Leadership : A Comprehensive Guide of Definitions from 1900 to the 2023Image: Harvard Business Review

Executive Summary

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PeriodLeadership Definition
1900–1929Emphasized control and centralization of power with a common theme of domination.
1930sTraits became the focus, with leadership seen as influence rather than domination. Leadership also seen as the interaction of individual personality traits with group traits.
1940sLeadership defined as the behavior of an individual directing group activities. Distinction made between leadership by persuasion and “drivership” or leadership by coercion.
1950sThemes: continuance of group theory, leadership as a relationship with shared goals, and effectiveness tied to influencing overall group effectiveness.
1960sLeadership seen as behavior influencing people toward shared goals.
1970sShift from group focus to organizational behavior. Leadership defined as initiating and maintaining groups or organizations to accomplish goals.
1980sExplosion of scholarly works. Predominant themes: directive leadership, emphasis on noncoercive influence, traits resurgence, and transformational leadership.
1990sShift to process-oriented leadership. Emergence of servant, followership, and adaptive leadership. Focus on followers’ role in leadership process.
21st CenturyEmergence of moral approaches: authentic, ethical, spiritual, discursive, humble, and inclusive leadership. Recognition of the complex and evolving nature of leadership.

“Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal”

Peter Northouse

1900 to 1929: The Great Man – Control & Domination

Introduction

The definitions of leadership during the first three decades of the 20th century provide a valuable historical lens through which we can understand the prevailing attitudes towards leadership. The emphasis on control, centralization, and domination reflects the societal norms and power structures of the time. As we trace the evolution of leadership definitions over the years, it becomes evident that these early perspectives have played a role in shaping contemporary leadership paradigms. Understanding the historical context allows us to appreciate the dynamism of leadership concepts and their impact on organizational and societal structures.

The early decades of the 20th century were marked by dynamic shifts in society, industry, and governance. Against this backdrop, the concept of leadership underwent significant scrutiny and definition. In this article, we explore how definitions of leadership during the years 1900 to 1929 reflected a prevailing theme of control and centralization of power, often characterized by notions of domination.

Defining Leadership in the Early 20th Century (1900-1929)

Leadership during this period was often perceived through the lens of authority and the imposition of the leader’s will on others. A prime example can be found in a definition offered at a leadership conference in 1927: “the ability to impress the will of the leader on those led and [to] induce obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation” (Moore, 1927, p. 124).

  • Control and Centralization: The definitions from this era highlight a tendency towards centralization of power. Leaders were seen as figures who exercised control and influence over those they led. The emphasis on “impressing the will” suggests a hierarchical structure where the leader’s authority takes precedence.
  • Themes of Domination: The common theme of domination permeates these early definitions. Leadership was framed as a mechanism to assert authority, ensuring compliance and cooperation through the dominance of the leader’s will. This perspective aligns with the societal structures of the time, where authoritative figures often held sway in various domains.
  • Obedience, Respect, Loyalty, and Cooperation: The desired outcomes of leadership, as outlined in the 1927 definition, were obedience, respect, loyalty, and cooperation. These objectives reflect an expectation of submission to authority and a willingness to align with the leader’s vision.

Impact on Leadership Practices

The prevailing definitions of leadership during this period undoubtedly influenced leadership practices. Organizational structures, whether in business, politics, or other spheres, likely mirrored the authoritarian tendencies embedded in these early conceptualizations.

  • Hierarchical Organizational Structures: Organizations during this time may have favored hierarchical structures where leaders held significant control, and decision-making authority was concentrated at the top.
  • Command-and-Control Leadership Styles: Leadership styles may have leaned towards command-and-control approaches, with leaders directing and overseeing tasks while expecting unwavering obedience.
  • Emphasis on Authority and Compliance: The focus on “impressing the will” suggests that leadership effectiveness was measured by the extent to which followers complied with the leader’s directives, fostering an environment of authority and compliance.

1930s: Focus on Leader Traits & Influence

The 1930s marked a transformative period in the conceptualization of leadership. The focus on traits and the recognition of leadership as influence heralded a more human-centered, collaborative approach to leading in a rapidly changing world. As we reflect on the leadership perspectives of the 1930s, we find enduring lessons that continue to shape contemporary discussions on effective and empathetic leadership in the 21st century.

