What’s your definition of leadership? Does it have something to do with leadership traits or characteristics? Can we develop leadership potential? Or is leadership an innate skill? To help you decide, here are 4 different approaches to leadership.
But first, why ask such questions?
The clearer we are about what leadership means, the more likely we are to expand our leadership skills.
Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realise your own leadership potential. – Warren Bennis
4 Different Approaches to Leadership
So, let’s make a brief journey through 4 different approaches to leadership.
In Leadership: A Very Short Introduction, Keith Grint introduces four definitions of leadership:
- leadership as position,
- leadership as person,
- leadership as result, and
- leadership as process.
Whilst other commentators use different definitions, I think these approaches to leadership, although not universal, do cover most perspectives. Bear in mind that each definition need not be mutually exclusive.
Leadership as position
Position-based leadership assumes it is where people operate that makes them leaders.
This view usually takes the form of authority in a formal hierarchy. For instance, the general or CEO. This definition implies that the character of the leader is less important than their position.
Do people follow or do as they’re told?
Chef doesn’t mean that you’re the best cook, it simply means boss. – Tom Colicchi
Leadership as person
This definition of leadership emphasizes the importance of the person’s character. Person-based—or character-based—leadership says it is who you are that makes you a leader.
But what does this mean? That great leaders are heroic or charismatic? Do people follow because there is an emotional relationship between leader and follower?
The capacity and will to rally men and women to a common purpose together with the character that inspires confidence and trust. – Field Marshal Montgomery
Leadership as result
With this definition of leadership, we look at the results of leadership. Results-based leadership focuses on what leaders achieve.