Leadership occurs when a person, group, or organization influences and empowers enough people to bring about change.
There was a time when people believed that only very special individuals were born to be real leaders. But, most of us do not hold that view today. We have moved away from the “great man” approach and we have come to recognize that leadership occurs with all types of people in all kinds of situations. Plus, no individual, “great” or otherwise, can be considered a leader without followers, so when we think about leadership we must also consider followers.
In recognition of the major importance of the relationship between leaders and followers, James MacGregor Burns developed the transformational leadership model from his research. Generally, four leadership characteristics are discussed when talking about transformational leadership. These leaders are strong and positive positive role models (idealized influence); they motivate their followers to work hard and to commit to a vision for the organization or community (inspirational motivation); they encourage their followers to be creative and to think about new ways to solve old problems (intellectual stimulation); and they genuinely care about and support their followers (individualized consideration).
There are other researchers who have outlined leadership behaviors that are considered transformational. James Kouzes and Barry Posner, for example, present five behaviors of exemplary leadership. They suggest that great leaders are good role models, they inspire others with a shared vision, they look for new approaches to accomplish their mission and are not afraid to take risks to bring about change. These leaders also do a good job encouraging their followers and empowering them to act.
At the end of the day, leadership is practiced through faithfulness, integrity, and service. Leaders must be faithful to their mission and must be on the lookout for new and innovative ways to accomplish that mission.
Leaders must act with integrity. This means they must keep their promises and their behavior must be based on high moral principles even in difficult situations. This allows them to lead by example as they consistently align their behaviors with their values and priorities. Still, no one acts perfectly all the time, so great leaders are quick to take responsibility for their actions and acknowledge their mistakes.
Finally, leaders must be intentional about serving and encouraging others. They must be sensitive and empathetic when dealing with their followers, and, in the case of community development, they must be committed to the long-term growth and stability of their communities. placing the good of others and the community over their own self-interest.
Always remember that what the leader is able to accomplish is not the only important factor. The character of the leader matters, and leadership is practiced through faithfulness, integrity, and service.