Articles about Leadership Course

Articles about Leadership Course

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Articles about Leadership Course

Leadership is a critical aspect of social and organizational management. The topic of leadership is important because societies and organizations look up to leaders to help them navigate their environmental circumstances and challenges to be effective and successful in achieving their set goals. Survivability, prosperity, and sustainability are primary goals for any society and organization in a highly competitive environment characterized by rapid, unpredictable, and sometimes radical changes. Therefore leadership is a pertinent topic for any scholar and professional who wishes to become a successful leader in social and organizational spheres. It helps to explain what leadership entails and how leaders succeed from the existing knowledge and evidence. This report focuses on two contrasting leadership paradigms; trait leadership and process leadership.

In attending to this critical topic of leadership, I will first present a leadership background by explaining what leadership is and what leadership paradigms and worldviews exist. Next, I will discuss trait leadership. After that, I will delve into process leadership. I have selected peer-reviewed articles to provide insights into leadership background, trait leadership, and process leadership successively. These publications are reviewed to identify evidentiary gaps that can inspire future studies. In this regard, the findings from the review of the selected literature revealed several possible studies that need to be conducted in the future.

Leadership Background

Leadership is critical in organizing a group of people because it is about the ability to influence and guide others towards a goal. Therefore, leadership must have some form of followership to exert its influence. Leadership can be possessed by an individual or organization, and the followership may comprise a group of individuals, organizations, or industry. Although it is generally accepted that leadership is characterized by a form of a social contract between the more powerful and less influential members of society, its defining worldview has changed over time, commensurate to societal evolution. In this regard, the nature versus nurture debate persists regarding leadership. One side argues that leadership is reserved for those with unique characteristics transmitted genetically across generations. In contrast, others hold that leadership can be acquired through training and experiential learning, meaning that anybody and everybody has leadership potential. In addition, although leadership is generally accepted as a process of influencing others regardless of whether there exists a formally-delegated leader or not, a leader may possess a wider variety of capabilities that remain a topic of discussion to date regarding their effectiveness. The articles by Pfeffer (1977) and Silva (2016) provide insights that clarify some foundational and underlying aspects of leadership.

1st Source

Pfeffer’s article is titled ‘the ambiguity of leadership’, which aptly captures the problematic conceptualization of leadership and its contradictions. This article is appropriate because it addresses the perennial challenge of leadership definition, which has transformed over time. The enduring debate addressed here is that while leaders can be chosen and trained, their environment can be manipulated to make leaders and organizations effective. In this regard, the article is interesting because it addresses this paradox by posing three questions regarding the leadership concept; why the leadership concept and its measurement ambiguous, what effects leadership has on organizational outcomes, why the leadership selection process uses irrelevant criteria, considering such as approach influenced existing leadership theories.

The article’s quality is high when considering the explanations and arguments it makes in answering the questions posed. The article discusses the definition of the leadership concept extensively and explains the ambiguity therein. Pfeffer (1977) discusses the areas of agreement and disagreement from the perspectives presented in various literature and points out the controversial issues yet to be resolved. Consequently, the author sought the different views of multiple researchers presented in primary and secondary sources to compile his review of existing literature. However, the article is of low quality methodologically because it lacks an explicit description of the study. Consequently, the overall quality of the article is low when rated according to the quality of its evidence and methodology. In this regard, the article is rated at evidence level VII because it provides evidence gathered from the opinions of published authorities rather than employing a rigorous research design and methodology.

