Free Literature Review On "To What Extent Can Leadership Be Taught?"

Type of paper: Literature Review

Topic: Leadership, Leader, Development, Success, Training, Organization, Skills, Emotions

Pages: 10

Words: 2750

Published: 2020/09/21

Section 1: Introduction

There are many different positions associated with leadership and the qualities associated with it. “Leadership starts with the creation of a vision for the organization or one of its constituent parts, in such a way that others share and own the vision” (Rowley, 1997, p.78). It is important to understand that leadership starts with an idea and is then passed down from person to person in efforts to accomplish one unified goal. Success is dependent upon the ability of a leader to motivate and direct others to the desired outcome. Leaders are vital in virtually every facet of life, not just limited to the workforce. It is essential to understand leadership and the factors that aid in the successful development of such individuals.
The central question posed in this paper is to what extent can leadership be taught? There are many different positions as to whether leadership is something that one possess or is something that can be taught. Researchers believe that leadership is a social process, and individuals have to have the skills to be able to connect and communicate with people. Leadership development is continually evolving, and new methods are being taught for a much better outcome. Teaching leaders to focus on the organizational goals and priorities ensures the necessary strengths are being utilized to the fullest potentials.
The methodology that will be utilized in this paper will be a critical literature review. By using existing studies and findings in peer published journals, the information will be gathered to determine whether or not leadership is something that is capable of being taught. The vast array of leadership strengths allows for various considerations as to what extent these methods can be explained. For example, organizational focus and development are something that can be taught, emotional resonance, however, is a concept that is far harder to teach.
This paper will cover the theoretical framework which includes the background of the leadership, and theories associated with it. Once the conceptual framework has been established, the assessment criteria will be discussed. This will allow the information to be evaluated and the central question as to whether or not leadership can be taught analyzed in depth. The paper will then move onto the assessment section where the pros and cons found in the literature review will be weighed for taking a position. Lastly, a conclusion will be made which will evaluate and summarize the findings in the previous sections of this paper.Section 2: The theoretical framework
In order to understand the extent that leadership can be taught, it is important to fully to understand the characteristics that make up a successful leader. “(1) Leadership is concerned with a sense of direction and vision and the imparting of that vision. (2) Leadership involves working with others, probably in teams and the maintenance of relationships. (3) Leadership is a careful and relentless process that involves attention to detail” (Rowley, 1997, p.80). In order for a leader to be successful, they have to uphold and support the vision of the organization. They have to be able to work with others, and be able to focus on vital details. There is a certain amount of question as to whether this is something an individual must possess or if it something that individuals are born with.
With the emersion of so many different leadership training programs, the value of a strong leader can be primarily taught. “While the early emphasis on individual personality and talent is no longer viewed as the sole determinant of a good leader, an appropriate combination of personal characteristics is seen as a significant contribution to effective leadership” (Rowley, 1997, p.80). According to Rowley (1997) this includes: • Intelligence and a desire to solve complex problems or discover patterns in events are prevalent. • Initiative and the ability to perceive the need for action and to do something about it; this is often related to energy and stamina. • Self-assurance and self-confidence to believe in what they are doing; this is related to the individual’s perception of their role in society and their aspirations for themselves. • The helicopter trait, which is a descriptive term for the ability to understand a situation at different levels of detail (Rowley, 1997, p.80).
Leaders must be taught to do many things including how to motivate their subordinates. “Mainstream leadership scholars most consistently agree upon one thing: leaders are supposed to ‘motivate’ followers/subordinates to accomplish organizational goals” (Baker, 2001, p.473). Individuals do not instinctively know how to drive others. Leadership as a social construct is by no means a new idea. It has been evolving over an evolving as individuals try to understand and explain leadership. Baker defined “leadership as ‘a process of dynamic collaboration, where persons and organization members authorize themselves and others to interact in ways that experiment with new forms of intellectual and emotional meaning’” (Baker, 2001, p.491). The methods, by which leadership is taught, is continually involving to consist of a vast array of considerations, including the emotional and intellectual facets.
The theory of leadership has evolved throughout the years. It is no long just the idea of an individual successfully accomplishing a desired outcome; it consists of far more. “Some of the most noteworthy issues and trends in the field of leadership development in the past 20 years fall under these two general headings: The proliferation of leadership development methods. And the importance of a leader's emotional resonance with and impact on others” (Hernez-Broome and Hughe, 2004, p.25). Teaching leadership how to address not only development methods, but the emotional consideration and how it affects others. The emotional consideration; however, a difficult concept to be able to teach. A leader has to hold some internal qualities for addressing things that cannot necessarily be taught. Emotional resonance can be explained to some extent, but leaders have to be able to connect with their people.
