This paper discusses the nature, importance, functions, and orientation of leadership.
Everybody plays some leadership role and everybody can be trained to be a better leader. The paper discusses how leaders make
a change by using leadership power (personal and formal), influence, and credibility. Leadership styles as well as types of
leaders are presented and are examined critically.
1.0 IMPORTANCE OF LEADERSHIP
Leadership is the single most important determinant in organizational
success. Good leadership leads to success; bad leadership leads to frustration and failure. One of the harbingers of doom
is to place leadership authority in the wrong hands (1,2).
All members, supporters, and sympathizers of the organization are stakeholders
who are concerned about success and failure of leadership.
Leadership is a pre-condition for civilized existence. Any group of 3
or more must have a leader. Absence of recognized leadership means chaos to the detriment of all (3,4).
2.0 UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP
Leadership is the process of influencing people and making them do certain
things. It is both an art and a science. It has rational, emotional, intuitive and instinctive dimensions.
Leadership involves moving followers in a certain direction mostly by
non-coercive methods. Successful leaders get voluntary cooperation from followers.
Good leaders deal with their followers honestly and are up front.
Good leaders persuade and do not command. Fear and authority are not
leadership. Leaders who depend only on authority and coercion do not go very far.
Poor leaders by contrast manipulate their followers. Manipulation is
getting a person to do what they are not aware of or do not want to do.
True leadership is more service than domination. The leader is the servant
(Sayyid Al Qawm Khadimuhum).
Leadership is both a science and an art. A few leadership skills are
innate but most are acquired by trial, experience and education (5).
There is a dynamic interaction between the leader, the followers, and
the situation. A leader of one group of followers may not be able to lead a different group. A leader in one situation may
fail in another one.
Leadership may be formal and legalistic or informal.
Roles of leaders and followers can be interchanged. A leader may be a
follower of a more powerful leader. A good leader must therefore also be a good follower.
3.0 LEADERSHIP FUNCTIONS
Leadership involves the following specific functions: setting and communicating
visions, goals, and objectives; representing followers; directing, coordinating, and integrating; influencing, mobilizing,
motivating, creating enthusiasm and optimism; providing services and making a difference.
4.0 LEADER: PUBLIC VS PRIVATE LIFE
A leader is a public figure and has to accept more invasion of his privacy
than an ordinary person.
It is important that people know enough about his private life to be
assured that he is not involved in any activity that is incompatible with leadership position.
The leader must be accessible at all times and can not claim privacy
as a reason for not carrying out leadership functions
The followers must however have some consideration for the leader and
his family. They must give him some privacy so that he can lead an ordinary life (6)
5.0 LEADERSHIP MAKES A CHANGE
Good and effective leadership is a source of greatness (ab'qariyyah).
Great movements and changes in history are always associated with great leaders. Intended here is real, genuine, moral, and
competent leadership based on character and integrity and not the phony leadership that thrives on propaganda, deceit, and
Bad leaders are motivated by power alone. They just like the exercise
of power. Good leaders have higher motivation. They want to use leadership power to improve and make a change.
6.0 MODEL LEADERS
The Prophet Muhammad and the 5 rightly-guided khulafah after him are,
and other illustrious leaders in history are a model of ideal leadership (7). They led according to the dictates of the noble
teachings, maintained justice, avoided oppression and promoted the welfare of their immediate followers and generations to
come. Great leaders have always risen throughout the history of the ummah.
The Prophet's character was patience and perseverance, wisdom and foresight,
kindness, concern for others, honesty and truthfulness, justice, courage and firmness, love and mercy, forgiveness, simplicity
and humility, and good humor
Abubakr is remembered for his piety, wisdom, gentle character, honesty,
principled behavior, and justice. Abubakr was gentle and kind in most cases but when the need arose he would be very firm
Omar Ibn al Khattab is remembered for his courage, justice, hard-work,
seriousness, and generosity.
Uthman b Affan is remembered for his piety, gentle character, modesty
Ali b Abi Talib is remembered for his bravery, scholarship, and justice.
Khalid Ibn al Walid is remembered for his bravery and his military strategy.
Omar Ibn Abdul Aziz is remembered for his righteousness and piety.
Imaam Ibn Taymiyyah led a great reform movement
Salahuddin al Ayyubi liberated al Quds
Muhammad al Fatih liberated Constantinolople and renamed it Istanbul
7.0 LEADERSHIP POWER
Power is capability or potential to get something done. Influence is
exercise of power to get something done. Authority is formal power that a leader has as a virtue of the position
Power and leadership are interdependent but are not interchangeable.