The 1930s marked a pivotal era in history, characterized by economic challenges, social upheaval, and political transformations. In the realm of leadership, this decade witnessed a significant shift in focus from the authoritarian tendencies of the past to a more nuanced understanding. Traits took center stage as the defining elements of leadership, and a novel perspective emerged—leadership as influence rather than domination. This article explores the changing landscape of leadership during the 1930s, where individual traits and the dynamic interplay between leaders and groups began to redefine the essence of effective leadership.

Traits as the Cornerstone

The 1930s marked a departure from earlier definitions that centered on control and domination. Instead, scholars and thinkers turned their attention to the inherent qualities and characteristics of leaders. Traits, encompassing a range of personal attributes and behaviors, became the cornerstone of defining effective leadership.

  • Individual Characteristics: Leaders were scrutinized for traits such as decisiveness, integrity, communication skills, and adaptability. These characteristics were considered essential for navigating the challenges of the tumultuous times.
  • A Shift from Authoritarianism: This shift from a domination-centric approach to one focused on individual traits reflected broader societal changes. The authoritarian grip of the early 20th century gave way to a more humanistic and collaborative view of leadership.

Leadership as Influence

A groundbreaking evolution during the 1930s was the conceptualization of leadership as influence rather than a mechanism of domination. This transformation emphasized the power of persuasion, inspiration, and collaboration over authoritative control.

  • Changing Power Dynamics: The perception of leadership as influence signaled a departure from hierarchical power dynamics. Leaders were now seen as individuals capable of motivating and guiding others through inspiration rather than coercion.
  • Human-Centric Leadership: The emerging view of leadership as influence aligned with the increasing recognition of the human element in organizations. Leaders were expected to connect with and understand the needs of their followers, fostering a more empathetic and collaborative leadership style.

Interaction of Traits and Group Dynamics

The 1930s also witnessed the recognition that effective leadership involves a dynamic interaction between an individual leader’s traits and the collective traits of a group. It was acknowledged that a leader’s specific personality traits could influence and shape the attitudes and activities of a group.

  • Mutual Influence: The understanding that the relationship between leaders and groups is reciprocal gained prominence. While a leader could influence the many, the collective dynamics of the group also had the potential to shape and impact the leader.
  • Adaptability and Collaboration: The evolving narrative highlighted the importance of adaptability and collaboration. Effective leaders were those who could navigate the intricate interplay of their own traits with those of the group, fostering a culture of mutual influence.

1940s: Group Dynamics

The 1940s witnessed a profound evolution in leadership thinking, with the group approach taking center stage. The emphasis on individual behavior within the group context and the distinction between persuasive leadership and coercive “drivership” marked a departure from earlier paradigms. As we reflect on this transformative period, we recognize the enduring influence of these ideas on contemporary leadership theories. The 1940s set the foundation for a more holistic and collaborative understanding of leadership that continues to shape how we perceive effective leadership in the 21st century.

The 1940s, marked by the challenges of World War II and the post-war reconstruction era, brought about a transformative shift in leadership paradigms. This decade witnessed the emergence of the group approach, fundamentally altering the way leadership was conceptualized. In this article, we explore how leadership in the 1940s became defined by the behavior of individuals directing group activities. Additionally, a crucial distinction arose between leadership by persuasion and the coercive aspects of “drivership,” setting the stage for a more nuanced understanding of effective leadership.

The Group Approach Takes Center Stage

The 1940s marked a departure from earlier individual-centric views of leadership to a more collective understanding. Leadership was redefined as the behavior of an individual within the context of directing group activities. This marked the advent of what we now know as group dynamics—the study of how individuals interact within groups.

  • Behavioral Emphasis: The focus shifted from static traits to dynamic behaviors. Leaders were now evaluated based on their actions and interactions within the group setting, reflecting a more realistic and context-dependent approach to leadership.
  • Collective Performance: Leadership became intricately linked to the performance of the entire group. Effective leaders were those who could navigate the complexities of group dynamics, fostering collaboration, and achieving collective goals.

Leadership by Persuasion vs. “Drivership”

The 1940s introduced a critical distinction in leadership styles—leadership by persuasion and “drivership” (leadership by coercion). This differentiation highlighted the diverse approaches leaders could adopt, emphasizing the importance of influence over force.

