Essay on Leadership Qualities

For the purpose of this assignment, the key arguments and themes presented in literature around the concepts of leadership and empowerment, will be described in a brief manner. Next, leadership and empowerment will be defined by drawing on the work of various authors featured in this paper, in order to form a foundational understanding for the subject concepts. Finally, a link will be provided as an insight for developing leadership and empowerment as it applies to the field of Community Development in practice.

1. Key Arguments and Themes

The key arguments and themes that are shared between the various authors consulted in this paper, are all related to leadership and empowerment. Under these two umbrella’s, key principles that surface are that of; mutual engagement, interaction, collaboration, co-creating ideas and visions, participation, involvement, inclusion, collective efforts, transparency, reflection, and the awareness of oneself in relation to others. All these key principles will be discussed in the following sections in order to form a foundational understanding on the basis of leadership and empowerment literature as presented by various authors.

2. Leadership

Peter Northouse (2015) defines leadership as; (1) a trait, (2) an ability, (3) a skill, (4) a behaviour, (5) a relationship, and (6) a process (Northouse, 2015:3-6). In short, defining leadership as a trait acknowledges that every individual exuberates specific characteristics or qualities (traits) which informs and influence the manner in which they lead people (Northouse, 2015:4). Many critics argue that this way of viewing leadership imposes that only a select few individuals have what it takes to be a leader. The opposite is true, as Northouse propose that effective and successful leaders must have the ability to display the traits necessary as required at the demand of particular situations. This way of thinking implies that the "appointed leader" might not necessarily take the lead in all situations, especially when they lack certain traits that others they work with may possess and use this to the advantage of dealing with challenging situations – in order to produce the most effective and ideal outcome. Defining leadership as an ability points to the fact that a person must be capable of leading. Here Northouse observes that capacity does not necessarily imply the natural ability of an individual, but rather acquiring leadership ability through developing their individual capacity to lead (Northouse, 2015:4). In defining leadership as a skill, leadership becomes accessible to any individual with the desire to grow and enhance their competencies in order to practice more effective leadership within any given context. By definition, "leadership is a competency developed to accomplish a task effectively. Skilled leaders are competent people who know the means and methods for carrying out their responsibilities" (Northouse, 2015:5). What leaders do when they fill leadership positions, and how they respond and act toward others in a number of situations – is what characterises leadership as a behaviour. What leaders do in order to get the job done, is what Northouse describe as the task behaviours of leaders. What leaders do in order to ensure that group members feel comfortable and at ease amongst each other in given situations, is further described as the process behaviours of leaders. Since both of these behaviours are essential to any working environment, it is the task of the leader to effectively integrate these behaviours in their "efforts to reach a goal" (Northouse, 2015:5-6). When considering leadership as a relationship; communication, collaboration, interaction, and collective efforts is central to the concept of leadership. This approach stresses the importance for leaders to involve and include their followers to work together in achieving their mutual purposes. This interactive approach to leadership promotes the notion that authority and influence must be shared between leaders and their followers (Northouse, 2015:6). Finally, leadership is an influence process whereby one individual influences a group of individuals for the purpose of achieving a common goal. The aim of leading from this point of view is not to achieve goals by means of coercion or domination over a group, but rather to seek constructive change through interaction as a means of achieving common goals amongst the leader and followers (Northouse, 2015:7). In simple terms, therefore, effective leadership is the intended influence that creates change for the greater good – by using positive means to achieve positive outcomes (Northouse, 2015:9).

Deborah Ancona (2011) draws necessary attention to the widely believed myth that the "complete leader" exists, referred to as the flawless being at the top who has got it all figured out (Ancona, 2011:181). She offers an alternative mode of thinking about leadership, in contrast to the alluring yet unrealistic myth concerning leadership. Instead of leaders exhausting themselves and endangering their organisations in their efforts to live up to the standards of the mythical "complete leader", Ancona proposes that individuals who lead should start from the place of accepting that they are a human who possesses both strengths and weaknesses – and therefore identifying as self-confessed incomplete leaders. The point of departure is to understand that there are four key capabilities that all organisations need. Including; (1) sense-making – the capacity to interpret developments in the business environment, (2) relating – building relationships founded upon trust through inquiring – advocating – and connecting, (3) visioning – the capacity to communicate an image of the future that is compelling, and (4) inventing – being able to come up with new ways of doing things (Ancona, 2011:181). As the incomplete leader, identify the areas of your shortcomings and collaborate with others who are able to fill in the gaps necessary for the organisation to thrive and operate in a healthy way. By achieving this, leadership is distributed across multiple people throughout the organisation (Ancona, 2011:194), rather than placing the highest expectation of success on the shoulders of a single individual within an organisation.

