Thesis: Leadership Its Importance for Today's Organization

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Leadership

Edwin Locke's The Essence of Leadership: Four Keys to Leading Successfully was published in 1999. Locke is famous for his work on motivation, and applies that work to his treatise on leadership. The Essence of Leadership covers a range of ground including the nature of leadership, leadership traits, the knowledge, skills and abilities that leaders need, and vision. Vision is given the most time in the book, as Locke views vision as being one of the defining traits of a leader.

To Locke, leaders are those who are in charge. They are the actors within the organization who induce others to take action. Leaders not only have vision, but they are able to motivate subordinates, and without the use of force. The true leader can choose between several motivational techniques. These include convincing subordinates that a vision is important and attainable; challenging subordinates and rewarding subordinates. Leaders who rely of fear, coercion and force are dictators rather than leaders. Dictators, Locke argues, will ultimately fail because humans will not act against their self-interest in the long-term, which is precisely what the dictator asks them to do.

Locke also differentiates leadership and management. He explains it simple: "the key function of a leader is to establish the basic vision…the key function of the manager is to implement the vision." It is understood that there is no clear line of demarcation between leading and managing, however. In general, the degree of leadership and the degree of management are dictated by the manager/leader's level within the organization. At higher levels, leadership needs to be more important. At lower levels, management is more important. Managers are playing an increasing role in leadership in many organizations, but every organization needs to have a definitive leader at the top of the organizational chart.

Locke presents a leadership model that further defines leadership roles from non-leadership roles. The four keys to leadership, he argues, are leadership motives and traits; knowledge, skills and ability; having vision; and implementing vision.

Among the key leadership motives and traits, Locke posits that effective leaders are full of drive; are proactive and tenacious; want to lead; are honest and have integrity; have a high degree of self-confidence; are creative; are strategically flexible; and can be charismatic. Among the knowledge, skills and abilities associated with effective leadership are knowledge of the industry; a variety of skills, especially people skills; and a high level of cognitive ability.

The last vital component to leadership is vision. A leader's primary role with respect to vision is to formulate that vision. The leader defines what the organization should strive to be. The leader is able to articulate that vision succinctly and can formulate strategy that determines how the vision will be achieved. The leader must then be able to promote commitment to that vision throughout the organization and even with external stakeholders. The leader, once a vision has been defined and articulated, but then bear responsibility for the implementation of that vision. At this stage, leadership takes on managerial task aspects. These include structuring the company and the selection, training and acculturation of personnel.

Locke outlines some of the background with respective to the study of leadership traits. This issue has proven contentious because studies have at times shown no correlation between leader traits and leader effectiveness. This is false, Locke argues, because it is the interrelatedness of traits that drives leadership effectiveness. This theory underlies much of Locke's four keys thesis -- leaders are born of the combination of the four keys rather than an individual key, much less an individual trait.

Drive is the first key motive, but this encompasses a range of traits -- tenacity, achievement and energy among them. These traits give leaders the tools they need to perform the leadership role, including long-term time orientation, the energy needed to marshal resources and the desire to enact the change in the first place.

The core traits of honesty and integrity are vital to leadership because the leader must instill confidence in the followers. This can only be done through honesty -- the followers need to know that if they are willing to make short-term sacrifices, this will result in long-term gains. That is simply not the case, Locke, argues, when the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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