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“Leadership cannot be taught or learned” (Drucker, 1955)

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    Peter Drucker as one of the best known writers and management consultants wrote that “Leadership is of utmost importance. Indeed there is no substitute for it. But leadership cannot be created or promoted. It cannot be taught or learned. ” (Drucker, 1955) He held the view that leadership is a talent. The purpose of this essay is to critically evaluate whether leadership can be taught or learnt, and in which way it can be taught and learnt. In the first place the definition of the word “leadership” and the approaches to leadership will be presented.

    Then seven approaches of leadership will be analysed and, the ways of training and the implications will be evaluated. The word Leadership can be defined in various ways. Henry Mintzberg identified ten managerial roles in the book Nature of Managerial Work (1973); they are figurehead, leader, liaison, monitor, disseminator, spokesman, entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator. Leadership concerns the leader roles as Mintzberg defined it.

    The book management & organisational behaviour states that ‘it is difficult, therefore, to generalise about leadership, but essentially it is a relationship through which one person influences the behaviour or actions of other people. ’ The opinions held on leadership differ between the seven approaches. At the very beginning, people simply assume that leadership is giftedness and the attention was rarely given to training for leadership. Thus it is understandable that Drucker made the view above.

    In the paper Research on Leadership Selection and Training: One View of the Future, Fred Fiedler said that ‘Leadership research before 1945 was primarily concerned with identifying traits, behaviours and personality patterns that would differentiate leaders from non-leaders’ and this is the very first approach to leadership which is usually called the qualities approach. Later there has been a dramatic change. The second approach focuses attention on the function of leadership.

    According to the book Management & Organisational Behaviour ‘The functional approach believes the skills of leadership can be learned, developed and perfected’, there was greater attention on the successful training of leaders than before. The leader’s behaviour and the group of follower’s are viewed by the functional approach. An utmost important person at that time was John Adair. A general theory on the functional approach is associated with his work and ideas on action-centred leadership which focuses on things actually did by leaders.

    Task needs, team maintenance needs and the individual needs are the effective areas of the leader within the work group. Any one area can be affected by one or both of the other areas. For training, only these three areas need to be considered. After the functional approach, the kinds of behaviours of people in leadership situations and the influence on group performence were drawn attention. There are two dimensions of leadership behaviour which labelled ‘consideration’ and ‘initiating structure’.

    From the degree of control manager can be characterised into four main styles: tells, sells, consults and joins. The fourth approach is styles of leadership. The importance of leadership style was drawn by the attention to leadership as a behavioural category. Seeing as the work situations were more easily distinguished than before, managers cannot rely on a simple function of leadership. Leadership is classified into three dimensions: consideration, concern for production and incentive for performance.

    Based on the belief that there is no single style of leadership, there are contingency theories. There are four major contingency models of leadership include: Favourable of leadership situation by Fiedler, Quality and acceptance of leader’s decision by Vroom and Yetton and Vroom and Jago, Path-gaol theory by House and House and Dessler, and Readiness level of followers by Hersey and Blanchard. All of these models are trying to summarise best leadership styles appropriate different situations.

    At this time by reason of different situations, more respects need to include on the training of leadership. According to the article the Case for Directive Leadership written by Jan Muczyk and Bernard Reimann four types of leader behaviour are listed: the Directive autocrat, the permissive autocrat, the directive democrat and the permissive democrat. There isn’t any best leadership style; it all depends on different situations. Nonetheless in any situation the high concern for both people and production, coupled with strong incentives for performance are necessary.

    Because of the increasing business competitiveness and the demand for the most effective use of the human, two fundamental forms of leadership appeared: transactional leadership and transformational leadership. Most relationship between supervisors and their employees differ today. According to the paper From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision written by Bernard Bass, two factors that characterise modern leadership were found.

    One is initialling and organizing work which concentrates on accomplishing the tasks at hand. The second factor is showing consideration for employees which focus on satisfying the self-interest of those who do good work. Leaders make promises of recognition, increase of salary for employees perform well. By contrast, employees will be penalised in the situation that they do not do good work. This kind of leadership which is based on transactions between leader and employees is called transactional leadership.

    The transformational leadership is superior leadership performance, ‘occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, then they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group’. By the reason of personal styles, transformational leaders vary widely. It can be characterised into four styles: charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation and individualised consideration.

    In the paper motioned in this paragraph, there is an utmost important sentence ‘Transformational leadership can be learned and it can-and should-be the subject of management training and development. Research has shown that leaders at all levels can be trained to be charismatic in both verbal and nonverbal performance. The idea that transformational leadership can be increased through training was verified in an experiment. The experiment used the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire scores obtained on shop supervisors from their trainees, who inmates in different security positions.

    The result shows that the performances of both trained groups improved, ‘but in comparison to the three other groups of supervisors, those who were trained in transformational leadership did as well or better at improving productivity, absenteeism an “citizenship” behaviour among the inmates; they also won more respect from the inmates. ’ One method to train managers is practical training. Managers are offered detailed standardized descriptions by counsellors, mediators or supervisors of their transformational and transactional leadership performance. Participating managers need to complete a parallel questionnaire about their own leadership.

    The differentiation between how they rate themselves and how the employees rate them will be examined in a detailed way. Then the manager and the supervisor will have a discussion in detail why the certain result may have appeared and how the result can be improved. Another way of training is ask the participants to create their own scenarios and videotapes of an effective leader they have known, in which they emulate the transformational leaders they have observed. The training of leadership has implication for job design and also for organizational structure.

    Individualised consideration is shown by transformational leader paying attention to the particular development needs of each of their employees. ‘Employees’ jobs are designed with those needs in mind, as well as the needs of the organization’. In the paper How Might Leadership Be Taught: The Use of Story and Narrative to teach Leadership an interesting method is introduced which is by using stories. Stories are a method to represent experience, and ‘leadership story is ultimately a story of identity, where leaders are successful in conveying a message to their follower’.

    The flexibility to forecast and meet new demands and changes as they occur is necessary for firms to be effective, and only transformational leadership can enable the firm to do so. Nowadays leadership is increasingly related with the concept of creating a vision with which others can identify, getting along with other employees and managers and the concept of inspiration. This has given to raise a new approach which is called visionary leadership which concerned more with the skills of motivating and inspiring people.

    There are seven leadership effectiveness motioned in the book Management & organisational behaviour: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pace-setter and commanding. In conclusion, also charisma and personal qualities are important, but according to the researches and papers to be effective, training of leadership is an utmost important step. Through the seven approaches to leadership people realise the benefits brought by learning to become the transformational leader. Concisely, effective leadership can only be mastered by taught and learned.


    Arnold Danzig (1999) ‘How Might Leadership Be Taught? The Use of Story and Narrative to Teach Leadership’, INT. J. Leadership in Education, VOL.2, no. 2 117-131 Bass, B.M. (1990) ‘From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision’, Organizational Dynamics, 18: 19-31. Fred E. Fiedier (1996) ‘Research on Leadership Selection and Training: One View of the Future’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 41: 241-250 Laurie J. Mullins (2010) Management & Organisational Behaviour. London: Financial Times Pitman Publishing. Muczyk, J.P. & Reimann, B.C. (1987) ‘The case for directive leadership’, Academy of Management Review, 12, 637-647.

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