Developing leaders today means providing new opportunities for learning not only while they are working, but what they can implement in other situations. Emotional resonance holds a vital impact on the success of leaders. “Transformational leadership touched followers' deeper values and sense of higher purpose, and led to higher levels of member commitment and effort and more enduring change. Transformational leaders provide compelling visions of a better future and inspire trust through seemingly unshakeable self-confidence and conviction” (Hernez-Broome and Hughe, 2004, p.26). It is important to understand the basis of transformational and charismatic leaders is the strength and nature of the emotional impact of others. The ability of leaders to connect emotionally to others is essential for validating the genuineness, credibility, authenticity, as well as trustworthiness.
Teaching leadership is a practice that many organizations have implemented into their training and development programs. “State of the art leadership development now occurs in the context of ongoing work initiatives that are tied to strategic business imperatives” (Hernez-Broome and Hughe, 2004, p.27). The programs allow for the organizations to focus on their specific goals and priorities through leadership development that emphasizes such business imperatives. “According to a Conference Board study five critical forces will shape leadership competencies (requirements) in the future: 1) global competition. 2) information technology. 3) the need for rapid and flexible organizations. 4) teams and 5) differing employee needs” (Hernez-Broome and Hughe, 2004, p.29). These are factors that are teachable, with emphasis on particular organizational needs.
Teaching leadership requires a system for reinforcing the desired behaviors. “Thus, not only will organizations need to hire and develop leaders, they will also need to be the kind of agencies that nurture and reinforce enactment of the types of behaviors desired in those leaders. Similarly, demands to demonstrate ROI can encourage greater rigor and clarity in our understanding of the nature of leadership development and in how we assess its impact” (Hernez-Broome and Hughe, 2004, p.31). Providing the materials for leaders to learn the necessary behaviors is vital, however so is the support and follow up. It allows for greater clarity and long-term success for the desired organizational outcome.
Leaders in today’s business world require both the qualities of leadership and business competencies. “A similar proposition clearly defines the characteristics essential for the modern businessperson: competence and leadership and the latter is ultimately about character. But you can’t have one without the other; they are joined at the hip” (Sheppard and Leboeuf, 2006, p.8). Again, this leads one to questions whether such competencies can be taught or if it a skill that leaders ‘just possess’. “First of all, leaders preserve the integrity of our organizations and this is no small task” (Sheppard and Leboeuf, 2006, p.12). Integrity, again is something that cannot be taught, it is a characteristic that individuals either possess or they don’t.
Leadership styles do not directly affect the potential success of such leaders. “Gemmill and Oakley (1992), for example, suggest that the problem is not leadership going wrong, or with particular styles, but leadership itself” (Sutherland et al., 2014, p.762). Mandating the particular individual acts in a leadership role, takes away the potential for other members of the organization to step up and take that position. Mostly this social myth creates the environment where the followers are completely lost without their leaders. “Our empirical material demonstrates that leadership actors did not assume any permanent position within the organizational hierarchy, and efforts were made to ensure that: (a) the opportunity for leadership and meaning-making was distributed in order to give others the opportunity to take on leading roles in the future and (b) leadership actors did not assume that role permanently, thereby becoming leaders, through concrete practices such as task rotation” (Sutherland et al., 2014, p.775). Teaching leaders, to learn and grow individually, will ensure that one individual is not afforded too much authority, and the organization can turn to others who have learned the skills to successful leadership.
There are other factors that aid in successfully teaching leadership qualities. “Socio-demographic variables such as gender, education, income, and years living in the community seem to play important roles in determining whether the study participants benefited and increased their leadership capacities through participation in the community leadership education programs” (Apaliyah et al., 2012, p.33). By no means, does this mean that others cannot learn how to become a successful leader, it just means that the learning process can be easier taught to some individuals. It may take longer for others to learn the desired skills that organizations are instilling, based on various social and economic factors.Section 3: The assessment criteria
