The psychology of leadership
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010
Author: Bogun Olessya , Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
It is quite obvious that some people are
born with the quality of superiority which enables them to influence other
people and makes them leaders. This phenomenon is typical of any society, under
different circumstances, at all cultural levels. Leadership is for those who
know what to do in a particular situation. Consequently, those who aspire to
lead others need to have thorough theoretical basis and experience; although
knowledge is not everything. There are people possessing good professional
education, practical skills in the field of their work but they are not
recognized as leaders. At the university level this phenomenon is clearly seen
when highly qualified, well experienced and knowledgeable professors are
respected but not considered to be leaders. There should be something else to
become a real leader. A good leader indicates the direction, sets an example,
shares dangers and difficulties of others and tries to deserve their support. A
real leader (a man or a woman, it does not matter) must be able to deserve
respect without pursuing the popularity. There is a difference between such
notions as management, administration, planning, control and leadership. A good
leader can do all these things but he has one priority – he knows the secret of
how to obtain the enthusiastic support of other people to fulfill the set aims.
Encouragement is a very important principle of leadership. There are some
integral signs connected with leadership in any field, they are enthusiasm,
honesty, which engenders respect, energy, firmness and strength which help to
gain the recognition of a leader. SWOT analysis (the definition of the strong
and weak points, opportunities and threats) can help the leader to identify his
problematic zones and perspectives. People having a big potential of a leader
by nature can become successful leaders if only they work hard to achieve the
set aim. People start to learn leadership when they feel the necessity to
combine experience and practice on the one hand, and principles and theory – on
the other. The first without the second will not be fruitful. Leadership can be
learned by experience when reflecting on some vital issues which leads to
further actions. The example of other renowned people can play a very
significant role in this process. Leadership can be learned when putting it
into practice. Nothing can replace the inevitable period of experiments, trials
and mistakes, success and failure followed by reflections and reading. If a
person follows this way he may become such an effective leader that people will
think that he or she is destined to lead not knowing how difficult this way
The way to leadership is open for everyone.
A real leader should provide the three circles of people’s needs:
1) to fulfill the common task;
2) to work friendly in a group with mutual
understanding and support;
3) to satisfy the needs of every employee.
An effective leader should:
- work with knowledgeable people;
- deserve their respect, positive attitude;
- arouse the desire to obey;
- create good relationships with
- set a good personal example of energy and
A leader should not only have necessary
leading qualities and knowledge but he should be well aware of the steps to
undertake for the leadership to be effective. What are these capacities and
1) the choice of suitable people (the art
to understand people);
2) encouragement and punishment (justice);
3) the gift to earn the followers’ good
4) the talent to get on well with other
5) the capacity to be the embodiment of
hard work and energy.
A leader can develop some of these
qualities but he cannot change his character and nature given him by birth.
The threat for a leader is the arrogance
and self-centeredness. Sometimes it can even lead to despotism. The only
antidote against arrogance is humility. Leadership should develop in harmony
with nature. We can’t force the events to happen – we should let them go
naturally. Leadership lives inside, in the soul of every person. We should
express it without odd self-conceit, pride, superiority. A real leader can not
only listen but also keep silent. That person can speak well who would prefer
to keep silent. It is impossible to become a good leader without learning to
The leader who seems to be at the
background will actually always be ahead. Humble people are the most reliable.
The root of the word “leader” goes back to
the notion defining road and way. This word deals with action and movement. So
if the organization is stagnant and does not develop, there is no need to have
a leader, it will be enough to have a manager. The leader is not always a man
going ahead. The leader is expected to model the way, to keep the team’s unity,
to take care of every employee in the course of common activities.
The leader is like a shepherd and his
employees are his herd. The shepherd leads the herd in the right direction,
keeps its unity and cares about every animal. All the employees want to know
where they go in the period of fulfilling their common task; they want to be a
united team; every person has his personal interests which must be satisfied.
Team building is a very important process
in leadership as the success of the organization depends on it. The ideal team
can be represented as a mechanism all the parts of which ideally match each
other. A good leader thinks not only about the satisfaction of the main
physiological needs of his employees, their sense of security but also about
The motivational states of all employees
are importantly affected by unexamined assumptions that are embedded in
culturally generated values. Conceptualizations of motivation in different
societies are quite different. For example, we have common notions of what work
means, what we should 'get out of it’, how 'satisfied' we should be, and whom
to blame if we do not derive sufficient rewards from it. We usually compare our
own lot with others', and these comparisons very often determine not only the
state of our mental well-being but also the effort we are willing to devote to
A leader gives orders but they should be
correct. For this purpose he should possess the ability of practical thinking
which can be inborn or acquired and is revealed in the capacity to think clearly
and make the right decisions. The Greek called it phronesis which can be
translated as common sense.
A leader thinks independently but he also
listens to the ideas of the team members. He evaluates all the pros and cons
and after that the most correct decision is made. Decision follows reflection
and this decision leads to action. According to the circumstances especially in
critical situations the leader should know when the debates must be finished
and the actions should be put into practice.
Intuition is the vision of an unclear
situation in the genuine light. The reliability of the intuition can be
distorted by the anxiety or fear; intuitive ideas should always be controlled
and checked with the help of logical thinking and experiments. There is a good
saying that in the world of blind the one-eyed is a king. Sometimes it happens
that a leader can rely on his intuition depending on the situation.