A leader needs power to succeed and influence others but power alone does not make an effective leader.
There are 2 types of leadership power: personal and positional. Both
are used in varying proportions depending on the leadership situation
Personal power is based on character, expertise, charisma, and personal
Positional power is based on formal authority that includes decision-making,
reward, punishment, and control of information and organizational resources.
The leader has to make a correct judgment of which source of power to
use in a particular leadership situation
Influence is exercise of leadership power. Powerful leaders have more
influence. They have credibility and can get more compliance from their followers.
Leaders can get follower compliance by rational persuasion, appeal, pressure,
promise of rewards, negotiations (win-win, compromise)
Leader get followers to do things either by making small demands followed
by big ones, or by starting with big demands followed by small ones if the big ones are not possible (8)
A leader gains more power and influence by building credibility. Credibility
is based on competence (experience, knowledge, and skills), character (honesty, kindness, sympathy), self-confidence, activity
and drive, boldness and assertiveness
The followers must trust the leader if he is to lead them well.
Building credibility starts with self-assessment to know your strengths
and use them, to identify your weaknesses and compensate for them. You have to listen to and learn from the followers. Keeping
promises and being predictable are very important for credibility.
9.0 EMPOWERING FOLLOWERS
Good leaders lead by teaching leadership, they pull and do not push.
Good leadership involves empowering followers by coaching them and then
sharing leadership power with them through delegation. Followers must be given real authority, information and resources but
must be held accountable for what they are doing.
Empowered followers have heightened self-efficacy and self-confidence.
They will have higher performance, exhibit more cooperation, achieve higher personal growth, and in the end all ensure the
survival of the organization.
10.0 EVERYBODY UNDERTAKES SOME LEADERSHIP FUNCTIONS
Leadership is a function exercised by almost everybody each in his or
her own sphere; we are at least leaders of ourselves or leaders of our families (9). Leadership can be in the community, the
work-place, and in public organizations.
Since everybody has some leadership roles, each one can become a more
effective leader by formal training or gaining experience on the job.
Not everyone wants to be a public leader. There are many people who are
just not prepared to invest energy and shoulder the responsibilities of public leadership.
11.0 STYLES OF LEADERSHIP
Leadership is highly individualized and is very specific for the situation
and the type of followers. Each circumstance calls for different skills and style of leadership. The only constant un-varying
dimension is that whatever style or skills are employed, they must conform to the leader's basic personality, values, and
attitudes otherwise there will be inconsistencies that will eventually lead to leadership failure.
Several types of leaders and styles of leadership can be described: autocratic,
democratic, and laissez-faire. Leaders can be transactional, transformational, or charismatic. Some leaders are task oriented
whilst others are people-oriented.
Choice of type or style must be flexible. The choice is determined by:
the situation, leader personality, follower personality, type of organization, and type of work carried out. Some situations
call for use of a combination of leadership styles.
Autocratic leaders are dictatorial. They set goals, make all the decisions
and just give followers orders to carry out. They set goals and personally direct tasks. There is very little follower feed-back
Democratic leaders on the other hand involve followers in decision-making,
listen to them, and give them a chance to participate. There is feed-back from both the leaders and the followers
Laisser-faire leaders neglect their role. They have little interaction
with the followers. They do not care about what the followers do. The followers are free to do what they want, how and when
they want. Laisser-faire leaders exercise hands-off management
12.0 ORIENTATION: PEOPLE VS TASK
Leadership may be task-oriented or people-oriented. A good leader has
the right mixture of the two for the particular leadership situation he may find himself in. The correct synthesis is to concentrate
first on the people, make them believe in themselves, trust them, train and nurture them and then let them produce superior
Task-oriented leaders are mainly interested in production and results.
They often have poor interpersonal skills. Some leaders perform well with structured tasks whereas others are best with unstructured
People-oriented leaders are interested in the welfare of the followers
and try to make them happy and contented. It this is take to the extreme productivity, quality, and results may be forgotten
Transformational leadership is a type of transaction leadership that
focuses on higher goals instead of immediate material rewards for followers.
Transformational leaders empower, inspire, innovate, and raise passions.
