Throughout time, leadership has defined someone’s place within history. Ranging from Themistocles in the Battle of Thermopylae to Julius Caesar in the Roman world, from Joan of Arc to Adolf Hitler, even George H.W. Bush, all of these names describe someone who has sat in a seat of power. Each has served as a great leader in the world they have known for one reason or another. Each has helped to define the ever elusive term of leadership within society.
History has defined seven particular form of leadership theory for us. Those theories are the “Great Man” theory, which says that leaders are born, not made, “Trait Leadership” which states that a leader has superior qualities, “Behavioural Leadership” saying that the best way to lead is to show high concern for people and production, “Situational/Contingency Leadership” which believes that the situation you are in suggests what form of leadership to use, “Influence Leadership” believing that leadership is a social exchange process, “Reciprocal Leadership” saying that leadership is a shared or relational process, and “Chaos or Systems Leadership” which focuses on leadership in a complex and changing world. In more recent times, theory has come to believe that leadership relies not just on the leader, but on the people they lead as well. This, in combination with the fact that leadership is no longer believed to be hereditary has opened the field for leadership developmental theories.
A very modern theory, known as the “The Leadership Challenge”, was proposed by Kouzes and Posner in 2002. Their theory takes a number of previously believed facts of leadership theory and either proposes a different idea or enforces that idea. Their model suggests five particular elements to a leader: Modeling the Way, Inspiring a Shared Vision, Challenging the Process, Enabling Others, and Encouraging the Heart. Modeling the Way suggests that a leader has certain beliefs and will commit to their beliefs, based on their knowledge and sense, just like Joan of Arc as she stood for what she felt even at the point of death. Inspiring a Shared Vision says that a leader can help build support for their ideas by others through their abilities to connect with others, similar to Adolf Hitler as he brought so many to believe in his cause. Challenging the Way comes from the idea that a leader is not stuck in tradition but willing to try new ideas if something does not work, very different from the theory that if something is not broken, don’t fix it. This was just like Julius Caesar as he rose to create the Roman Empire from the Roman Republic. Enabling others is the position in which a leader understands when it will either help to step aside for the morale of the group or because someone else would serve better. In short when it would be for the good of the group to step aside, similar to when George H.W. Bush stepped aside in elections during the 1980’s to run with Ronald Regan. Encouraging the Heart is when you take time to notice the work of others in a group, making them feel welcome. This was something Themistocles inspired in the Ancient Greek world as he formed the Greek battle plan against the Persians.
As I consider what Kouzes and Posner note as the five key elements of leadership, the name of Bob Marley comes to mind. Bob Marley has inspired me for years due to his ideas and actions. Bob Marley was the premier example of both inspiring a shared vision and modeling the way. These elements came shining through when after being shot, Marley still went out and performed at a peace rally, an idea that Marley held above all else. He believed so strongly in this idea that even injuries to himself, as well as his wife and manager who were also injured in the same shooting, could not stop him from stating his ideas. Marley’s idea of peace was also a method of challenging the process as war and anger were the strongest sentiments of political parties in Jamaica at the time. While Marley may not be obvious in his methods of enabling others to act and Encouraging the heart, he also fulfilled these areas. The defining reason of why I find Bob Marley such a prime example was not that he used every element, but instead that he was able to shift and adjust to use the areas he needed to make his statements as a leader.