The Foundation of Leadership

What is the basis, the foundation of leadership?  Power, position, authority, personality, relationship or something else? How should leadership be applied? 

James MacGregor Burns in Leadership (Burns, 1978) argued for a psychological conception of power, a connection to others if you will as opposed to being a property or possession. He famously distinguished between power-wielders (the application of brute force) and leaders. His point? Leadership is a relationship between follower and leader.

Leaders must assess collective motivation – the hierarchies of motivation in both leaders and followers – as studiously as they analyze power bases of potential followers and rival leaders. To perceive the working of leadership in social causation as motivational and volitional rather than simply as ‘economic’ or ‘ideological’ or ‘institutional’ is to perceive not a lineal sequence of stimulus-response ‘sets’ or ‘stages’…but a rich pulsating stream of leadership-followership forces flowing through the whole social process. (pp.437)

Leadership is about connecting with the motivations/values of others. The leader must know the collective group well enough to know what they think, what excites them, what they value. Therefore, leadership must be relational. How is this done? Although the principles of leadership are the same for both corporate and church, there are differences in application between the two, just as there are between any for-profit and non-profit organization. I’ll begin with the church and return to for-profit leadership in another post. 

Generally speaking, when a person chooses to attend church they embrace, for the most part, the values of that church, usually contained in a statement of faith, a confession or a creed of some sort. The motivations and values of church people are concretized in their church’s theology. However, there is almost always a gap between the behaviors of people and the values they espouse. The leader’s job is to mobilize people to address that gap. How specifically? See my next post.


2 thoughts on “The Foundation of Leadership

  1. So proud of you! I knew you when…. What a blessing this life is when we can make connections and form relationships that push the boundaries and expand our hearts and minds. More later… must run (I am speaking to the Grey Panthers, a group of retirees in NM, about state health reform in a bit…;-) ) Mazel Tov, Dr. Loyd!

  2. Interesting, to view leadership through the lens of relationships as opposed to achievement. I suppose a leader can get things done through brute force or intimidation, but that is not genuine leadership (forced vs. willingness to follow). I am not a church leader, but see a great deal of value in this view of leadership – and we so often miss this point in business management: that really, we are all just a bunch of people trying to get something done together. .

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