The methodology used by Pfeffer (1977) is qualitative using secondary sources. The author uses 56 secondary sources to consolidate the existing evidence and knowledge about the definition of leadership, leadership-organizational performance nexus, and the leader selection process. This means that this study relies on the evidence of other researchers rather than generating its evidence using a primary study. Consequently, the methodology employed in this study is weak for several reasons, which raise several issues of concern. Firstly, although the researcher utilizes existing publications to present his explanation and arguments, the study lacks procedural and methodological fidelity because it does not describe the number of sources used or how they were sampled and selected, and from where they were obtained. Consequently, the study cannot be replicated by other researchers or the quality of its evidence ascertained conclusively. Secondly, the quality of evidence delivered by this study is unascertainable because its standards are not disclosed in the article. Accordingly, the article’s weaknesses are associated with its lack of methodological rigor and openness and the absence of the structure of well-conducted studies. Specifically, the article does not have sections addressing the research aims, objectives and questions, sampling and selection criteria, data analysis, and discussion. 

However, the author identifies a gap requiring further interrogation, which would be the next step, based on the information presented.  The paper presented findings indicating that analytical inconsistencies and challenges undermined the study of leadership and its processes. The researcher argued that mythological underpinnings challenged the formulation of researchable questions about leadership and produced inconsistent perspectives from in-group members interacting directly with leadership and external observers. Therefore, the proposed research should pay attention to methodological and analytical rigor to deliver higher levels of evidence and better quality of findings. This is because methodology and analysis demonstrate the quality of a study, and the credibility and validity of its findings.

2nd Source

Similarly, Silva (2016) addresses the definitional aspect of leadership in his article ‘what is leadership?’, which is aptly titled to reflect his emphasis on addressing the definitional challenge. Although this article resembles that of Pfeffer (1977) in that both researchers address the definitional challenges of the leadership concept, Silva (2016) narrows his focus to generating a definition that would fit the modern context, hoping that the process of expounding on the formulated definition would enhance the understanding of the leadership concept. Therefore, this article is appropriate because it addresses the enduring challenge of defining the leadership concept. Without a proper and agreeable definition, conducting studies interrogating the leadership concept may be undermined. Similarly, the article is interesting because it summarizes the evolution of the definitions of leadership and generates a comprehensive one that captures the complex and diverse worldviews. In this regard, it addresses the gaps related to the challenge of understanding existing definitions and applying them in various contemporary settings.

Altogether, the article is of low quality based on its level of evidence. According to the levels of evidence, this article is ranked at level VII because it compiles evidence from the opinions of published authorities rather than the researcher conducting a primary study. This is because Silva (2016) conducted a qualitative secondary research, but did not disclose the nature, size, and inclusion-exclusion criteria for his sample. From these observations, this article’s weakness emanates from the lack of methodological clarity, making it difficult to replicate the study or vouch for its findings’ credibility and validity.

 Nonetheless, regarding the next step informed by the comprehensive definition of the leadership concept provided in this paper, the use of that definition to investigate trait and process leadership is appropriate. The emerging research proposal would be informed by the modern leadership concept, in which the leader, followers, and the context are critical considerations, with the process of leadership being an imperative definition of the concept. The proposed research proposal should be informed by the need to interrogate leadership from a broader perspective that considers the diverse paradigms and settings in contemporary social and business environments.     

Traits Leadership

Leadership is directly linked to personality and a specified set of personal characteristics. Therefore, it is widely believed that effective and successful leaders possess specific characteristics that are absent in ineffective leaders or other non-leading individuals. This leadership paradigm originates from the belief that particular individuals possess inheritable characteristics or traits that cannot be acquired by any other means other than genetic transmission across generations, which has been the foundational perspective upholding monarchism. In other words, trait leadership advocated the notion that certain innate qualities are requisite for leadership, and only a select few individuals possess such attributes, capacities, and characteristics. However, although the concept of trait leadership was conjured in the early 19th century as one of the significant effects of the industrial revolution, its conceptualization and theoretical foundations have evolved as the definitions of traits have changed alongside. Traits are generally viewed to be closely related to personality characteristics, and the ongoing debate is whether traits can be developed through training and experiential learning or not.  Consequently, trait leadership is premised on the trait theory of leadership, which identifies and defines specific traits that contribute to the different leadership styles observed today. The big five theory of personality is combined with the 16 unique personality types obtained from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to broaden the trait theory of leadership. Zaccaro (2007) and Nichols (2016) provide some insights into the conceptualizations of trait leadership that may shed light on some of the debates and controversies that cloud the concept.

