Leadership: Meaning, Characteristcs, Types of Leadership Style, Function and Importance

Meaning

Leadership is simply defined as the process of influencing people’s behaviour toward attaining common goal. It is ability of person to guide or direct followers within the organization on their specified work roles for accomplishment of targets in given situation. The term ‘Leadership’ means potential which helps manager in boosting morale and inducing subordinates to work with full confidence and zeal. It is a dynamic process that requires continuous study, training, education and experience to eventually come up as good leader. Leadership involve lots of interactions among leaders, members and even with external constituencies in some situations. Good and effective leaders are made but not born who acquire expertise in leadership skills via continuously working and studying over a period of time. An honourable character and selfless service towards organization are few basics of good leadership.

Leaders play an efficient role in ensuring that no team member goes out of track as they continuously monitor and persuade them for seeking goals enthusiastically. They work like intermediary in between the management and workers of business enterprise. Leaders are the only one who interpret policies and programmes framed by management team in front of subordinates and represent the interest of subordinates before management.

Characteristics of Leadership

Various characteristics of leadership are as discussed in points given below: – 

  1. Process of influence: Leadership is overall activity concerned with influencing behaviour, belief, attitude of other people’s either directly or indirectly. It is the ability of leader to influence actions of other employees within the organization towards achievement of common goal or purpose. Leadership via influencing others ensure that all team members are willingly co-operating with one another for common cause.
  2. Inter personal process: It is an interpersonal process taking place in between leader and his/her group of followers. Leader direct the followers on their actions in order to derive expected results in efficient manner. The overall efficiency as well as effectiveness of how the organizational targets would be met is totally dependent upon relationship between leader and followers.
  3. Continuous process: Process of leadership is carried out on continuous basis and is never ending. Leaders need to guide subordinates at every point of time and also monitor their actions for ensuring that all actions are going in desired direction. If any one is found deviating from their set targets then leader guides them and bring them back on track.
  4. Achievement of common goal: Leadership process focuses on achievement of common goal via guiding and influencing the group of peoples towards it. It is the responsibility of every leader to make efforts for bringing people and their actions together in order to reach common gaols. 
  5. Group process: A leadership is a group process which cannot take place in absence of followers. Here, there is interaction among two or more peoples who come together for discussions and finally agree to work towards same cause. Leaders won’t be able to lead the actions without his/her followers.
  6. Dependent upon situation: Leadership is situation bond that does not have any fixed or single best style of leading other peoples in organization. It is totally situational as practiced by managers in accordance with prevailing situation for influencing other people’s actions.
  7. Leadership is multi-faceted: This process is multi-faceted concept that is combination of personality, tangible skills, styles of leadership and situational factors. The tangible skills are self-confidence, decisiveness, integrity, attractive personality and drive, leadership styles are like authoritarian to laissez-faire, and situational factors include internal and external environment of organization, leaders and followers’ cultural values, resources, tasks and objectives.
  8. People’s willingness to follow leader: The process of leadership is successful only when peoples are willingly ready to follow and accept person as their leader. A true leader is one who develops better relation and understanding with his/her followers. In case of any conflict or rudeness among leader and followers, it would have negative impact upon achievement of common organizational goal.

Types of Leadership style

Different types of leadership style are as discussed in points given below:

  1. Autocratic or Authoritarian leadership: Autocratic style of leadership is one where leader centralizes all power and decision-making in himself. This style is termed as top-down approach because all decision-making, policies and procedures are framed at top level and are expected to be followed by employees at lower level. Autocratic leader does not consult with employees, and allot tasks, give order and duties all on its own. Subordinates are not allowed to influence decision making and nor their opinions are taken into consideration by leaders at top level.
  2. Participative or Democratic leadership: Participative leadership is style in which subordinates are allowed to participate in decision-making of an organization. These leaders decentralize authority and share power with peoples at lower level. A consultation takes place with subordinates prior to formulation of plans and policies by top leaders. Participative leader does not exercise force or fear for leading his subordinates but persuades them toward desired actions. This is one of the best leadership styles characterized by high level employee engagement and workplace satisfaction as team members feel that their voice is heard and their contribution matters a lot.
  3. Transformational leadership: Transformational leaders are people whose main focus is on transforming and improving upon company’s conventions. A vision is developed by transformational leaders via identifying needs and then instruct their team toward common goal by inspiring and motivating them. They inspire, encourage and motivate employees towards innovation and creating change that will assist in growing and shaping the future success of organization. Such leaders can be found at every level of enterprise, department, division, team etc., and are inspiring, risk-takers, visionary, daring as well as thoughtful thinkers. 
  4. Transactional leadership: Under this leadership style, leaders rely on achievement of goals via proper structuring, supervision and system of reward and punishment. The leaders’ emphasis is on reaching results by staying within the existing structure of organization and measures success as per the reward and penalty system of organization. Subordinates have primary goal of following their leader instructions who motivates them through rewards and punishment. The formal authority and responsibility positions within the organization are held by the transactional leaders.
  5. Bureaucratic leadership: Bureaucratic leadership style is somewhat similar to autocratic leadership under which team members are expected to strictly abide by the rules and procedures decided by leaders. This leadership pattern is characterized by clear chain of command, strict regulations and conformation by subordinates. Duties are fixed for each employee within the hierarchy who need to focus on their set list of responsibilities and there is little requirement for creativity and collaboration.
  6. Coaching leadership: Coaching style of leadership is defined by support, guidance and collaboration. These leaders work on identifying strengths and weakness of their team members, and accordingly guide each one of the individuals to improve. The main focus of coaching leadership is to bring maximum results out of team via instructing them on goals and obstacles. It is one of the most advantageous style of leadership for both leader as well as followers but still largely underutilized due to its more time intensive nature as compared to other styles of leadership.

