Definition and Characteristics of Leadership

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 7: Leadership

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Definition of Leadership

Leadership is a process by which one person influences the thoughts, attitude and behaviour of others. Leadership is the art of influencing and inspiring subordinates to perform their duties willingly, competently and enthusiastically for achievement of group objectives.


S. Chandan – “Leadership is the process of influencing the activities of an individual or a group in efforts towards goal achievements in a given situation.”


Chester I. Barnard – “Leadership is the quality of behaviour of individuals whereby they guide people or their activities in organizing efforts”


Koontz and ‘Donnell – “Leadership is the ability of a superior to induce subordinates to work with confidence and I zeal”


Theo Haimann – “Leadership is the process by which an executive imaginatively directs, guides and influences the work of others in attaining specified goals.”


The Oxford English Dictionary definition of leadership is simply: “The action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.”


R.T. Livingston – “Leadership is the ability to awake in others the desire to follow a common objective.”


To conclude we can say that leadership is the process by which an individual exerts influence over other people and inspires, motivates, and directs their activities to help achieve group or organizational goals. A right leadership has a long term positive effect on the behaviour of people.

Leaders set a direction for the rest of us; they help us see what lies ahead; they help us visualize what we might achieve; they encourage us and inspire us. Without leadership a group of human beings quickly degenerates into argument and conflict, because we see things in different ways and lean toward different solutions. Leadership helps to point us in the same direction and harness our efforts jointly.

Characteristics of Leadership

  1. The basic purpose of a leader is to influence the behaviour of others or followers. 
  2. It is not a onetime effort but it is a continuous process. Leader need to influence his followers every minute and in every situation.
  3. Interaction between leader and followers: it is a relationship between the leader and followers.
  4. It implies pursuit of common goals in the interest of individuals as well as the group as a whole.
  5. Situation related activity: it is at a particular point of time and in a given set of circumstances. The influence should be to get the willing co-operation of the employees and not the forceful co-operation.

If we examine the term leadership more minutely, it will be found that it has the following implications:

  • Leadership involves people
  • Leadership involves an unequal distribution of power

It is important to note that leadership is dynamic process involving changes in the leader-follower relationship. The leader-follower relationship is a two-way process and is essentially a reciprocal one in nature.

The concept of power is inherently implied in the process of leadership. Power as we understand the term in this context, is one’s ability to exert influence, i.e. to change the attitude or behaviour of individuals and the groups. There are 5 possible bases of power as identified by French and Raver (1968) which are:

1. Reward Power

Reward Power is based on the subordinate’s perception that the leader has the ability to control rewards that followers are looking for. For example, leader’s ability to influence the decisions regarding pay, promotion, praise, recognition etc.

2. Coercive Power

Coercive Power is based on fear and the subordinate’s perception that the leader has the ability to punish or to cause an unpleasant experience for those who do not comply with directives.

3. Legitimate Power

Legitimate Power is based on subordinate’s perception that the leader has a right to exercise influence because of holding a particular position in the hierarchy of organizational structure. Legitimate Power is thus based on authority and not on nature of personal relationship with others.

4. Referent Power

Referent Power is based on the subordinate’s identification with the leader. The leader is able to influence the followers because of the interpersonal attraction and his personal charisma.

5. Expert Power

Expert Power is derived from subordinate’s perception of the leader as someone who has access to information and relevant knowledge.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

Please Share:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top