Leadership maintains its effectiveness sometimes by natural succession according to established rules, and sometimes by the imposition of brute force.

The simplest way to measure the effectiveness of leadership involves evaluating the size of the following that the leader can muster. By this standard, Adolf Hitler became a very effective leader for a period — even if through delusional promises and coercive techniques. However, this approach may measure power rather than leadership. To measure leadership more specifically, one may assess the extent of influence on the followers, that is, the amount of leading. Within an organizational context this means financially valuing productivity. Effective leaders generate higher productivity, lower costs, and more opportunities than ineffective leaders. Effective leaders create results, attain goal, realize vision, and other objectives more quickly and at a higher level of quality than ineffective leaders.

James MacGregor Burns introduced a normative element: an effective Burnsian leader will unite followers in a shared vision that will improve an organization and society at large. Burns calls leadership that delivers "true" value, integrity, and trust transformational leadership. He distinguishes such leadership from "mere" transactional leadership that builds power by doing whatever will get more followers. But problems arise in quantifying the transformational quality of leadership - evaluation of that quality seems more difficult to quantify than merely counting the followers that the straw man of transactional leadership James MacGregor Burns has set as a primary standard for effectiveness. Thus transformational leadership requires an evaluation of quality, independent of the market demand that exhibits in the number of followers.

Current assessments of transformational and transactional leadership commonly make use of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ), developed by Bass and Avolio in 1990 and revised in 1995. It measures five dimensions of transformational leadership:

  1. idealized influence - attributions
  2. idealized influence - behaviors
  3. inspirational motivation
  4. individualized consideration
  5. intellectual stimulation

The three dimensions of transactional leadership measured by the MLQ cover:

  1. contingent reward
  2. management by exception (active)
  3. management by exception (passive)

The functional leadership model conceives leadership as a set of behaviors that helps a group perform a task, reach their goal, or perform their function. In this model, effective leaders encourage functional behaviors and discourage dysfunctional ones.

In the path-goal model of leadership, developed jointly by Martin Evans and Robert House and based on the "Expectancy Theory of Motivation", a leader has the function of clearing the path toward the goal(s) of the group, by meeting the needs of subordinates.

Some commentators use the metaphor of an orchestral conductor to describe the quality of the leadership process. An effective leader resembles an orchestra conductor in some ways. He/she has to somehow get a group of potentially diverse and talented people - many of whom have strong personalities - to work together toward a common output. Will the conductor harness and blend all the gifts his or her players possess? Will the players accept the degree of creative expression they have? Will the audience enjoy the sound they make? The conductor may have a clear determining influence on all of these questions.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Leadership. The Official Guide to Leadership is Todd McDonald.

Todd McDonald has been in the human resource and training industry for over 20 years. He served as Executive Vice President for American Media Inc., where he worked for 10 years. In his tenure with AMI, he worked in multiple capacities including management of the product development, human resource, training, marketing, and sales areas. In 1999, Todd left AMI and founded ATW Training & Consulting.

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