Understanding the various theories and beliefs associated with leadership and leadership development provides for a personal position on the central question being presented in this paper. Still the question as to what extent leadership can be taught is dependent upon various factors. Mostly, the desired traits for leaders to employ can be shown to virtually anyone; however it could take far longer for some individuals to learn from others. There is also certain emotional traits that cannot be instilled in an individual; they have to possess them void of any external training. Based on the literature review, however, the position of this paper would support the fact that any and all vital leaderships skills and developments can be taught to some extent. However, on the opposing side, the success of a leader can be altered based on their internal skills and external factors that aid in being an accomplished leader.Section 4: Assessment section
The pros found in the literature review are based solidly on the fact that there are continual improvements being made to leadership training programs. It allows for organizations to individualize their needs and focus on building the necessary traits. Transformational leadership provides a leader with a clear set of expected values as well as a higher purpose, typically company created. It allows the vision of the business to be passed down from the top to the lower leveled employees in efforts to rally the member’s commitment to change. The pros associated with the central question validate that there is no limitation to the extent at which leadership can be taught.
Leadership training is regular, and it allows individuals to learn the best methods for reaching their peers and adequately communicating with them. The pros of leadership training is that there is always new, effective methods being implemented and presented. It allows continuous improvements and adjustments to be made when certain factors of leadership is not effective. Business competencies can be taught, and the constant evolution of training programs ensure that the best methods are being utilized for leadership development. This validates the fact that leadership is a trait that can be taught, and there are no limitations to the extent of which leadership can be qualified.
The cons found in the assessment are firmly hinged upon the fact that characteristics of a successful leader, such as integrity, cannot be taught. Individuals either possess intelligence, initiative, self-assurance, and emotional capacity or they don’t. The economic and social background of individuals also cannot be taught. However, the central question of this research is if leadership can be learned; therefore, the qualities that support a successful leader are not relevant. A leader can be prepared to lead in the capacity that an organization desires, based on a tailored training program that implements the desired skill focus. Leadership can be taught, however the extent of success is still hinged on factors that cannot be learned by the leaders.
The cons of leadership training involves the limitations of qualities that promote the effectiveness of that individual. There are many traits that successful leaders hold which cannot be taught in a classroom. Therefore the training potential for leadership is limitless, however the effectiveness is challenged by how the leader connects and communicates with his peers. The training given to a leader can be extensive, but if that leader lacks the skills to communicate with his peers, the training will be ineffective. The major cons associated with leadership training is that personal skills cannot be taught, they just exist naturally. Section 5: Conclusion
The central research question addressed in this paper is to what extent can leadership be taught? The findings in the paper allow the conclusion to be made that there is not limitation on the scope at which leadership can be learned. The literature review has provided many considerations for leadership training and the extent of its potential success. Leadership is something that can be taught. Businesses are continually finding programs that provide new elements for leader development. Leadership is no longer an individual who dictates the boss’s expectations; it is someone who can communicate with their peers and motivate them to reach the desired end goals. Leadership has evolved, and the new methods for effectiveness are continually being presented.
Virtually every area of concern can be presented to an individual and learned how to be implemented. However, the position of this paper greatly questions the potential success of such leaders because there are many factors of leadership that an individual either possess or they don’t. Leadership concepts such as global competition, information technology, need for flexible and rapid organizations, teams, and various employee needs can be successfully taught. Intelligence, initiative, self-assurance, and emotional resonance is something that an individual possess internally, and is not something that can entirely be taught. There are no limitations to the extent that leadership can be learned, however the success is contingent upon factors that an individual leader personally possesses and strengthens through a thorough training program.


Apaliyah, Godwin T.; Kenneth E. Martin; Stephen P. Gasteyer; Kari Keating; & Kenneth Pigg. (2012). Community leadership development education: promoting civic engagement through human and social capital. Community Development, 43:1, 31-48.
Barker, Richard A. (2001). The Nature of Leadership. Human Relations, Volume 54(4), 469- 494.
Hernez-Broome, and Gina Richard L. Hughe. (2004). Leadership Development: Past, Present, and Future. Human Resource Planning, Volume 27(1), 24-32.
Rowley, Jennifer. (1997). Academic leaders: made or born? Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 29 Iss 3 pp. 78 - 84
Sheppard, Blair and Joe Leboeuf. (2006). Leadership Development Needs of the Business World. Leader to Leader, Volume S1, 7-12.
Sutherland, Neil Christopher Land and Steffen Böhm. (2014). Anti-leadership) in Social Movement Organizations: The case of autonomous grassroots group. Organization, Vol. 21(6) 759 –781.

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