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Understanding Leadership Essay

Leadership is a trait, which has tremendous practical implications. Leadership qualities are inborn as well as acquired. Knowledge of textbook theories is required to know the basic concepts of leadership. What is a theory after all? It is the other man’s experience. For classroom discussions, the various frameworks of theories are helpful. When one acquires the backgrounder, one understands the actual functioning of leaders in different segments of the society. Why ‘Understanding Leadership’ by Gayle C. Avery is different-the major themes:

One finds an avalanche of books and articles on leadership in the market, universities and organizations. Leadership concept is constantly changing. What is advocated and appreciated today is negated later. The social expectations of the people and those who run business empires, to whom leadership is the flagship word, have undergone metamorphic changes. The job of the students and the practitioners has become more confusing and complicated. The tangible approach of Gayle C Avery to codify a scattered field into four paradigms (forms of leadership) goes to treat the roots and address the basics of the leadership issue.

The case–studies given in Part II of the book hold a clear mirror. They help and elucidate the mode in which the theories

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explained by her in Part I have been fruitfully applied. That the case studies have been taken from United States, Australia and Europe prove the worth of her theories for global application. She is able to establish connection as for what she has stated in the theories and the case studies. A link has been formed between the many leadership theories to the paradigms . The range of theories are summarized with their concepts and approaches.

In fine, how they find expression at four organizational levels—a) external or strategic b) dyadic c) organizational d) group and individual levels. The book is helpful for those with no prior knowledge of leadership. The Gayle C Avery is eminently suited to write this book: A writer must have a strong power of imagination to create a book, but to write a book on subject like leadership, lots of practical experience is needed. Gayle is Professor, Graduate School of Management, and Macquarie University, Australia.

Being a consultant, she has developed programs for Creative Leadership and Integrative Leadership. She has worked both in public and private sectors and has executed many leadership development programs. Her main emphasis in lectures is leadership for sustainable future and achieving success in a competitive world. Leadership: Leadership roles are fast changing. Kings, Military Generals and political leaders were once considered as men of charisma and insight. They were looked upon with awe and admiration and one drew inspiration from them.

Now, business leaders and men and women who have made name in the field of art, movies and literature are emulated and demand attention. Some of them have become political leaders either by special appointment (nomination) or by direct contest in Elections. Behaviorist Theory: This theory speaks about the ‘born leader’, who has talent by birth that can not be taught. The key traits of the successful and effective leaders are studied and analyzed. Behaviorist theory gives credit to the action and functioning of leaders, the different roles they are able to fulfill.

Here, the individual characteristics take the back seat. But, in recent times, the impact and importance of this theory is considerably diluted. Situational Leadership: Much research has been done and it is still in progress as to why a particular leader is more effective than others. This is done by a close look and observation at their environment and the relevant contexts of their acts and decisions being carried out and implemented with success. The emphasis is on the situation, not the personality of the leader.

The theory underlines the fact that different types of leaders are required to tackle different types of situations. Situational leadership is a model, not a theory. Leadership as it pertains to Public Administration, Policy and Decision making: A good leader is termed so because of what he does. But how he does, what he does is more important. This is the difference between an ordinary leader and the charismatic leader. He can set a program and has the capacity to see it through. He can read the people and lead them through the situations.

Such a leader can adapt well to the circumstances. Results can be achieved by directive behavior and supportive behavior. Directive behavior has the style of military discipline where the people are told what to do, when to do, where to do and on the top it closely supervise the performance. In supportive behavior the people are listened to, their problems are understood, support is provided to them, and their efforts are encouraged to facilitating involvement in the problems to find solution by inducting them in the process of decision-making.

Conclusion: The wise saying goes, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them! ” This is true of the leadership issue also. Leaders are born as well as made. The correct method is to identify the common traits of the great leaders. No two great leaders can function in identical historical and sociological conditions. The challenges they need to face would also be entirely different. To make comparisons about great leadership qualities, between the two, will not be a fruitful exercise and it is fallacious.

Leadership is a complex and confusing field. The leadership paradigms provided by Gayle C. Avery solve many tough hurdles, and knotty issues to understand leadership in the proper perspective. She has made invaluable contribution on the subject of leadership by her studious and insightful approaches in this book.


Avery, Gayle C. Book: Understanding Leadership: Paradigms and Cases. Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd (February 18, 2004) ISBN-10: 0761942882 ISBN-13: 978-0761942887

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