That is have a goal. It must also be mutually shared with the implication that the followers are willfully participating in the active leadership.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 secondsThere is a wealth of research on goal setting that proves the importance of goals to motivate people at work, and this translates readily to the leadership process. At this point, it must be emphasised that the most contemporary approaches to leadership see it as a process. Being a leader is not who you are. Leadership is something you do. We take the view that anyone can be a leader simply by enacting leadership, by influencing others to achieve a common goal. Now this is quite different from trait theory that we will discuss in depth in the next course.

Skip to 2 minutes and 2 secondsEven if you do believe that some people have special innate talents that predispose themselves to leadership, you must still believe that you can develop your leadership attributes and be more effective. Otherwise, you wouldn't be doing this course now would you?

Defining leadership

There are many different definitions but all definitions have three things in common.

From an exploration of leadership definitions we can conclude four things:

  1. The definition of leadership has evolved over time.
  2. There are competing definitions, but the majority have three things in common:

    • followers
    • influence
    • goals.
  3. How we define leadership is important as it distinguishes it from management. Not everything is about leadership.
  4. Contemporary approaches see leadership as a process as opposed to being held by a single ‘leader.’

Your task

Watch the video and consider which of the aspects of leadership discussed you agree or disagree with and why.

When you’re ready, share your thoughts in the comments and compare these to what other learners have posted.

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What is Leadership?

Deakin University

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