1st Source

Zaccaro (2007) elaborately explains the concept of trait leadership in his article, ‘trait-based perspectives of leadership’, aptly titled to reflect the paper’s focus. The article traces the historical evolution of the trait leadership concept and explains that when it debuted in scientific interrogation, it gained wide acceptance among leadership scholars in the 1800s. However, Zaccaro (2007) noted that the trait-based leadership perspective was abandoned after the 1950s because it did not account for the effectiveness of leaders in social and organizational spheres. The popularity of the trait concept reemerged in the 1980s following emerging empirical research findings, which recognized the role of situational circumstances in explaining leadership behaviors. However, it still did not demostrate leadership performance and effectiveness exclusively. This article is appropriate and exciting because it addresses an age-old leadership theory still relevant today. Also, it addresses the gap in understanding which leadership traits are more influential to leadership practices and performance and the different factors influencing the effectiveness of different leaders based on their traits.

The quality of the article is low because its methodological approach is not clarified, and its structure does not reflect the structure of a well-constructed research article. This is because the paper lacks defined sections addressing the study’s justification, methodology, and data analysis. Subsequently, the quality of the paper is low, rated at level VII of evidence, despite presenting valuable insights into the concept of trait leadership.

The author uses secondary qualitative research as the study’s methodology. He has relied exclusively on the opinions presented in secondary sources to build his argument and justifications. However, this methodological approach raises some pertinent concerns. For instance, the research question or objectives of the study are not clarified. Therefore, one cannot be sure of what the study was addressing, at a glance. Similarly, the sampling and selection of the secondary sources is not explained. Therefore, replicating the study would be challenging. Indeed, these concerns reflect the weakness of the article, indicating a lack of structural integrity associated with a properly-constructed research paper.

However, from the knowledge emerging from the paper, a next step can be discerned. Zaccaro (2007) confesses that explaining leadership using traits alone remains elusive, thus inviting further studies, which is the emerging research gap that needs to be addressed by future research and considered in the emerging research proposal. This proposal should consider including innovative and statistical approaches that provide an improved means of defining leadership and its effectiveness. 

2nd Source

Nichols (2016) investigated the individual traits preferred by leaders and how these preferences were influenced by past leadership experiences. His study was appropriately titled ‘what do people desire in their leaders? The effect of leadership experience on desired leadership traits’ to reflect the focus of the researcher. Although the study does not explain exhaustively what leadership traits are, it categorizes that as two opposing distinctions; dominance and cooperation leadership traits. This article is appropriate because it provides an external perspective of desirable leaders. Besides, it is interesting because it delves into a study that has been rarely conducted and therefore, has scanty published evidence. Specifically, the study sought to find out which leadership traits are preferred by leaders with different leadership experiences. This study addressed a glaring gap in the common understanding of leadership, which is whether leaders have preferred leadership traits and how their preferences are influenced by their leadership experience. The proposition was that experienced leaders lead towards certain leadership behaviors that are different from those preferred by novice ones.

The quality of this article is low, particularly regarding its level of evidence, which is rated at level VI. This rating is assigned to studies conducted as single qualitative and descriptive researches because their evidence is obtained from one setting or instance. This study is methodologically sound because a qualitative study approach grounding the survey design is described with sufficient detail that enables the replication of the study by other researchers. The research has a specific research question, four hypotheses, and a well-structured methodology section, which are significant strengths of this study. The researcher randomly invited participants through an online website customized for conducting online surveys, which attracts participants globally using monetary incentives to those that successfully completed the online questionnaire. A global sample of 195 participants with leadership experience ranging from none to holding up to 16 leadership positions revealed their preferred leadership traits from the 12 dominance and cooperative leadership traits presented in the survey instrument. Statistical analyses were conducted to demonstrate the effects of and correlations between variables.  Despite these strengths, the weakness of this study is its lack of country specificity. This raises concerns that its findings cannot be generalized or extrapolated to specific countries with unique factors that may influence leadership perceptions.