  • Leadership by Persuasion: This approach underscored the power of influence, persuasion, and inspiration. Leaders who could motivate and guide their teams through effective communication and shared vision were recognized as persuasive leaders.
  • “Drivership” or Coercive Leadership: On the other hand, the term “drivership” emphasized the more forceful and authoritarian aspects of leadership. Coercion and control, while effective in certain situations, were distinguished from the more collaborative and participative approach of leadership by persuasion.

Influence of Historical Context

The context of the 1940s, shaped by the challenges of World War II and post-war reconstruction, heavily influenced these shifts in leadership paradigms.

  • Collaborative War Efforts: The wartime environment necessitated a collaborative approach to leadership. Leaders had to mobilize and coordinate diverse groups of individuals toward a common goal, emphasizing the importance of group dynamics.
  • Post-War Rebuilding: In the post-war era, the focus shifted to rebuilding societies and organizations. This required leaders to navigate complex social and economic landscapes, further emphasizing the need for a group-oriented leadership approach.

1950s: Group Theory, Shared Goals & Effectiveness

The 1950s marked a dynamic period in the evolution of leadership theories. The continuance of group theory, the emphasis on leadership as a relationship fostering shared goals, and the focus on effectiveness collectively reflected a shift towards a more holistic and relational understanding of leadership. As we reflect on the themes that dominated leadership definitions during this decade, we find enduring lessons that continue to shape contemporary leadership discourse, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, relationship-building, and measurable outcomes in effective leadership.

The 1950s, often characterized as a period of post-war recovery and the dawn of significant societal changes, saw a notable evolution in leadership theories. In this article, we explore the three dominant themes that shaped leadership definitions during this transformative decade. The continuance of group theory, the emergence of leadership as a relationship fostering shared goals, and the focus on effectiveness underscored a shift towards a more relational and outcome-driven understanding of leadership.

Continuance of Group Theory

The 1950s witnessed the persistent influence of group theory on defining leadership. Leaders were increasingly seen through the lens of their actions within the context of groups, reflecting the ongoing importance of understanding and managing group dynamics.

  • Behavior in Groups: Group theory emphasized that leadership should be understood in the context of what leaders do within groups. This perspective highlighted the interactive and dynamic nature of leadership, emphasizing the importance of adaptability in various group settings.
  • Collaboration and Communication: Leaders were expected to excel in collaborative efforts and effective communication within groups. This theme reflected the growing recognition that leadership effectiveness was intricately tied to the ability to navigate and influence group dynamics.

Leadership as a Relationship with Shared Goals

A significant shift occurred in the conceptualization of leadership during the 1950s, with a growing emphasis on leadership as a relationship that fosters shared goals. This perspective highlighted the interpersonal aspects of leadership, where leaders and followers collaborated to achieve common objectives.

  • Behavioral Aspects: The focus shifted from inherent traits to leader behavior. Effective leadership was now defined by the actions and behaviors of the leader, particularly in establishing and maintaining relationships centered around shared goals.
  • Interpersonal Skills: Leaders were expected to possess strong interpersonal skills, fostering a sense of trust, collaboration, and shared vision. The ability to build relationships emerged as a crucial component of effective leadership.

Effectiveness as the Core Measure:

Effectiveness became a central theme in defining leadership during the 1950s. Leadership was increasingly measured by the ability to influence overall group effectiveness, emphasizing outcomes and results.

  • Outcome-driven Leadership: The effectiveness theme underscored a shift towards outcome-driven leadership. Leaders were evaluated not only based on their actions but on the impact of those actions on the overall success and effectiveness of the group or organization.
  • Influence on Group Performance: The ability to influence overall group effectiveness became a key metric of leadership success. Leaders were expected to demonstrate a clear link between their actions, the behavior of the group, and the achievement of shared goals.

1960s: Leadership as a Guide toward Shared Goals

The 1960s, often remembered for its tumultuous global events, paradoxically witnessed a harmonious period in leadership scholarship. The consensus among scholars on defining leadership as behavior influencing individuals toward shared goals, as articulated by Seeman, marked a significant milestone. This shared understanding continues to reverberate in contemporary leadership discourse, showcasing the enduring impact of a unified perspective amidst the complexities of an ever-changing world.

