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 was.

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 colleagues;

- set a good personal example of energy and zeal

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 skills?

1) the choice of suitable people (the art to understand people);

2) encouragement and punishment (justice);

3) the gift to earn the followers’ good attitude (motivation);

4) the talent to get on well with other people (team-building);

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 obey first.

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 their self-actualisation.

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 various tasks.

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 and look.

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 any time.

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

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