The next step inspired by this study would be to conduct country-specific studies that would reveals the peculiarities and influences of national cultures on the perceptions of leadership traits. This would suit the emerging research proposal, which would be conducted in the United Arab Emirates, a country led by a hereditary monarchy and where trait leadership theory is deeply entrenched.

Process Leadership

Process leadership challenges trait leadership in that it views leadership as a competence that can be acquired rather than being innately possessed. In this regard, process leadership is regarded as an interactive event between the leadership and followership in which leadership is availed widely to everybody instead of being restricted to those that possess certain traits. Consequently, process leadership is anchored in the notion that leadership can be observed and learned, and therefore individuals can be trained to become leaders. In turn, process leaders create conditions that allow other individuals to acquire leadership competencies and capabilities, and succeed as leaders. Therefore, process leadership is premised on the process theory of leadership, which underscores the importance of the relational process of the leader-follower interaction in developing leadership among individuals that possess and do not possess any special leadership attributes. The articles by Uhl-Bien (2006) and DeRue and Ashford (2010) were selected to provide insights into process leadership.

1st Source

Uhl-Bien (2006) investigated the relational perspective of leadership through her articles, Relational leadership theory: Exploring the social processes of leadership and organizing, which aptly captures her focus on exploring the theoretical explanations of leadership as a social process. The author explains exhaustively what relational leadership is using two perspectives; the entity and the relational viewpoints. This study is appropriate because it addressing an emergent leadership paradigm, which views leadership as a process rather as a leader’s characteristic. Similarly, it is interesting because it sought to generate and overarching theory that combined two contradicting perspectives of process leadership; entity and relational leadership perspectives. This is an innovative use of existing concepts to generate a pragmatic theory that recognizes organizational realities in contemporary settings, which is an enduring gap when attempting to understand modern leadership approaches.

The study is of low quality because it is rated at level VII of evidence. Its evidentiary rating is lowered by the lack of a succinctly explained methodology and the use of secondary sources. The secondary qualitative research approach was the methodology used, which is weak because it relies squarely on the opinions of other authorities instead of generating primary data. The issues of concern include the lack of a detailed methodological explanation, despite explaining several theories underpinning the process leadership perspective. Similarly, the paper lack an elaborate structure signposting the different aspects of the study, like the research question and objectives, a methodology section, and a data sampling and analysis segment, to help one follow how the study was conducted.

However, despite these weaknesses, the study revealed a research gap that informs the next step based on the relational and contextual aspects about process leadership that were revealed. The numerous theories reviewed and the relational leadership theory generated would form a basis for researching about process leadership in the United Arab Emirates. The new theory needs to be tested in country-specific settings, which are scanty in the existing literature.   

2nd Source

DeRue and Ashford (2010) investigated how leadership and followership identities are claimed and granted through relational processes. Their article, ‘who will lead and who will follow? A social process of leadership identity construction in organizations’ explains that leaders and followers are created through a social identification process involving claiming and granting these roles in an organizational setting. This study is appropriate because it addresses an emerging leadership paradigm, that of leadership as a process. However, this concept is subjective because its explanation varies with the leadership perspectives adopted by the researchers and how they understand the leadership process. Also, it is interesting because it approaches a complex concept in a different light, that of understanding leadership as an identity construction process in and organizational setting. DeRue and Ashford (2010) addressed the gap in understanding process leadership, which is a relatively new way of viewing leadership, and thus scantily studied.