They have a vision and communicate it effectively. They raise followers to higher levels of motivation and morality. They
give their followers a feeling of well-being and imbue new confidence and blow a new spirit in them. There is an emotional
bond between the leaders and the followers. Their power is person-centered
Transactional leaders fulfill the followers' current material and psychological
needs in return for performance. Their outlook is managerial.
Charismatic leaders arise in certain circumstances and are not selected.
They are characterized by their commitment to values, enthusiasm and energy. They have person-centered authority which ends
with their exit from the stage. They are revered and followers are devoted to them. They are invariably dynamic public speakers.
They evoke strong emotions, display self-confidence and competence, serve as role models, communicate high expectations with
transcendental goals, and embody in their person the hopes, aspirations, and frustrations of the followers.
Positive charismatic leaders use their authority to improve society.
Wise leaders are never fooled by the charisma.
Negative charismatic leaders use that authority for their own self-aggrandizement.
Charismatic leaders have a tendency to think of themselves as indispensable and to know all. They may develop egoistic and
dictatorial tendencies. They can easily misuse their great authority and power. They usually do not prepare others to take
their place. When they disappear from the stage they leave behind a void and instability.
17.0 ASSESSMENT OF LEADERS
Leaders, being human, are not always perfect. They have strengths and
weaknesses. A correct assessment of a particular leadership situation requires looking at both strengths and weaknesses.
Expectations generate a power and a momentum of their own and are a very
powerful motivator. A leader who effectively communicates expectations gets what he expects. Only self-confident leaders can
communicate expectations effectively.
Practical life tests leaders in various ways; the strongest emerge successful
from the tests. A leader must be able to stand up to emotional and psychological pressures, must maintain his calm and objectivity
in face of personal insults and abuse directed at him or what he stands for and loves. He must be able to deal fairly with
people he is not emotionally comfortable with: opposers, those who abuse, and disparage him.
18.0 LEADERS VS MANAGERS
Leadership calls for different skills from management. Managers are not
necessarily leaders. The reverse is also true. An organization may be well-led but poorly managed and vice versa.
In practice management and leadership functions overlap and an individual
exercises both leadership and management functions in varying proportions. You have to know when to lead and when to manage.
Leaders are concerned with effectiveness; they are intuitive and visionary;
they like change, innovation, challenging the status quo, and development; they are original; focus on vision and its importance;
they have a long-term view and inspire others to achieve and excel.
Managers are rational problem-solvers whose concern is efficiency, process,
and mechanics of achieving objectives. They administer for maintenance of stability, harmony, and the status quo. They follow
and do not innovate. Their view is generally short-term.
There is no leadership without followership. The quality of the followers
determines the quality of the leadership. A good leader may fail with bad followers. An average leader may succeed if he has
good followers (10).
In the long run it is follower quality that determines the nature of
a particular leadership situation. "The way you are is the way of your leaders". Followers get the leaders they deserve. Incongruence
between followers and leaders is usually temporary and hardly exceeds a generation.
In a certain situation, a successful fit between leaders and followers
leads to success.
Successful leadership requires that followers obey the leader. There
are however limitations and conditions for that obedience as will be discussed later.
20.0 SELECTION OF LEADERS
Successful public leadership is always directly or indirectly dependent
on the consent of the followers. Good selection of public leaders requires participation of the followers. Leaders can not
be imposed. Imposition of leaders can work for only a short time or is associated with unsuccessful leader-follower situations.
The best leaders are those who do not show ambition for leadership (11).
The exact method of expressing the follower's view varies according to
the circumstances of each group. Follower input whatever its nature can not be ignored.
21.0 CHANGE/RENEWAL OF LEADERSHIP
There is no correct answer to the question how long should one individual
stay in leadership? It is better to leave this matter open and decide according to circumstances.
Staying too long discourages the emergence of younger leaders and infusing
new blood and new ideas into the organization. It may also result into inefficiency as the leader loses effectiveness with
Frequent changes of leaders may on the other hand result in lack of continuity
and instability. There are situations in which one long-serving leader is the only one with the skills and charisma to hold
the organization together. In such a case you should not insist on change for the sake of change.
22.0 PROBLEMS FACED BY LEADERS
Leaders experience problems. Being at the top can be lonely. They take
responsibility for failures. Followers may be disloyal to the leader or the organization. Subordinates may have poor values
that the leader can not stand. There may be dissent. The leader may be ahead of the followers in vision and thinking. External
threats are always looming on the horizon.
1. AUTHORITY IN WRONG HANDS IS SIGN OF DOOM:
"Narrated Abu Huraira: While the Prophet was saying something in a gathering, a Bedouin came and asked him "When would
the Hour (Doomsday) take place?" Allah's Apostle continued his talk, so some people said that Allah's Apostle had heard the
question, but did not like what that Bedouin has asked. Some of them said that Allah's Apostle had not heard it. When the
Prophet finished his speech, he said, "Where is the questioner, who enquired about the Hour (Doomsday)?" The Bedouin said,
"I am here, O Allah's Apostle" Then the Prophet said, "When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour ( Doomsday ). The Bedouin
said, "How will that be lost?" The Prophet said, "When the power or authority comes in the hands of unfit persons, then wait
for the Hour (doomsday)". Bukhari 1;50-51, hadith # 56
2. UNFIT INCOMPETENT LEADERS:
"Wait for doomsday when the deposit (amanat) is wasted. He inquired:
"What's the wasting of the deposit?" His holiness said: When rulership is entrusted to the incompetent, wait for the doomsday"
3. A GROUP OF 3 OR MORE MUST SELECT A LEADER
"Abu Said al Khudri reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon
him) as saying: When three are on a journey, they should appoint one of them as their commander.". Abu Daud 2:721, Chapter
933, hadith # 2602
4. LACK OF LEADERSHIP IS AN OMINOUS SIGN
"Salamah daughter of al Hurr and sister of Kharshah b. al Hurr al Fazari
said 'I heard the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him ) say: “one of the signs of the Last Hour will be that people
in mosques will refuse to act as imam and will not find an imam to lead them in prayer.". Abu Daud 1:153, Chapter 153, Hadith
5. LEADERSHIP AFTER TRIAL
And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain Commands, which he fulfilled: He said: "I will make you
An Imam to the Nations. He pleaded: " And also (Imams) from my offspring!" He answered: "But My promise is not within the
reach of evildoers. Qur'an 2:124
6. LEADER TO BE GIVEN SOME PRIVACY:
O you who believe! Enter not the Prophet's houses until leave is given
you for a meal, (and then) Not (so early as ) to wait for its preparation: but when you are invited, enter; And when you have
taken your meal, disperse, without seeking familiar talk. Such (behavior) annoys the Prophet: he is ashamed to dismiss you,
but Allah is not ashamed ( to tell you ) the truth. Qur'an 33:53
7. THE 5 RIGHTLY-GUIDED KHULAFA: A MODEL
"Sufyan al Thawri said: The Caliphs are four: Abu Bakr, Umar Uthman,
Ali and Umar Ibn Abd al Aziz". Abu Daud 3:1300, Chapter 1684, hadith # 4614
8. BE GRADUAL IN OBTAINING COMPLIANCE:
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Allah's Apostle said to Mu'adh bin Jabal when he
sent him to Yemen. "You will come to the people of scripture, and when you reach them, invite them to testify that
none has the right to be worshipped except Allah and that Muhammad is His Apostle. And if they obey you in that, then tell
them that Allah has enjoined on them five prayers to be performed every day and night. And if they obey you in that, then
tell them that Allah has enjoined on them Sadaqa (i.e. Zakat) to be taken from the rich amongst them and given to the poor
amongst them. And if they obey you in that, then be cautious! Don't take their best properties (as Zakat) and be afraid of
the curse of an oppressed person as there is no screen between his invocation and Allah.. Bukhari:
9. EVERYBODY IS A LEADER IN HIS/HER WAY:
“Abdullah b Umar reported the Apostle of Allah ( may peace be upon him) as saying: Each of you is a shepherd
and each of you is responsible of his flock. The amir (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for
his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock; a woman
is a shepherdess in charge of her husband's house and children and she is responsible for them; and a man's slave is a shepherd
in charge of his master's property and he is responsible for it. So each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible
for his flock". Abu Daud 2:827, Chapter 1089, hadith # 2922
10. GOOD LEADER WANTS GOOD FOLLOWERS:
And those who pray, Our Lord! Grant unto us wives and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the
grace) to lead the righteous. Qur'an 25:74
11. AMBITION FOR LEADERSHIP PROHIBITED
"Abd al Rahman b Samurah said: The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon
him) said to me: Abd al-Rahman b. Samurah, do not ask for the position of commander, for if you are given it after asking
you will be left to discharge it yourself, but if you are given it without asking you will be helped to discharge it.". Abu
Daud 2:827, Chapter 1090, hadith # 2923