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. Societies and organizations look up to leaders to help them navigate their environmental circumstances and challenges and become effective and successful in achieving their set goals. Survivability, prosperity, and sustainability are primary goals for any society and organization existing 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 wish to become a successful leader in social and organizational spheres because it helps in understanding what leadership entails and how leaders succeed from the existing knowledge and evidence.

In attending to this critical topic of leadership, a leadership background is provided by explaining what leadership is and what leadership paradigms and worldviews exist. After that, two contrasting leadership perspectives are interrogated, beginning with trait leadership, followed by process leadership. Selected peer-reviewed articles are used to provide insights into leadership background, trait leadership, and process leadership successively. These publications are reviewed to identify any evidentiary gaps that can inspire future studies. In this regard, the findings from the review of the selected literature are consolidated towards a possible piece of research that could 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 powerful in society, its defining worldview has changed over time, commensurate to societal evolution. In this regard, the nature versus nurture debate persists regarding leadership, with one side arguing that leadership is reserved for those that possess unique characteristics that are transmitted genetically across generations, while 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.  Pfeffer (1977) conducted a descriptive study seeking to explain the many problems bedeviling the leadership concept by selecting to address three critical issues; leadership definitional and measurement ambiguity, the relationship between leadership and organizational performance, and the leader selection process. In this regard, Pfeffer (1977) opted to focus on the reactions of people encountering leadership rather than dwell on the effects of leadership. Consequently, the author sought the different perspectives of various researchers presented in primary and secondary sources to compile his review of existing literature.

Pfeffer (1977) used a qualitative secondary study 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 own evidence using a primary study. Consequently, the methodology employed in this study is weak for several reasons. 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. This may explain why the article is structured more like a commentary essay rather than a research article. Secondly, the quality of evidence delivered by this study is unascertainable because its standards are not disclosed in the article.  However, on a positive note, the article reveals the controversial perspectives pervading the existing literature. Besides, the researcher presents the argument logically, which is understandable to an audience of limited scholarly prowess. This comparative and simplified approach is helpful to a novice leadership apprentice seeking to understand the leadership concept.

The significant findings presented in this study focus on research and analytical approaches used to study leadership. These findings indicate that analytical inconsistencies and challenges undermine the study of leadership and its processes. The researcher argued that there existed mythological underpinning that 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 study is ranked as having level VII quality of evidence. Nonetheless, this study revealed a methodological challenge as the research gap undermining the proper understanding of the leadership phenomenon was evident. However, this research can be improved by reformulating it through a more precise articulation of the research questions and methodological approaches.

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 the definitional aspect. Although this article resembles that by Pfeffer (1977) in that both researchers address the definitional challenges of the leadership concept, Silva (2016) narrows his focus on generating a definition that would fit the modern context. In this regard, Silva (2016) achieved a commendable outcome by answering an identifiable research question, which challenged Pfeffer (1977). Silva (2016) conducted a qualitative secondary research, but like Pfeffer (1977), he did not disclose the nature, size, and inclusion-exclusion criteria for his sample. Nonetheless, what is notable is that Silva (2016) used sources, some of which are more recent than those reviewed by Pfeffer (1977). However, this article suffers a similar fate to Pfeffer (1977) regarding the low quality of evidence, despite it being more recent. In other words, this study is ranked at level VII evidence because it presented opinions from authorities quoted from secondary sources.

The strengths of the source by Silva (2016) are premised on its realization of the intended outcome and structural organization. Specifically, Silva (2016) managed to formulate a comprehensive definition of leadership that accounted for the different perspectives presented in the literature. His definition suggests that leadership has two overarching conceptualizations; as a trait and as a process as well (Silva, 2016). Therefore, this study provides relevant foundational information interrogating trait and process leadership intended in this review. However, the limitations degrading this study include the lack of methodological clarity, making it difficult to replicate the study or vouch for its quality. Overcoming these weaknesses requires improved structuring of the study methodology by systematically reviewing carefully selected literature using identifiable sampling and inclusion strategies. Nonetheless, this study reveals the need to interrogate leadership from a broader perspective that accommodates the diverse paradigms and settings existing 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 and already evidenced that effective and successful leaders possess certain characteristics that are absent in ineffective leaders or other non-leading individuals. This leadership paradigm originates from the belief that specific 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 thunderous effects of the industrial revolution, its conceptualization and theoretical foundations have evolved over time 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. Zaccaro (2007) and Nichols (2016) provide some insights into the conceptualizations of trait leadership that may shed light onto 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’, which is aptly titled to reflect the discussion presented therein. He traces the historical evolution of the concept and explains that when the concept 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, although it still did not explain leadership performance and effectiveness exclusively.