The 1960s stands out as a tumultuous era marked by global upheavals and social transformations. However, amidst the chaos of world affairs, leadership scholars found a rare moment of harmony. During this period, a prevailing definition emerged, emphasizing leadership as behavior that guides individuals toward shared goals. This article delves into the consensus among leadership scholars in the 1960s and the influential definition put forth by Seeman, encapsulating the essence of leadership as acts that influence others in a shared direction.

A Global Canvas of Turmoil

The 1960s was a decade of significant historical events, from the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war protests to the space race and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Despite the tumultuous backdrop, scholars in the field of leadership found common ground, contributing to the emergence of a shared understanding of leadership dynamics.

Harmony Among Leadership Scholars

In an unusual alignment of perspectives, leadership scholars in the 1960s converged on a central theme: leadership as behavior guiding individuals toward shared goals. This shared understanding became a unifying thread, cutting across diverse academic and social contexts.

  • Behavioral Emphasis: The prevailing consensus shifted towards a behavioral perspective on leadership. Scholars began to focus on the observable actions and behaviors of leaders, emphasizing their impact on guiding individuals and groups towards common objectives.
  • Influence Toward Shared Goals: The key tenet of leadership during this period was the influence exerted by leaders in steering people toward shared goals. This emphasis on shared objectives underscored a collective and collaborative approach to leadership.

Seeman’s Definition:

The defining moment of this harmonious period came with the influential definition put forth by Seeman in 1960. Describing leadership as “acts by persons which influence other persons in a shared direction” (p. 53), Seeman encapsulated the essence of leadership during this era.

  • Acts of Influence: Seeman’s definition highlighted the active role of leaders in influencing others. It shifted the focus from inherent traits to the tangible actions that leaders undertake, reinforcing the behavioral approach to understanding leadership.
  • Shared Direction: The notion of a shared direction resonated strongly in Seeman’s definition, emphasizing the importance of collective purpose and common goals. This communal aspect underscored a departure from individual-centric views of leadership.

Legacy and Contemporary Relevance

The consensus among leadership scholars in the 1960s left a lasting legacy, shaping the trajectory of leadership studies in subsequent decades. The emphasis on behavior, influence, and shared goals continues to influence contemporary leadership theories and practices.

  • Behavioral Leadership Paradigm: The behavioral paradigm established in the 1960s laid the groundwork for subsequent leadership theories, emphasizing the importance of understanding and analyzing leadership through observable actions.
  • Collective and Collaborative Leadership: The emphasis on shared goals and communal direction set the stage for a more collaborative and collective approach to leadership. These principles continue to resonate in modern leadership discussions, emphasizing the importance of alignment towards common objectives.

1970s: From Group Focus to Organizational Behavior

The 1970s was a transformative era for leadership studies, witnessing a shift from group-centric perspectives to a broader organizational behavior approach. Burns’s groundbreaking definition, with its emphasis on reciprocity and shared goals, became a cornerstone in understanding leadership as a dynamic and interactive process. The legacy of these redefined concepts continues to shape contemporary discussions on leadership, highlighting the intricate dance between leaders and organizations in the pursuit of common objectives.

The 1970s witnessed a significant paradigm shift in the realm of leadership, transitioning from a predominant focus on groups to a more comprehensive organizational behavior approach. During this era, scholars grappled with defining leadership in the context of initiating and maintaining groups or organizations to achieve overarching goals. However, it was James MacGregor Burns who introduced a groundbreaking perspective, shaping the discourse with his definition that positioned leadership as a reciprocal process. This article explores the transformative landscape of leadership in the 1970s and the pivotal contributions that redefined the very essence of leadership.

Transition from Group Focus to Organizational Behavior:

As the 1970s unfolded, the traditional group-centric focus of the previous decades gave way to a more holistic organizational behavior approach. Scholars began to perceive leadership as the art of initiating and maintaining groups or organizations, emphasizing the accomplishment of shared goals at an organizational level.

  • Organizational Dynamics: The shift in focus reflected a growing acknowledgment of the complex interplay of individuals within the broader organizational context. Leaders were no longer viewed solely as influencers within a group but as architects of organizational dynamics.
  • Achieving Organizational Goals: Leadership, in this new perspective, was intrinsically tied to the pursuit of organizational objectives. Leaders were tasked with not only guiding individuals but also orchestrating collective efforts toward the realization of overarching organizational goals.

