In my last article we discussed the importance of proper beginnings and foundational settings. It was brought to light that the foundational cornerstone of Christendom is found in the Book of Genesis, and if that ancient piece of holy literature could ever be proven flawed then all else in Christendom, including the life and preaching of Christ, would be found the same. I took time to present this information in an attempt to underscore the absolute importance of proper beginnings. The same may be said of many disciplines, including the study of leadership.
Far too often we mentally liken effective leadership to an image of a resolute person standing on top of a large mountain-like structure holding a bullhorn and shouting directions to those he/she commands. While this form of leadership may have its place, it is very limited. In the academic world this form of leadership is referred to as situational leadership and is rarely needed at best (often used in law enforcement or military responses). However, does this form of leadership actually require study, understanding, and does it assure that we effectively lead throughout our day to day challenges and struggles. The answer is absolutely not! So what is true, effective leadership?
Northouse (2013) defines leadership as, “A process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal” (p. 5). Regarding the term “process” Northouse (2013) goes on to state, “Process implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers” (p. 5).
This statement brings to light the fact that leadership is a transactional event discovered within the context of a community setting and is rooted in relational dealings. This mere affirmation carries with it numerous ramifications and endless possibilities, but most importantly carries with it hope; for through the discovery and articulation of process-oriented leadership we realize that actual leadership is not a predisposition that one is gifted with. To the contrary, leadership is a learned skillset centered on one’s ability to effectively traverse relational encounters and contextual exchanges in order to more positively influence and motivate others.
As we begin to walk down the road of leadership together it will become increasingly clear that real, tangible leadership centers on formed relationships and our ability to successfully navigate within those created boundaries. This is why situational leadership, you recall the individual with the bullhorn, does not require study but only operational knowledge. During bullhorn leadership (situational leadership) there exists no need to influence or persuade. There only exists a need for power and authority. This is fine when the leader has power and authority, however even appointed power and authority is only successful as long as it is accepted by one’s followers. Eventually though, all appointed power and authority can and will be questioned, even disregarded. Hence, situational leadership is limited and has a lifespan. With such a realization made there exists a need to better understand what true leadership is and how we engage in and develop true leadership through the art of living relationally.
In closing, understand that leadership is both situational and long term. However, it must be acknowledged that situational leadership is limited and has a lifespan. Hence there exists a need to further our leadership skills past that of simply obtaining a high level of operational competency that allows for us to grab the bullhorn. If we truly desire to lead and influence then it is our burden as leaders to better understand the very nature of leadership – our ability to influence within the constructs of our relational bonds.
In my next article we will begin to further explore the relational aspects of leadership and the implications these factors impose on the character of the leader. In order to give you some advance insight into what is coming next month consider the following statement by Stephen Covey, “Ultimately, all leadership development is character development”.
Northouse, P., G. (2013). Leadership theory and practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publishing.