All About Leadership

  • Extensive guidelines for leading oneself, other individuals, groups and organizations

Comprehensive, practical book by Carter McNamara
Leadership and Supervision in Business - Book Cover

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision in Business and Field Guide to Leadership and Supervision for Nonprofit Staff.

Leading is about setting direction and ensuring that that direction is followed. Leading can apply to leading oneself, other individuals, groups, organizations and societies. The nature of how leading is done depends on the context of the situation, one one's perspective, and on the nature and needs of those involved. There is a rich history and body of research regarding leadership. This module aims to make that accessible to you.

The following topics are very closely related to this topic: Leadership Development, Management and Supervision .

Sections of This Topic Include

--- How to Approach This Topic (and Its Relationship to Leadership Development)
--- What's a Leadership Theory vs. Model vs. Style?
Definitions of Leadership
--- Views That There is a Difference Between Leading and Managing
--- View That Separating Leading and Managing Can Be Destructive
Major Leadership Theories, Models, Traits and Styles
--- Major Theories
--- Major Models and Approaches
--- Conventional Traits and Styles
Different Domains of Leadership and Competencies / Qualities Needed in Each
--- Understanding Leadership Competencies and Qualities
--- Understanding and Using Competency Models
--- Core Competencies to Lead in Any Domain
--- Domain: Leading Yourself
--- Domain: Leading Other Individuals
--- Domain: Leading Small Groups and Teams
--- Domain: Leading Large Groups and Organizations
--- Domain: Leading Communities
Miscellaneous Topics and Perspectives in Leadership
--- Miscellaneous Topics
--- Miscellaneous Perspectives

Also see
Related Library Topics

Also See the Library's Blogs Related to Leadership

In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which have posts related to Leadership. Scan down the blog's page to see various posts. Also see the section "Recent Blog Posts" in the sidebar of the blog or click on "next" near the bottom of a post in the blog.

Library's Leadership Blog
Library's Supervision Blog


How to Approach This Topic

Leadership -- Very Human Activity -- and as Diverse and Robust as any Human Activity

Many people today are seeking to understand -- and many people are writing about -- the concepts and practices of leadership. There are a great many reasons for the strong popularity of the topic, including that people, groups and organizations are faced with changes like never before. Effective leadership is required to understand and navigate through the many changes.

There has been an explosion of literature about leadership lately. Leading is a very human activity -- we're all human -- so there are many people who consider themselves experts on leadership. Unfortunately, many people make strong assertions about leadership without ever really understanding a great deal about leadership. Understanding leadership requires more than reading a few articles or fantasizing about what great leaders should be. The contents of this topic aim to give the reader a broad understanding of the background, contexts and approaches to leadership.

The reader might best be served to explore the topic of leadership by:

  1. First, by getting a basic sense of the system of an organization, including its functions and roles, and how they are integrated. See the topic Introduction to Organizations.
  2. Next, get a basic sense of the functions of management (leading is one of them) and how they are integrated in order to lead an organization. See the topic Introduction to Management.
  3. Next, scan the topics in this topic of leadership in order to realize that there are definitions of leadership, different theories and models and traits of leadership, and different domains of leadership -- each domain requiring different competencies or qualities in order to lead in that domain.
  4. Finally, get a sense for how your abilities in leadership can be developed in an informal or formal way. See the topic Leadership Development.

Learn How to Read Literature About Leadership

Before you proceed to understand more about leadership, you might read about:
Leadership Cube -- The Many Dimensions of Leadership
Guidelines to Understanding Literature About Leadership

NOTE: Some people use the term "leadership" (the capability to lead) to refer to governance or executive management (both are roles in an organization). If you're seeking information about those roles, see Chief Executive Role and/or Boards of Directors.

What's a Leadership Theory vs. Model vs. Style?

Leadership is often explained by using these terms. In the context of explaining leadership, the terms can be quite confusing because they are used interchangeably. Here's how you might think of them.