The paper is of low quality because it does not meet the standards of a well-designed research. Its evidence rating is low; at level VII, because it collates the different opinions from other studies without generating any primary data. Therefore, the study uses a review of the literature methodology, characteristic of secondary qualitative studies. This paper raises methodological concerns due to its lack of a structured research approach and methodology. Consequently, the outstanding weakness of the study is its lack of a clear methodological process and structure, although the study appears to be situated in an organizational setting. Although the study clearly leverages secondary sources to support the authors’ arguments and propositions, it is not explain how these sources were sampled, selected, and analyzed to yield the study findings. Nonetheless, the next step elucidated by this paper would be to understand the cultural influence of the leadership identity assignment process. From the emerging knowledge, in which leaders are identified and developed in a social interactive process in organizations, it would be interesting to find out the role that culture plays in this process. The cultural influences of leadership identity creation and development can form the basis of interrogating process leadership in the United Arab Emirates, which is a consideration for the emerging research proposal. No known studies on this subject have been conducted in that country yet.   

Comparing and Contrasting Trait and Process Leadership

After understanding what leadership entails in the contemporary organization from the background reviewed, it is possible to compare and contrast the trait theory of leadership and the process theory of leadership. Accordingly, process leadership is superior to trait leadership because it not only recognizes the unique characteristics possessed by successful leaders in organizations, but also explains the flexibility of leadership attributes based on their suitability for different circumstances and situations in diverse settings. DeRue and Ashford (2010) argues that leadership emerges organically in organizational settings as the members recognize and assigns leadership credentials through a social interactive process. Uhl-Bien (2006) reinforced this standpoint through the relational perspective of leadership that explains that leaders emerge following a social construction process. From this premise, although leaders may be assigned leadership positions in organizations, they become true leaders only when they are accepted by the organization’s membership.

Research Gap and Opportunity

The sources reviewed revealed knowledge and evidence gaps that could direct future research efforts on the topic of trait and process leadership. Although the quality of evidence presented in the six articles was ranked lowly at level VII because they lacked methodological rigor, except for that by Nichols (2016) in which the methodological approach in the qualitative survey was well articulated and structured, they served an exploratory and descriptive role in providing an overview of existing evidence regarding trait and relational leadership. In addition, all studies helped to identify prospective research opportunities. Specifically, they indicated that there were gaps in evidence from specific settings, such as country-based and organizational-based or industry-based settings, and the need for more rigorous methodologies. Therefore, there lacked a multiplicity of perspectives that were regional or country-specific. Consequently, a clear research opportunity is in investigating what the perspectives and application about trait and process leadership are in the United Arab Emirates using a well-designed qualitative study with a rigorous methodology. This could be the first study in this topic conducted in the United Arab Emirates, which could inspire similar research in specific countries and industries in the future. 


Understanding leadership is an onerous task for any leadership scholar and practitioner, considering that leadership theory and practice are fast evolving, and their application setting are transforming rapidly as well. Consequently, there is an urgent need to invigorate research activities that are commensurate with these rapid changes to generate sufficient evidence that can support effective leadership practice across different organizational settings. The studies considered in this analysis provide valuable background information on existing evidence, where gaps lie, and the research opportunities that exist. In this analysis of six peer-reviewed journal articles, the emerging gaps were in the lack of theoretical foundations, specific settings, and rigorous methodological approaches that could inform industry-wide and country-wide application of new and emerging leadership styles. Consequently, a research opportunity in conducting a study in the United Arab Emirates investigating the perspectives about and application of trait and process leadership was identified. 


DeRue, D. S., & Ashford, S. J. (2010). Who will lead and who will follow? A social process of leadership identity construction in organizations. Academy of management review35(4), 627-647.

Nichols, A. L. (2016). What do people desire in their leaders? The effect of leadership experience on desired leadership traits. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 37(5), 658-671.

Pfeffer, J. (1977). The ambiguity of leadership. Academy of Management Review2(1), 104-112.

Silva, A. (2016). What is leadership? Journal of Business Studies Quarterly8(1), 1-6.

Uhl-Bien, M. (2006). Relational leadership theory: Exploring the social processes of leadership and organizing. The Leadership Quarterly17(6), 654-676.

Zaccaro, S. J. (2007). Trait-based perspectives of leadership. American Psychologist62(1), 6-16.

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