Leadership theory and practice Report

Leadership is a social influence process in which a person supports and aids a group of people to accomplish or achieve a common task and goal (Northouse, 2004). Effective leadership is essential in every organization for any task or goal to be successfully achieved.

The main function of a leader in every organization is to work towards cohesiveness and unity to see that all the members of the organisation go through an experience that is satisfactory.

According to Killan, leadership involves making decisions, achieving results, rendering services, willingness to be different and finally lead others by providing sufficient motivation and understanding which will lead to accomplishment of set tasks and goals (Killan 1952).

Personality traits and managerial skills are necessary for any leader to be equipped with for him/her to be able to achieve successful performance in all the tasks he undertakes. A good leader should possess technical skills which he can use to refer to understanding and proficiency of certain kind of activities which involve processing, techniques and procedure.

Technical skills enable leaders to be more concerned with how to deal with things and situations. Human skills which include the potentials possessed by the leader which involve his ability to cooperate and work with other people, those whom he manages. Conceptual skill is the ability of the leader to visualize the entire organization (Northouse, 2004).

This skill normally enables the leader to recognize and perceive interrelationships of different factors which involve operations carried out within the entire organization. It also involves ability to solve problems of an organization. John Buford who was the Commander of Union Calvary possessed technical skills which enabled him to save the union.

He managed to hold back American’s enemy for a long period which saved the favoured union position on the first day. Buford managed to involve his ability and skills to cooperate and work with the military to save Union Calvary from the enemy’s hands.

Leadership concepts strongly relate to power. Socialist such as Weber classified power into three different forms which include tradition, charisma and legal power (Weber 1947). Power can also be categorized into personal power and position power. However, the most widely recognized bases of power in many organizations include coercive, reward, referent and legitimate power.

Position power is usually regarded as power that dwells on position regardless of the person holding it. Coercive, reward, referent and legitimate power normally result in position power (Phillips1996). One can say that position power resembles authority.

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A leader who possesses position power has control over all the activities that take place within the organization; he directs and controls all the activities that take place within the organization. This kind of leader also has a strong say in disciplining and punishing the workers. However, leaders with position power are also limited in some ways. They cannot control or give order on those activities that are not within the organization.

On the other hand, personal power is that power that is within an individual regardless of the position he/she holds in the company. Personal power can be related to coerciveness, reward, charisma and expert. A person who possesses personal power has the ability to inspire greater dedication and loyalty among the followers.

This strong influence usually comes from the fact that there is a necessity which the followers have to respond to more readily than appeals and requests (Yukl 2009). However, one of the limitations of personal power is that the followers can either choose to freely accept or decline the orders of the leader.

There are various leadership theories that have been developed, some of which include trait approach theory, behavioural theories, situational theories and transformational theories. Trait theory is set to find characters that are shared by most leaders (Northhouse 2004).

This theory tends to find out what makes certain leaders great. It mainly identifies the innate characters and traits possessed by great political, military and social leaders. There are some traits that differentiate leaders from their followers. Such traits include sense of direction and purpose, friendliness, enthusiasm, integrity, decisiveness, faith, intelligence and action (Tead1938).

General Robert E. Lee possessed trait theory and that is why he is considered to be a true legend in America. He had a sense of direction and purpose; he was faithful, intelligent and friendly. Behavioural theory on the other hand concentrates more on the observed behaviours of leaders.

This approach mainly considers the manners and the way in which most leaders behave based on subordinates view on the task and relationship the two have. Task behaviours mainly involve goal accomplishment; the ability that leaders have to achieve the set objectives; the leader’s ability to influence the subordinates.

Situational theory concentrates on the impact that leadership and followers roles, behaviour and skills have on satisfaction and performance. It mainly emphasizes on environment and behaviour; the leaders are responsible for training subordinates to adopt leadership styles and behaviours in various situations. Organizations such as governmental, business, educational and military greatly demand different types of leadership.

Leaders should adopt the styles of leadership he possesses to solve different situations that demands his attention. Lastly, transformational leadership emphasizes on change and transformation of individuals. General Lee had great confidence in his commanders and left them in the field with orders to follow.