Imagination is also a very important aspect
of leadership as new circumstances need new ideas. The leader should possess a
developed imagination but it is more significant for him to stimulate the
figurative imagination of all the team members of his organization.
Encouragement and active position of the
leader can contribute to a better development of the organization. Any task
will be carried out faster if the leader is capable of creating a positive
atmosphere where everybody works with enthusiasm in a calm and friendly way. Sense
of humor can be very useful in critical situations, helps the leader to give
people the moments of joy; joke is synonymous of rest. It is up to the leader
to make people get pleasure from work.
Leading functions need a two-way
connection. It implies the ability to speak and listen. That person who wants
to have fruitful contacts explains what he wants to say clearly in a simple and
vivid way using the most suitable means of connection –
tête-à-tête conversation, telephone talk, presentation,
report or letter.
A leader capable of listening is a rare
case. To succeed in it the leader should not just perceive the information
given but he should try to catch the feelings of his interlocutor. The leader
should listen not only with his ears but also with his eyes as more information
is transferred through the non-verbal means of communication.
The leader should not just speak; with his
words he should arouse enthusiasm in people. There is no need for him to give
them his own energy, his task is to reveal theirs.
Everyone can stand at the steering-wheel
when the sea is calm but the leading qualities will be tested when the sea is
stormy, when changes come and people lose orientation, are at a loss. A real
leader can inspire hope when all people around are full of doubts. If the
person feels his importance for the company’s success in achieving the common
aim the organization will flourish.
In leadership trust and good attitude go
hand in hand. Where there is mutual trust and understanding there is no need to
conceal bad news. The more trustworthy you are going to be the more people will
trust you and support you. There is a good saying the bird carries the wings
and the wings carry the bird. Truth is the best connection.
Leaders who are never seen and heard but
for the election period can hardly be called effective leaders not speaking
about great leaders.
It is natural for a man to have the desire
to be superior over others and the leader is often responsible for revealing
this hidden grandeur. Great leaders can stimulate and make ordinary people do
their job perfectly. Great leaders inspire people with their own example –
sharing difficulties with them. Wise leaders can gain support of their
employees due to the fact that they aspire to come to an agreement when making
decisions. If the leader considers himself the first among the equals he will
gain the reputation of a great leader. Practice what you preach is the vital
point for a successful and respected leader.
Good systems of education make all the
necessary conditions to foster a real leader. Valuable lessons in the field of
leadership can be taken when studying the life of great historical public
figures, their character. Even back in 1555 the main classical qualities of the
leader were determined; they are justice, common sense, self-control, moral
strength, courtesy. The leader grows from a strong personality. Power belongs
to those who have corresponding capacities and knowledge regardless of the
background and origin.
Charisma is a certain quality of a person,
due to which this person is considered outstanding and renowned and is treated
as having extraordinary and exceptional abilities and opportunities. Consequently,
charismatic influence comes from the inside – from the ability to arouse and
support belief in it as a source of knowledge and power.
Charisma is a kind of person’s
attractiveness which can be defined by the piercing look and charming voice;
although charisma is not the essence of leadership. Certainly some leaders
possess such a magnetic force; they can arouse people’s admiration and desire
to follow them but a real leader can be seen by the results of his efforts
judging by the fulfillment of the set aims, successful team-building, and
satisfaction of people’s needs.
Greek word “charisma” means “gift” and
comes from the word “charis” meaning “favor”. Charisma is the personal magic or
charm which arouses people’s devotion and loyalty.
Charismatic leader can be ascribed almost a
supernatural personal power regardless of those who have this power and
influence due to their knowledge or social status.
As a form of personal power or influence
having sometimes a hypnotic effect on others, charisma can be used both with
good and bad intentions. Hitler is the example of the second one.
Leaders become real leaders due to those
who follow them. You may be chosen a director or a manager in this or in that
hierarchical system but you will not become a leader until you gain the
authority with the minds and hearts of your employees.
The phenomenon of charisma is the extension of this
principle meaning that people who believed in their leader can ascribe to him
some superhuman abilities. Some leaders can subconsciously provoke such a
reaction with their appearance or manners alone. The same holds good with voice
To gain the respect the leader must be able
to treat team members as equals, relying on their knowledge and individuality. A
leader should be very self-confident to have such a position. In this
case people will feel it. They will understand whether the leader is able to
indicate them their way and lead them.
Leadership is realized at different levels – commanding,
operating, strategic, national, and worldwide. Leadership philosophy can be
applied to all these levels at any time in any place regardless of the people’s
nationality who are led. Why? Because the nature of the person is the same at
It can happen that the big potential given by nature by
birth may not reveal in the majority of people. It depends upon the situations
people have to deal with and their leadership giftedness. Everyone can and
should aspire to become one of the best.
Real superiority goes hand in hand with humbleness, which is
rather a rare leader’s quality. It implies the ability to see your real face
value and readiness to perfect your mastery as a leader; moreover, it includes
the ability to see others’ values. The task of the leader is not to lead the
person to the perfection but to reveal it because it is already inside.
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Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №1 - 2010