3. Empowerment

A leader who has succeeded in the task of empowering those who work alongside them, is the leader of whom people are able to say – "We did it ourselves" (Senge, 2015:33).

According to Warner Burke (1988), the role of the leader in the process of empowerment is to (1) provide clarity in a direction that encompasses a higher purpose, a worthy cause, an idea, all requiring collective and concerted effort (Burke, 1988:11). Further, leaders empower their followers by (2) providing intellectual challenges which require followers to be stimulated in delivering new, intellectually exciting ideas which they produced themselves. Yet another way for followers to be empowered by their leaders, is through (3) receiving positive recognition from their leader, which brings about the sense that they momentarily share the power held by their leader (Burke, 1988:12). Leaders who inspire their followers to achieve more than what they think they are capable of, is empowerment in that the followers (4) accomplish more than they initially expected or anticipated for themselves (Burke, 1988:13). And finally, (5) followers are empowered in situations where their leader takes active notice and respond to their desires and needs, especially the need shared amongst all human beings to have autonomy in some form or extent (Burke, 1988:14).

On the other hand, Omita Goyal (2014) unpacks the concept of empowerment on three different level. First, at the macro-political level, empowerment refers to the participation and sharing in power. Second, empowerment in the workplace is a process of participation, awareness of rights and obligations as well as the growing the sense of self-confidence and self-worth (Sreelakshmamma, 2008 cited by Goyal, 2014: xi). Finally, intra-familial dynamics of empowerment constitutes configuring entitlements, negotiating and sharing power (Goyal, 2014: xi). Goyal further observes that the positive aspects of agency that constitute the process of empowerment, relies on the individual’s ability to exercise self-awareness, commitment to change and to involve oneself in participatory endeavours through building on one’s latent talents as well as developing new skills, both in the sphere of personality and in the areas of work and employment (Goyal, 2014: xiii).

4. Application of Theory in the Field of Community Development

Kenneth Pigg (2015) suggest that, when introducing leadership and empowerment to the context of Community Development Programmes/Initiatives, practitioners should ask themselves the following questions in order to evaluate how effective their outcomes have been for the purpose of improving the lives of members within the communities they work with. (1) Are we doing what we set out to do? , (2) Have we mobilised empowering sponsorships? , (3) Have we examined programme design strategies? , (4) How can we foster collaborative learning? , (5) Are we teaching the politics of civic engagement? , (6) Does our projects provide an authentic vehicle for leader development? , (7) Are we engaging participants in community activity? , (8) Is our program evaluation efforts focussed on the right target(s)? , and finally, (9) Are we recruiting more diverse participants for community programmes? (Pigg, 2015:121-131).

At the very heart of these questions, lies the assumption that strategies of leadership and empowerment in current community development programmes need to be revised. Capacity building through Assets Based Community practice, along with empowering community members and leaders through practising Participatory Community Development approaches – is what calls attention to how well people are organising and leading community development initiatives for the purpose of empowering community members and mobilising communities as a whole to better function within our societies.


My concluding argument is that any individual who seeks to be an effective leader, can develop the necessary skills and qualities required if they are eager to learn, actively seeking out opportunities to be inventive, fostering relationships of trust and collaboration for the sake of advancement and empowerment based on collective incentive and input, as well as communicating from a place of transparency and congruence. Essential for driving forward any vision is to create an appealing image which holds a glimpse of what can be achieved in the future, by means of transforming and changing current strategies and efforts contributing to the success of an organisation and its people as a unit. At the heart of any leader must be the desire to take action and implement the very things that uplifts and empower the people, who dedicate themselves to the purpose of driving forward the vision and goal of their leader, founded on mutual incentive.


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