Situational theory entails ability of a leader to use his ability to implement and develop a clear vision for the organization. It also involves the ability of workers to perform as self-leaders what is termed as super leadership- “leading other people to lead themselves. These kinds of leaders are described as heroic or charismatic” (Phillips1996).

Transformational leadership is also concerned with ethical standards, long term goals and organizational goals. Transformational leaders do have a dynamic vision and personal attraction which normally brings total change in the organization. Leaders are able to motivate, satisfy the needs of the employees and treat them fairly as humans.

General James Longstreet did not manage to perform as self-leader and that means that he did not possess any strong personality as a leader. Longstreet failed to follow Lee’s orders instead he chose to follow his own commands and that made them fail.

Gettysburg is an American film on war which tells of how the Union and Confederate armies tried to fight back to take control of America. Gettysburg was the largest Civil War that involved casualties and combatants. It represented Americans Confederacy best in winning their independence back. However, the full details of Gettysburg war are only known by few historians.

This movie achieved good balance in filmmaking and also provision of historical knowledge. The film also captured handful of key concepts not only in battle but also leadership concepts as depicted by three characters: General Robert Lee, General James Longstreet and Lt. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain.

General Robert E. Lee who was the Commander of Army of Northern Virginia was the best and most loved military leader America has ever had; he is considered as a true legend. Lee had unrealistic infallibility and this was seen after the war when some southern historians decided to adopt Lee’s theory which was known as lost cause (Maxwell 2006). This failure was either due to subordinates failure or impossible circumstances.

General James Longstreet who was Lee’s favourite and valued Corp Commander was highly blamed for the failure. The story depicts the tension that the two had and which probably led to Gettysburg. Longstreet did not agree with Lee’s strategy during the war at Gettysburg; he failed to execute Lee’s orders in time and in effective manner. He is described in the movie as futile.

However, the movie overplayed futility in Longstreet which means that they supported his detractors. Nevertheless, other subordinates were also to blame for the failure since they made lots of mistakes. Lee however took the responsibility for all the failures of the war which brought out the greatness in him. He decided to become accountable for all the loses which made him a great leader.

Lt. Colonel Joshua L. Chamberlain the commander of Union’s 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment used his position power and personal power to defend against the hazards of the war. He fought to death to ensure that the regiment became the flank of the whole Union Army by rushing it to the top and on time.

When Chamberlain and his troop reached the battle field, they discovered that the left side of their union line had made a mistake by moving forward leaving space (Maxwell 2006). This position was crucial and tactical which left some parts unoccupied putting them at a great risk of losing the war. However, he used his technical skills to rearrange the team.

The militants also followed Chamberlain’s orders and made everything become possible by giving their all even if it meant dying for the sake of gaining freedom for America. This depicted transformational leadership in the story which emphasized on change and transformation of individuals. It entails ability of a leader to use his ability to implement and develop a clear vision for the organization.

Chamberlain employed the tactics known as refusing flank. He refused to bend the line back to form a right angle to prevent outflank. Despite the fact that Chamberlain was overcome by fatigue, he ordered pinwheel pivot bayonet counter to be charged since there was no other option, the ammunition had to be kept running.

He had dynamic vision and personal attraction which enabled him to win. Chamberlain is depicted in the movie as a charismatic leader and a real hero as he led his troop into extraordinary actions.

In conclusion, Gettysburg not only provides historical knowledge and filmmaking, it also presents leadership concepts and theories which are well evident in some of the great leaders such as Lee and Chamberlain in the movie. Gettysburg leaves the viewer’s think about their own teamwork, leadership and decision making since the three great leaders in the movie presented heroism in leadership.

References

Killan, M. (1952). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Northouse, G. (2004). Leadership theory and practice. London: Sage Publications, Inc.

Maxwell, F. (2006). Gettsburg. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Routledge.

Phillips, D. (1996). Lincoln on Leadership; Executive Strategies for Tough Times. New York: Warner Books, Inc.

Tead, K. (1938).Organization Behaviour: Human Behaviour at Work. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Yukl, G. (2009). Leadership in organizations 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

Weber, M. (1947).Organizational Behaviour and Management. New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin.