Leadership is a means of directing. It is the ability to influence a group towards the achievement of goals. It is the human factor that helps a group identify where it is going and then motivates it towards its goals.
According to Drucker, "Leadership is the lifting of man's visions to higher sights, the raising of man's performance to a higher standard, the building of man's personality beyond its normal limitations.”(1954)
According to George R. Terry, “Leadership is the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for group objectives”. (1960)
According to Robert Tannenbaum, Irving R. Weschler, and Fred Massarik leadership is “Interpersonal influence exercised in a situation and directed, through the communication process, toward the attainment of a specialized goal or goals.” (1959).
Harold Knoontz and Cyril O'Donnell state that “leadership is influencing people to follow in the achievement of a common goal.”(1959)
Interest in leadership increased during the early part of the twentieth century. Early leadership theories focused on what qualities distinguished between leaders and followers, while subsequent theories looked at other variables such as situational factors and skill level. In “Contingency Transactional & Transformational Leadership Theories” Eric Yaverbaum and Erik Sherman states that:
Ø The great man theory says leaders are born
Ø The trait theory says leaders are alike
Ø The behavioral school says leaders can learn
Development of Leadership Theories
Ø 1900's: the “great man” theories – it's an innate ability; who is born to lead?
Ø 1940's-50's: trait theory – what universal traits are common to all leaders.
Ø 1950's-60: behavior theory – what key behavioral patterns result in leadership.
Ø 1960's-70's: contingency/situational – establish which leadership behaviors succeeded in specific situations