James MacGregor Burns’s Reciprocal Process:

James MacGregor Burns emerged as a pivotal figure in reshaping the discourse on leadership during the 1970s. His definition introduced a groundbreaking concept, positioning leadership as a reciprocal process rather than a one-sided influence.

  • Reciprocal Mobilization: Burns’s definition highlighted the mutual exchange inherent in leadership. Leaders, driven by specific motives and values, mobilized various resources within a context of competition and conflict. This reciprocal mobilization underscored the interactive nature of leadership.
  • Goals Held by Leaders and Followers: Burns’s definition also emphasized that leadership is driven by the pursuit of goals held independently or mutually by both leaders and followers. This mutual alignment of goals highlighted the collaborative nature of effective leadership.

Impact and Legacy:

The redefined concepts of leadership in the 1970s left an enduring impact on leadership theory and practice.

  • Organizational Leadership Paradigm: The organizational behavior approach introduced in the 1970s laid the foundation for an organizational leadership paradigm. Leadership studies began to focus more on the intricacies of managing and leading within complex organizational structures.
  • Interactive and Collaborative Leadership: Burns’s reciprocal process introduced a more interactive and collaborative dimension to leadership. The emphasis on shared motives, values, and goals redefined leadership as a dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship between leaders and followers.

1980s: Transfromational Leadership

The 1980s marked a period of explosive growth in scholarly and public discourse on leadership, catapulting the topic to the forefront of academic and public consciousness. The decade witnessed a proliferation of definitions, each contributing to a multifaceted understanding of leadership. In this article, we explore the defining themes that characterized leadership discussions during the 1980s, ranging from the traditional directive approach to the transformative concept of leadership as a noncoercive influence.

Directive Leadership Prevails

Amidst the diverse array of leadership definitions in the 1980s, a prevailing theme was the continued emphasis on directive leadership. The notion that leadership involves getting followers to do what the leader desires persisted as a dominant narrative.

Follow the Leader: Many definitions reiterated the idea that effective leadership involves followers adhering to the wishes and directives of the leader. This traditional approach underscored the hierarchical aspect of leadership, portraying the leader as the central authority guiding the actions of others.

The Pervasiveness of Influence

The term “influence” became a central and recurrent theme in leadership discussions during the 1980s. Scholars and practitioners delved into the multifaceted nature of influence, scrutinizing it from various angles to capture the essence of effective leadership.

Noncoercive Influence: To distinguish leadership from management, the 1980s saw a persistent insistence that true leadership involves noncoercive influence. This nuanced perspective aimed to highlight the difference between leaders who inspire and guide and managers who may rely on more authoritarian methods.

Resurgence of Traits

The 1980s witnessed a resurgence of interest in leader traits, fueled in part by the national bestseller “In Search of Excellence” by Peters and Waterman (1982). The leadership-as-excellence movement brought traits back into the spotlight, shaping many people’s understanding of leadership.

Trait Orientation: The renewed focus on traits, spurred by the success of influential business books, reinforced the idea that certain inherent qualities contribute to effective leadership. Traits such as vision, decisiveness, and integrity gained prominence in discussions about leadership excellence.

Transformational Leadership Takes Center Stage

Building on the groundwork laid by James MacGregor Burns in the late 1970s, the 1980s saw the crystallization of the transformational leadership movement. Burns initiated the concept, stating that leadership occurs “when one or more persons engage with others in such a way that leaders a…”

Leadership as a Transformational Process: The notion that leadership is a transformational process gained traction, emphasizing the transformative impact leaders can have on individuals and organizations. This perspective shifted the focus from mere influence to a profound and positive change initiated by leaders.


1990s: Servant Leadership, Followership & Adaptive Leadership

The 1990s was a transformative period in leadership studies, characterized by a shift from leader-centric approaches to a more comprehensive understanding of the leadership process. The emphasis on followers, coupled with the introduction of servant leadership, followership, and adaptive leadership, laid the foundation for a more nuanced and dynamic exploration of leadership dynamics. These perspectives continue to influence contemporary leadership discussions, fostering a more inclusive and adaptive approach to navigating the complexities of organizational leadership.