The methodological approach is not clarified in this article, although it is implied that Zaccaro (2007) relied on secondary sources to ground his arguments. This is a critical methodological weakness that undermines the validity of the study and lowers the quality of evidence of the article as a scholarly piece. Consequently, the evidence quality of this study is level VII because of its heavy reliance on the opinions of authorities presented in the secondary sources. However, the study has notable strengths in that it achieved its intended purpose of defining and explaining trait leadership by providing a broader definition of the concept. In this aspect, Zaccaro (2007) goes beyond explaining traits as inheritable characteristics to being a set of personal attributes explaining leadership in a diverse group and organizational circumstances. The most significant finding of Zaccaro (2007) is that leadership traits should be combined with personal leadership attributes to explain and predict leadership behavior and outcomes adequately, and that their combined effects are better explainers of leadership rather than the individual considerations of multiple traits alone. Nonetheless, 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. He recommends that future studies should employ 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. Is 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 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.  The weakness of this study lies in its lack of country specificity despite having a level VI quality of evidence. Therefore, this study can be improved by defining a specific setting. Nonetheless, these weaknesses reveal research gaps that invite further research. In this regard, a significant gap is in the lack of country-specific and setting-specific studies regarding perceptions of trait and process leadership.

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 leadership creates 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. Her methodological approach is not succinctly explained, although she apparently used a secondary qualitative research approach in which she utilized secondary sources to advance her comparative arguments. This methodological weakness lowers the quality of evidence to level VII, categorizing it as a collection of authoritative opinions.

Uhl-Bien (2006) found that relationships are the recent forms of leadership, which is now viewed more as a social interactive process rather than a leadership characteristic. In this regard, Uhl-Bien (2006) explained that leadership had evolved from focusing on the attributes of a leader towards the interactive social process between leaders and their followership. The significant strength of this study is its extensive theoretical discussion, which provides a philosophical foundation for leadership. Several theories have been carefully selected to compare and contrast the traditional and contemporary viewpoints of relational leadership, with the later standpoint emphasizing the process aspect of leadership. Additionally, the researcher develops a relational leadership theory to explain the current process leadership paradigm. However, this study is weakened by the lack of methodological specificity in which sampling of sources and their inclusion criteria is not disclosed, despite having a discernable research question. Consequently, the quality of evidence is rated at level VII because the study is a collection of opinions from expert authorities. Consequently, the study could be improved by having a succinct methodological structure and a prescribed setting. The research gap that emerges from this study is there is insufficient evidence on the theoretical foundations of process leadership as the emerging leadership paradigm in contemporary social and organizational settings. 

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 leaders and followers are created through a social identification process involving claiming and granting these roles in an organizational setting. Although this study does not explicitly outline its methodological approach, a secondary qualitative study approach is implied from the collection of different authoritative perspectives.  The study came up with 11 propositions explaining the process through which leaders are identified and assigned leadership roles, and how this is an interactive social process, as its major findings.

The strength of the study is its extensive explanation of the leadership identity construction process, which expands the viewpoints regarding process leadership. The study also delves extensively into the future research opportunities identified from this study. This enables readers to easily identify the prospects for future studies to help fill the knowledge and evidence gaps exposed in this study. The outstanding weaknesses of the study are 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 explained how these sources were sampled, selected, and analyzed to yield the study findings. Therefore, this study can be improved by employing a structured methodology premised on a specified study approach and design. The evident gap in knowledge is the lack of first-hand perspectives to support the theoretical claims of the leadership identity construction and development processes.

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 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, the served an exploratory 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. 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. 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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