Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Letís Talk Leader: A Perspective on Management/Leadership.

Posted Friday, February 2, 2018, at 5:01 PM

A review of scholarly studies on leadership shows that there is a wide variety of different theoretical approaches to explain the complexities of the leadership process. In fact, some would even argue that there are almost as many definitions and theories of leadership as there are people who have tried to define it. I would agree with that.

According to a leadership excerpt by Peter G. Northhouse, leadership can be defined as:

“a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”

Accepting Northouse’s definition, we can gather that leadership is an influential, interactive, action oriented process that occurs in groups in an effort to accomplish something mutually agreed upon.

Leadership is a process

  • Process implies that the leader affects and is affected by followers.

Leadership involves influence

  • Influence is concerned with how the leader affects the followers; without influence leadership does not exist.

Leadership occurs in groups

  • Groups are the context in which leadership takes place.

Leadership involves common goals

  • Attention to common goals mean the leaders and followers likely have a mutual purpose to achieve selected goals, likely through ethical overtone. According to this definition, leaders should have an ethical responsibility to attend to the needs and concerns of followers.

Can a leader be a manager? Can a manager be a leader? Interesting questions. Many researchers argue that to be effective in a role, organizations need to nourish both competent management and skilled leadership.

As similar and or different as you determine both leadership and management practices to be, I would argue strong management without leadership can result in stifling and bureaucratic operations, yet strong leadership without management can result in meaningless and misdirected change for change’s sake. To put it plainly, there is room for overlap. AND perhaps this overlap between leadership/management should occur for betterment of the organization, its members, and those in principal positions.

Let’s take a look at some differences between the two:

Let's look at Management:

“to manage” = to accomplish activities and master routines

Managers think and make changes to do what is possible

  • Managers do things right
    • Provide order and consistency
    • Coordinating activities to get the job done
    • In 1977, Zeleznik contended that managers are “reactive and prefer to work with people to solve problems but do so with low emotional involvement.”


Planning and Budgeting

  • Establishing agendas
  • Set timetables
  • Allocate resources

Organizing and Staffing

  • Provide Structure
  • Make job placements
  • Establish rules and procedures

Controlling and Problem Solving

  • Develop incentives
  • Generate creative solutions
  • Take corrective action

(Source: Adapted from A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management (pp.3-8), by J.P. Kotter. 1990. New York: Free Press.)

Let's look at Leadership:

“to lead” = to influence others and create vision for change

Leaders change the way people think about what is possible

  • Leaders do the right thing
    • Produce change and movement
    • Developing process and shared purpose
    • In 1977, Zeleznik contended that leaders are emotionally active, involved, seek to shape ideas instead of responding to them, and act to expand the available options to solve long-standing problems.


Establishing Direction

  • Create a vision
  • Clarify big picture
  • Set strategies

Aligning People

  • Communicate goals
  • Seek commitment
  • Build teams and coalitions

Motivating and Inspiring

  • Inspire and energize
  • Empower subordinates
  • Satisfy unmet needs

(Source: Adapted from A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs from Management (pp.3-8), by J.P. Kotter. 1990. New York: Free Press.)

Yes it is evident that these respective positions have separate responsibilities, but does that mean that their direction isn’t aligned in helping move an organization forward? Does it mean that characteristics of good managers and good leaders cannot both reside in people in positions of power? I don’t think so! In fact, I think it is only advantageous to have organizational leaders have management characteristics and organization managers have leadership characteristics! Hopefully, you’d get the best of both worlds from them!

How neat would it be if both leadership and management were taught to us as interconnected disciplines? Pretty neat I can imagine.

*break for your eyes*

Now that we have covered the difference and surmised an ideal position within organizations that mentor their power positions in the art of management and leadership, let’s jump back to leadership to talk about a few different types! Based on certain theories, leadership as a trait differs from leadership as a process, and appointed leadership differs from emergent leadership! Take a second to read through each of the four provided types to see which one you think your personal definition of leadership aligns with most appropriately!

Trait Leadership Perspective/Trait Approach vs. Process Leadership

1.) Trait Leadership Perspective:

Suggests that certain individuals have a special innate or inborn characteristics or qualities that make them leaders and that it is these qualities that differentiate them from non-leaders.

This was quite popular throughout the 20th century and focused on identifying the innate qualities and characteristics possessed by great social, political, and military leaders. People that were perceived as being great were thought to have great qualities, for example:

  • Unique physical factors (height)
  • Personality features (extraversion)
  • Other (intelligence and fluency)

This perspective views conceptualized leadership as a property or set of properties possessed in varying degrees by different people. This suggests that it resides in select people and restricts leadership to those who are believed to have special, usually inborn, talents.

Well, that was the case until about the mid-20th century! At that point a man named Stogdill suggested that, leadership, rather than being a quality that individuals possess, was a relationship between people in social situations. Traits were no less important, but proved to just be relative to the requirements of the situation leaders found themselves in. Though, traits seem to have a strong correlation associated with individuals’ perceptions of leadership.

In a 1974, published study, Stogdill argued that both personality and situational factors were determinants of leadership and added validity to the trait idea that a person’s characteristics are indeed part of their leadership.

The following are traits that Stogdill identified to be positively associated with leadership:

  1. Drive for responsibility and task completion
  2. Vigor and persistence in pursuit of goals
  3. Risk taking and originality in problem solving
  4. Drive to exercise initiative in social situations
  5. Self-confidence and sense of personal identity
  6. Willingness to accept consequences of decision and action
  7. Readiness to absorb interpersonal stress
  8. Willingness to tolerate frustration and delay
  9. Ability to influence other people’s behavior
  10. Capacity to structure social interaction systems to the purpose at hand

Take a second to reflect on if you are demonstrating any of these traits in your organizations? If you are, why? If you aren’t, why not?

2.) Process Leadership:

According to the excerpt by Northhouse, process leadership, “suggests that leadership is a phenomenon that resides in the context of the interactions between leaders and followers and makes leadership available to everyone.” This viewpoint sees leadership as something that can be learned and something that is attainable regardless of what position someone may or may not hold. If you are a supporter of this viewpoint, likely you may believe everyone to be a leader and ask the question, “why and how is someone a leader?”

Assigned Leadership vs. Emergent Leadership

3.) Assigned Leadership:

This perspective looks at leadership as something that is almost solely based on a position that someone occupies in an organization. Something that individual was ‘assigned’ to do. Simple enough. While this may be one of the more straightforward perspectives of leadership, it can be noted that while the person assigned to a leadership position is perceived to be a leader, they do not always exhibit positive characteristics often associated with the rule and therefore, are not always a considered a ‘real leader’ in certain settings.

4.) Emergent Leadership:

This type looks at how others perceive an individual as the most influential member of a group or organization, regardless of the individual’s title. This individual acquires the emergent leadership through other people in the organization who support and accept that individual’s behavior, look up to it, and often wish to replicate it. This type of leadership is not assigned by position, rather, it emerges over a period through communication, meaning that anyone has an opportunity to emerge as a leader as long as there is an evidential follower base, to some degree.


This was long, but I hope you enjoyed learning a smidge about leadership theory and determined where you might lie in the scheme of leadership! I hope upon reading this you can begin to seek and work to improve in areas of your own leadership for the benefit of yourself and your team!

Other positive communication behaviors that account for successful leader emergence include being verbally involved, being informed, seeking others’ opinions, initiating new ideas, and being firm by not rigid.

Did you know that out all of the factors in the Five-Factor Personality Model, (Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness), Extraversion is most strongly associated with leadership? Well maybe you do now. Good luck on your own leadership journey!