The landscape of leadership underwent significant transformations during the 1990s, marked by ongoing debates about the distinctions between leadership and management. Research during this era shifted its focus from the traditional leader-centric approach to a more nuanced examination of the leadership process, with particular emphasis on the role of followers. This article explores key approaches that emerged in the 1990s, shedding light on servant leadership, followership, and adaptive leadership, each contributing to a more holistic understanding of leadership dynamics.

Debates on Leadership and Management:

The 1990s was characterized by an ongoing debate about the relationship between leadership and management. Scholars and practitioners grappled with the question of whether these were distinct processes or intertwined aspects of organizational dynamics.

  • Shift to Process-Oriented Leadership: Research during this period witnessed a notable shift toward examining the process of leadership, acknowledging the intricate dynamics involved in guiding individuals and groups toward common goals.
  • Focus on Followers: A pivotal development during the 1990s was the reorientation of focus from the leader to the followers, emphasizing their role in the leadership process. This shift laid the groundwork for exploring leadership approaches that gave due consideration to the dynamics between leaders and their followers.

Servant Leadership:

One influential approach that gained prominence during the 1990s was servant leadership. Coined by Graham (1991), this perspective positioned the leader as a servant, employing “caring principles” to attend to followers’ needs and empower them to become more autonomous, knowledgeable, and servant-like themselves.

  • Caring Principles: Servant leadership brought forth a set of principles centered around caring for followers. Leaders were encouraged to prioritize the needs of their followers, fostering an environment that nurtured autonomy, knowledge, and a sense of service among the followers themselves.
  • Empowerment and Autonomy: The emphasis on followers’ autonomy marked a departure from traditional top-down leadership styles. Servant leaders sought to empower their followers, recognizing that fostering autonomy contributes to a more engaged and motivated workforce.

Followership:

Hollander (1992) introduced the concept of followership, placing a spotlight on the role played by followers in the leadership process. This approach sought to balance the discourse by acknowledging the significance of followers in the overall dynamics of leadership.

  • Interactive Dynamics: Followership shifted the narrative by recognizing followers as active participants in the leadership equation. It underscored the importance of understanding the reciprocal relationship between leaders and followers, where both play integral roles in the achievement of common goals.

Adaptive Leadership:

The 1990s also witnessed the emergence of adaptive leadership, a concept introduced by Heifetz (1994). This approach encouraged leaders to foster adaptability among followers by confronting and solving problems, challenges, and changes within the organizational context.

  • Confronting Challenges: Adaptive leadership recognized that effective leadership goes beyond routine tasks. Leaders were called upon to confront and address challenges and changes, fostering an environment where followers could adapt and thrive in dynamic situations.
  • Encouraging Problem-Solving: The focus on problem-solving marked a departure from traditional leadership paradigms. Adaptive leaders promoted a culture of proactive problem-solving among followers, encouraging them to contribute to the organization’s adaptability.

Leadership in the 21st Centuary

The 21st century has witnessed a rich tapestry of leadership approaches that reflect the evolving complexities of the modern organizational landscape. From authenticity and ethics to spirituality, discursiveness, humility, and inclusivity, leadership is now recognized as a multifaceted and dynamic concept. As global influences and generational differences continue to shape organizational dynamics, leadership scholars acknowledge the inherent complexity of defining leadership in a singular way. The ongoing evolution of leadership in the 21st century reinforces the notion that this concept will remain in flux, adapting to the diverse needs and challenges of contemporary organizational contexts.

The onset of the 21st century ushered in a paradigm shift in leadership studies, characterized by a growing emphasis on moral and ethical approaches. Authentic and ethical leadership took center stage, capturing the attention of researchers and executives. The evolving landscape also saw the introduction of leader humility, spirituality, and inclusive leadership. This article explores key leadership approaches that have defined the 21st century, including authentic, ethical, spiritual, discursive, humble, and inclusive leadership, reflecting the dynamic and multifaceted nature of leadership in the modern era.

Authentic Leadership

George (2003) introduced the concept of authentic leadership, emphasizing the importance of authenticity in leaders and their leadership styles. Authentic leaders are encouraged to align their actions with their values, fostering a genuine and transparent relationship with followers.

  • Alignment with Values: Authentic leadership places a strong emphasis on leaders aligning their actions with their core values. This alignment is believed to contribute to trust, engagement, and a sense of purpose among followers.
  • Transparent Relationships: Authentic leaders prioritize transparency in their interactions, creating an open and honest environment. This approach aims to foster a culture of trust and authenticity within the organization.