  • A philosophy is a broad, general belief or set of beliefs. For example, many describe "servant leadership" as a philosophy or practice (there's more about servant leadership in this Library topic).
  • A theory is a suggestion or speculation about why something is occurring and it might be based on a variety of philosophies, i.e., "when this happens, then the following happens" or "in this situation, the following is best to have or to do ." For example, the traits theory suggests that certain features are needed in someone to be a great leader.
  • A model is description of how something happens or should happen - it often is depiction of a certain theory. For example, the Situational Leadership Model (Blanchard and Hershey) depicts a situational theory of leadership, and depicts when to tell, sell, participate or delegate.
  • A style is the nature of how someone acts when enacting a certain theory or model, e.g., to be autocratic, participative or laissez-fair (hands off) in leadership style.


Definitions of Leadership

Many people believe that leadership is simply being the first, biggest or most powerful. Leadership in organizations has a different and more meaningful definition. Very simply put, a leader is interpreted as someone who sets direction in an effort and influences people to follow that direction -- the people can be oneself, another individual, a group, an organization or a community. How they set that direction and influence people depends on a variety of factors that we'll consider later on below.

Here's another definition:
Leadership Defined
Concepts of Leadership
Leadership in the Next Millennium
Leadership (an Introduction)

To really comprehend the "territory" of leadership, you should briefly scan some of the major theories, notice various styles of leadership and review some of the suggested traits and characteristics that leaders should have. The rest of this library should help you in this regard.

Is Leading Different than Managing? (Pros and Cons)

Traditional views of management associate it with four major functions: planning, organizing, leading and controlling/coordinating. However, many educators, practitioners and writers disagree with this traditional view.

Views that Leading is Different Than Managing

The following articles offer views different from the traditional view that leading is a major function of management.
Management Styles (says they're different and compares different traits)
The View From the Front Line
Management vs. Leadership
Manage Things, Lead People
Leadership Transitions
Maintaining the Delicate Balance Between Leadership and Management

View That Separating "Leading" from "Managing" Can Be Destructive

Another view is that to be a very effective member of an organization (whether executive, middle manager, or entry-level worker), you need skills in the functions of planning, organizing, leading and coordinating activities -- the key is you need to be able to emphasize different skills at different times.

Yes, leading is different than planning, organizing and coordinating because leading is focused on influencing people, while the other functions are focused on "resources" in addition to people. But that difference is not enough to claim that "leading is different than managing" any more than one can claim that "planning is different than managing" or "organizing is different than managing".

The assertion that "leading is different than managing" -- and the ways that these assertions are made -- can cultivate the view that the activities of planning, organizing and coordinating are somehow less important than leading. The assertion can also convince others that they are grand and gifted leaders who can ignore the mere activities of planning, organizing and coordinating -- they can leave these lesser activities to others with less important things to do in the organization. This view can leave carnage in organizations. Read:
Founder's Syndrome -- How Organizations Suffer -- and Can Recover


Major Theories

Overview of Major Theories

There are also numerous theories about leadership, or about carrying out the role of leader, e.g., servant leader, democratic leader, principle-centered leader, group-man theory, great-man theory, traits theory, visionary leader, total leader, situational leader, etc. The following articles provides brief overview of key theories. See
Leadership Theories
Leadership Theories
Leadership Theories
Leadership Theories

Behavioral Theory

Behavioral Theory
Behavioral Theories of Leadership

Contingency Theory

Contingency Theory (Wikipedia)
What Is the Contingency Theory of Leadership?

Functional Theory

Functional Theory of Leadership
Functional Theory

Great Man Theory

Great Man Theory
Great Man Theory of Leadership

Situational Theory

Situational Leadership Theory
Different Types of Leadership: Prescriptive & Situational
Situational Theory of Leadership

Trait Theory

Trait Theory
What is the Trait Theory of Leadership

Transactional Theory

Transactional Leadership
Transactional Leadership

Transformational Theory

What is Transformational Leadership?
Does Transformational Leadership Make a Difference?
Transformational Leadership: What are the Differences that Make a Difference?
Does Transformational Leadership Make a Difference?

Major Models and Approaches

Overview of Leadership Approaches

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive Leadership
Adaptive Leadership in Action - A Civic Leadership Coaching Scenario
What is Adaptive Leadership?
The Nature of Adaptive Leadership
Adaptability and Resiliency in Leadership
Lessons in Adaptive Strategy
Leading Adaptive Change
Adaptive Strain: Seeing the Need for Change
Making Change Your Ally
The Role of Adaptive Change Leader
Skills for Leading the Fall
Taking the Fall without becoming the “Fall Guy”

Appreciative Leadership

Appreciative Leadership
Leadership: Appreciative Leadership
Appreciation for Appreciative Leadership
Practice of Appreciative Leadership

Also see
Appreciative Inquiry

Authentic Leadership

Authentic Leadership Can Be Bad Leadership
Authentic Leadership – Dare to Be Yourself

Also see

Charismatic Leadership

What is Charismatic Leadership?
Charismatic Leadership: The Elusive Factor in Organizational Effectiveness

Dynamic Leadership

Introduction to Dynamical Leadership by Royce Holladay
Leading Dynamically: Achieve What Others Say is Impossible

Heroic Leadership

Center for Heroic Leadership

The Problem With Heroic Leaders

Also see
Is Transformational Leadership Overly Heroic?
Are We Really Just Looking for Leaders to Save Us From Ourselves?

Participative Leadership

The Advantages of Participative Leadership
Participative Leadership

Servant Leadership

What is Servant Leadership?
Servant Leadership (Wikipedia)

Systems and Complexity Leadership

Leadership and Systems Thinking
Dancing with the Butterfly - Part I (systems view of leading yourself)
Dancing With the Butterfly II - Leading and Working in Complex Human Systems
Dancing With the Butterfly III — How We Experience Human Systems
Dancing with the Butterfly IV
Dancing with the Butterfly-V
Coaching Leaders -- A Systems Approach
Leading the Dynamic between Complexity and Clarity
Leading the Dynamic between Uncertainty and Understanding

Also see
the "Unleashing the Power" series in the section Leading Yourself
Systems Thinking

VUCA Leadership

VUCA - A Leadership Dilemma
VUCA Prime - A Leader's Response
Leading the Dynamic between Volatility and Vision
Leading the Dynamic between Ambiguity and Agility
Using VUCA -- VUCA Prime
Leading a Dilemma
Turbulence or Designed Instability?

Also see
Chaos Theory
Systems Thinking

Conventional Traits and Styles

Overview of Conventional Styles

Leadership Styles
Adapt your leadership style
Are you an Innovator, an Entrepreneur, or a Manager?
Are You a Crisis Manager?

Autocratic Leadership

Advantages and Disadvantages of Autocratic Leadership Style
Is Autocratic Leadership Relevant Today?
Culture, Cars, and Leadership

Democratic Leadership

Democratic Leadership (advantages and disadvantages)
Democratic Leadership Style

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-Faire Leadership: A Definition
What is Laissez-Faire Leadership?


Understanding Leadership Competencies and Qualities

Challenge of Identifying Competencies Needed by Leaders

The particular competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities) or qualities that a person needs in order to lead at a particular time in an organization depend on a variety of factors, including:
1) Whether that person is leading one other individual, a group or a large organization;
2) The extent of leadership skills that person already has;
3) That person's basic nature and values (competencies should be chosen that are in accordance with that nature and those values);
4) Whether the group or organization is for-profit or nonprofit, new or long-established, and large or small;
5) The particular culture (or values and associated behaviors) of whomever is being led.

The above considerations can make it very challenging when trying to determine what competencies someone should have in order to be a better leader. Perhaps that's why leadership training programs in institutions typically assert a set of standard competencies, for example, decision making, problem solving, managing power and influence, and building trust.

Don't Get Hung Up On Categories -- Different People Will Categorize Topics Differently

If the reader had the opportunity to review a variety of leadership development programs, he or she would notice a wide variety of approaches to categorizing topics. Don't get hung up on the "right" way to categorize the topics.

Competencies Are Cumulative from Leading Individuals to Organizations

Leading in successively larger contexts (from individuals to groups to organization-wide efforts) requires successively larger sets of competencies. For example, "core" competencies are the minimum needed in leading others, whether other individuals, in groups or organization-wide efforts. To really be effective at leading other individuals, one should have the core competencies plus certain other competencies to lead individuals, etc

Understanding and Using Competency Models

A competency model is an integrated approach, a framework, that can be used to identify the competencies (new knowledge, skills and abilities) and qualities required by leadership in various contexts. Consider the following articles.

How to Develop a Leadership Competency Model
Leadership Competencies for the Common Good
Leadership Competencies

Core Competencies to Lead In Any Domain

Whether you're leading yourself, others, teams, organizations or communities, there are certain skills that you need to have. Certainly, there's a wide variety of perspectives on which skills to have, but most people would probably believe the following are necessary. Other core competencies are listed later on in this overall topic, especially in regard to certain domains.

Decision making -- setting a course of action
Planning -- Basics (establishing goals and how they will be reached)
Problem Solving (analyzing alternatives and selecting a course of action)
Ethics and Social Responsibility (how to do the right thing in any situation)
Creativity and Innovation (how to think out-of-the-box)
Systems Thinking (seeing larger structures and patterns in processes of groups and organizations)

Domain: Leading Yourself

Setting Direction

Career Development (includes several topics, for example, career planning, finding jobs, etc.)
Personal Development (includes several topics, for example, assessments, setting goals, etc.)

Effectively Leading Yourself

Personal Productivity (includes several topics, for example, decision making, problem solving, etc.)
Personal Wellness (includes several topics, for example, self-confidence, assertiveness, etc.)
Most Forgotten Type of Leadership - Self-Leadership

Also Consider

Managing Yourself

Unleashing the Power of your Story-I
Unleashing the Power of your Story-II
Unleashing the Power of your Story-III
Unleashing the Power of your Story-IV
Unleashing the Power of your Story-V
Unleashing the Power of your Story-VI
Your Leadership Story
Unleashing the Power of Your Story
Unleashing the Power of your Story Leadership for Our Era

Also see
The "Butterfly" series in the subsection "Systems-Based Leadership" in the section Major Models and Approaches.

Domain: Leading Other Individuals

Remember that the competencies and qualities to lead other individuals require that a person can effectively lead themselves. So be sure to read the above section on leading yourself. The activities in leading other individuals often is referred to as Supervision, so that topic also might be useful to you.

Setting Direction (depending on the situation)

Establishing Performance Goals

Various Methods of Influencing Individuals

Work Directing

"Advanced" -- Effectively Leading Other Individuals

Building Trust
Communications (face-to-face)
Conflict (Managing Interpersonal Conflict)
Handling Difficult People
Motivating Others
Managing Power and Influence
Sharing Feedback
Diversity and Inclusion
Leading from all 4Quadrants

Also consider:

Basic Overview of Supervision
Basic Guide to Management and Supervision.
Who do you serve?
How to Get Involved Without Micromanaging People
Employee Commitment: Get Rid of “It’s Not My Job!”
Summary Principles for Staying Sane When Leading Others
How Does a Young New, Supervisor Lead?
Career Transition: From Technical Expert to Effective People Manager
Creating the Container for Connection
Just 3 Rules

Domain: Leading Groups and Teams

Note that some experts believe that the dynamics of a collection of about 12 people or less is quite different than a collection of 12 or more -- 12 or more becomes more like what we think of as an "organization" with a distinct culture. Many people think of a "team" as apart from a group -- they think of a team as a collection of people with a specific purpose and organized to achieve certain goals.

Remember that the competencies and qualities that are required to lead groups and teams also require that a person can effectively lead themselves and other individuals. So be sure to read the above sections about those topics.

Methods of Influencing Groups

Group-Based Problem Solving and Decision Making
Meeting Management
Project Management

"Advanced" -- Effectively Leading Groups

Conflict Management in Groups
Group Dynamics (basics about nature of groups, stages of group development, etc)
Systems Thinking (seeing larger structures and patterns in processes of groups and organizations)
Team Building

Domain: Leading Large Groups and Organizations

Remember that the competencies and qualities that are required to lead organizations also require that a person can effectively lead themselves, other individuals, and groups and teams. So be sure to read the above sections about those topics.

Setting Direction

Strategic Analysis (environmental scan and SWOT analysis)
Strategic Direction (mission, vision, values and goals)

Methods of Influence

Organizational Performance Management (includes numerous methods and movements)

"Advanced" -- Effectively Leading in Organizations

Guidelines, Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
Organizational Communications
Leading Change - Part 1
Leadership Competencies and Change - Part 2
Leading a Dilemma
Leading Change
Leading from all 4Quadrants

Domain: Leading Communities

Remember that the competencies and qualities that are required to lead communities also require that a person can effectively lead themselves, other individuals, groups and teams, and organizations. So be sure to read the above sections about those topics.

Community Organizing (includes many links)


Miscellaneous Topics in Leadership

Women in Leadership

Women, Power, and Leadership
Women and Senior Organizational Leadership
Women in Leadership
The Greatly Exaggerated Demise of Heroic Leadership: Gender, Power, and the Myth of the Female Advantage
Women Leading Change

Unconventional Views of Leadership

Is Transformational Leadership Overly Heroic?
Are We Really Just Looking for Leaders to Save Us From Ourselves?

Leading Nonprofits

The vast majority of guidelines about leading for-profit and government organizations also apply to nonprofits, so do consider the above information in this topic.

Capacity Building in Nonprofits
Leading a Nonprofit Organization

Cultivating Meaning

Leadership and the Quest for Meaning

Miscellaneous Perspectives on Leadership

Before reading and of the following, it's important to get a sense of the overall "territory" of leadership, so be sure to at least scan the sections of topics (listed at the top of this page). There is a great deal of anecdotal information about leadership -- much of it more in the realm of spiritual development than leadership. It's insufficient to learn about leadership merely by reading a few articles.

New Paradigm in Management (including in Leadership)
WoT's Hot and WoT's Not: Leadership in the Next Millennium
'Do As I Say, Not As I Do' Doesn't Cut It Any More
Don't Wait to See Blood
A Burning Commitment to Our Cause
A Coach's Playbook for Leaders
Sunrise Interrupted: Leadership & Choice-making
Beyond Manipulating and Motivating to Leading and Inspiring
Leaders Give People Space to Grow
Leaders Help People See Beyond What Is to What Could Be
Leadership. Methods, Models and Theories
Leaders Invest in Growing and Developing People
Good Leadership: Nature versus Nurture
Tips for Leadership Impact – Influence Others

A Tale of Two Managers: Command versus Commitment
Building Passion and Commitment the Wal-Mart Way
Growing the Leader in Us
Simma's Seven Step Solution for Successful Inclusive Leadership
Five key points to Strong Leadership (thus a Great Manager)
14 Things a Leader Must Do
Building Better Business Acumen
Leadership Development Introduction: Leadership as Developmental
Feedback and Leadership
The Creative Leadership No-Brainer, Part I
The Creative Leadership No-Brainer, Part II
10 Attributes of a Leader
Three Actions of Leaders
6 Tips to Delivering Customer Value (a Leadership Challenge)
The $125,000 Thank You
Leadership Games
Leadership Pyramid
Supportive Leadership – The 5 Basic Rules
Becoming a Peak Performing Leader Through Flow
Can Leaders Evolve Fast Enough
Spirit Warriors – Leaders for Complex Times
The Freedom to Be Foolish

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