Functions of Leadership

The functions of leadership are well-summarized in points given below: – 

  1. Setting Goals: Leaders need to perform key function of determining goal/targets of business organization. They have the responsibility of laying out all goals and policies in order to persuade subordinates to work with full confidence and zeal. In order to achieve organizational goals in timely manner, it is must for leaders to inform his/her followers about policies and goals of organization, so that they can collectively work towards goals accomplishment. 
  2. Organizing: The second function of leader is focused on creating and shaping organization on scientific lines. This is done by assigning roles and responsibilities to peoples within the team as per their individual abilities. Each individual carries some distinct ability within them and it is important to bring them together for maximum utilisation of their abilities. Organizing function is all focused on enhancing the overall productivity of teamwork.
  3. Initiating Action: Initiating the actions is next function of leaders. The initiative needs to be taken by leader in all matter of interest to the group. All decisions and judgements need to be taken by him and he should not be dependent upon others for this. The new ideas should be floated by him and also original thinking should reflect from his decisions.
  4. Co-Ordination: Each and every activity cannot be done by manager himself and therefore a coordination is required from all the subordinates. For that, leader makes all possible efforts to get better coordination from followers in order to attain organizational goals. It is duty of leaders to reconcile interests of individual members of team with that of organization. A voluntary co-operation needs to be ensured from group end for realizing the common goals.    
  5. Direction and Motivation: Guiding, directing and motivating the peoples within group serve as a primary function of leader. Leaders need to monitor the team activities for ensuring no one is deviating from established goals and if anyone found deviating from track then leader guides him. He makes effort to build up confidence and zeal in output of team. 
  6. Link between Management and Workers: A leader work like an essential link in between managers and workers. He is the one who communicates all words from management end to subordinates and put interest of subordinates before the managers. Leader can be effective in his operations only if he serves as true guardian of his subordinate’s interest.

Importance of Leadership

The importance of leadership are as follows: – 

  1. Representative of subordinates: Leader act as representative of subordinates working under him within the organization. He is a link between top management team and working group. Being representative, leader communicates voice of workers to management team at higher level. Subordinates also share good relationship with their leaders as they are easily able to keep their perspective in front of company via their respective leaders.
  2. Guides and inspires: A effective leader is one who guide and inspires his team members to work willingly for attainment of desired goals. In order to channelize all energies of group members toward goal-oriented behaviour, leader make every possible effort in that direction. He develops zeal and enthusiasm among his set of followers for deriving high performance. 
  3. Builds working environment: A proper work environment is must for workers in order to perform their activities in hassle free manner. Effective leader can create work environment where all peoples can perform with full pleasure. He is one who maintains good relation with his team mates by hearing their problems and solving them timely. Leaders calmly listen to his follower’s viewpoint and in case if any disagreement arises, he gives proper clarifications for persuading them to agree with him. All employees should also be treated by leader on humanitarian grounds to develop friendly relations with them and therefore avoiding any conflicts. 
  4. Solving conflicts effectively: Leader carries power to effectively solve any type of conflicts within the organization be it in-between employee’s vs employer or employee’s vs employee’s. He develops good understanding with his followers and enjoys the weight of his influence. A leader gives proper freedom to subordinates for expressing their concern. It is the main reason that helps leaders in understanding the reality of conflict and accordingly make efforts to provide timely solutions thereby minimizing the possibility of negative results.
  5. Introduce required changes: Business organizations these days are operating in rapid changing environment. In order to perform all activities smoothly, every business need to bring required changes from time to time. Leader is the one who plays an efficient role in proper implementation of such changes. As there are lots of people under his influence, he easily them agree to accept all change and apply them in business operations. Therefore, in this manner, all sorts of oppositions to change are eliminated via the powerful strength of leadership.
  6. Assist in training and development of subordinates: Leaders prove to be very useful when it comes to training and development of subordinates. The leaders are well aware about strength and weakness of their followers that helps in accordingly preparing training and learning opportunities for them. Workers are trained on their weak areas so as to make them overall highly skilled persons. In addition to this, leader also inform his subordinates about modern work techniques that helps them in improving the efficiency. 
  7. Appropriate counsellor: The leaders act as a proper counsellor for subordinates working within the organization. Employees often go through depression phase or suffer from emotional disequilibrium in company. Leaders are the one who give them advice, boost their confidence level and remove all barriers be it real or imaginary. Leadership focuses on developing cooperative and wholesome attitude among workers for successful completion of work.
  8. Ensures success and survival of enterprise: Long term survival and success of business enterprise is largely affected by quality of leadership prevalent in its operations. Many well-know and largely established organizations have miserably failed due to the absence of appropriate leadership. Leaders are people who win hearts of their subordinates and bring all of them under one action thereby resulting in effective accomplishment of business goals. Without leadership, there won’t be unity of action and many people would deviate from their actions bringing adverse impacts on organization. 

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