Ethical Leadership

Brown, Treviño, and Harrison (2005) introduced the concept of ethical leadership, focusing on the conduct of leaders in both personal actions and interpersonal relationships. Ethical leaders not only model appropriate behavior but actively promote ethical conduct among their followers.

  • Modeling Ethical Behavior: Ethical leadership involves leaders serving as role models for ethical behavior. Leaders are expected to embody the values and principles they wish to see in their followers.
  • Promoting Ethical Conduct: Ethical leaders go beyond personal conduct to actively promote ethical behavior among their followers. This includes creating a culture that values integrity, fairness, and accountability.

Spiritual Leadership

The 21st century also witnessed the emergence of spiritual leadership, as proposed by Fry (2003). This approach focuses on leadership that draws on values, a sense of calling, and a shared sense of membership to inspire and motivate followers.

  • Values and Calling: Spiritual leadership emphasizes the incorporation of personal and organizational values into leadership practices. Leaders are encouraged to connect with a sense of calling and inspire followers through shared values.
  • Motivation through Membership: The concept of membership is central to spiritual leadership, fostering a collective sense of belonging and purpose among followers. Leaders motivate through a shared commitment to a higher cause.

Discursive Leadership

Aritz, Walker, Cardon, and Zhang (2017) and Fairhurst (2007) introduced the concept of discursive leadership, challenging traditional notions by positing that leadership is not solely determined by traits, skills, or behaviors but emerges through negotiated communication practices between leaders and followers.

  • Communication Practices: Discursive leadership focuses on the ways leaders and followers negotiate meaning through communication practices.
  • It underscores the importance of dialogue and interaction in shaping leadership dynamics.

Humble Leadership

Owens and Hekman (2012) brought attention to humble leadership, where leaders’ humility is considered a strength. Humble leaders prioritize the growth and development of their followers, creating an environment conducive to personal and professional advancement.

  • Leadership through Humility: Humble leaders use their humility as a tool to empower and guide their followers.
  • Leaders create opportunities: for growth and learning, fostering an environment where followers can thrive.

Inclusive Leadership

In response to increasing organizational diversity, Shore, Cleveland, and Sanchez (2018) introduced the concept of inclusive leadership. This approach emphasizes leader behaviors that promote a sense of belonging among followers while respecting and celebrating individual differences.

  • Diversity and Belongingness: Inclusive leadership recognizes the importance of diversity and ensures that followers feel a sense of belonging to the group.
  • Leaders actively support: and celebrate individual identities within the collective.

2023: Leadership as a Process

The following summary is from Peter Northouse’s book “Leadership Theory and Practice

Despite the multitude of ways in which leadership has been conceptualized, the following components can be identified as central to the phenomenon: (a) Leadership is a process, (b) leadership involves influence, (c) leadership occurs in groups, and (d) leadership involves common goals.

Defining leadership as a process means that it is not a trait or characteristic that resides in the leader, but rather a transactional event that occurs between the leader and the followers. Process implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers. It emphasizes that leadership is not a linear, one-way event, but rather an interactive event. When leadership is defined in this manner, it becomes available to everyone. It is not restricted to the formally designated leader in a group.

Leadership involves influence. It is concerned with how the leader affects followers and the communication that occurs between leaders and followers (Ruben & Gigliotti, 2017). Influence is the sine qua non of leadership. Without influence, leadership does not exist. Leadership occurs in groups. Groups are the context in which leadership takes place. Leadership involves influencing a group of individuals who have a common purpose. This can be a small task group, a community group, or a large group encompassing an entire organization.

Leadership is about one individual influencing a group of others to accomplish common goals. Others (a group) are required for leadership to occur. Leadership training programs that teach people to lead themselves are not considered a part of leadership within the definition that is set forth in this discussion. Leadership includes attention to common goals. Leaders direct their energies toward individuals who are trying to achieve something together.

By common, we mean that the leaders and followers have a mutual purpose. Attention to common goals gives leadership an ethical overtone because it stresses the need for leaders to work with followers to achieve selected goals. Stressing mutuality lessens the possibility that leaders might act toward followers in ways that are forced or unethical. It also increases the possibility that leaders and followers will work together toward a common good (Rost, 1991).