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Leadership Theory as an Academic Field of Study

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  • Pages: 8
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  • Category: Hamilton

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Leadership can be defined as the act of ruling or governing a group of people or an organization at large. The study of leadership has been gaining popularity since the late 90’s although in actual terms, it has been around since the time of Plato and Socrates. During the late 90’s, leadership began to be integrated into colleges and universities as a course for study. There have been critics over the years who have argued along the lines of leadership not being a teachable ability you can learn in a classroom but it is rather innate. Such critics mostly base their claims on leadership theories such as the authentic leadership theory. This particular theory describes a leader who has natural leadership qualities in them.

However, the fact that leadership theories have been developed over the past century till present give evidence that leadership could indeed be an academic field of study. The study of leadership theories began in the 1940’s with the first study being the Ohio State Leadership Studies. This study sought to establish the observable behavior of leaders instead of looking at personality traits. It was also focused on studying the satisfaction a leader brings to the common needs of those under him. Since then, other studies have been carried out to study leadership and its theories. For instance, the Michigan Leadership Studies of the 1950’s which sought to establish the effective qualities of leaders, and the McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y which was done in the 1960’s.

Christie and Limerick (2010) mention that leadership has overtime been integrated into the business world. This infers that the study of leadership is quite relevant to the business industry, especially since most organizations operate with a leadership structure. Leadership has its significance in the business world. For one, the study of leadership enables individuals to understanding the importance of objective decision making. This particular is key in business especially in times of uncertainty. Employees will look up to the leader to decide the way forward. Leadership study teaches that it is important to review all facts presented from an objective perspective before making a sound decision. Therefore the manager for instance, would have to analyze all facts presented to him and then make a decision. An application of this particular leadership attribute would result in an unbiased decision that will be best for the company.

Additionally, leadership teaches adaptability to change. Hamilton (2017) mentions that the universe of business is an ever-changing one. There are always risks involved in business and with certain market influencing factors, things could go either way for the organization. Leadership teaches that the leader should be able to adapt quickly to the change and make maximum output possible from the situation in order to benefit the company.

Application of the concepts learned in leadership enable increased productivity in the organization. Leadership study teaches that the leader should always have contingencies in store. One of the ways most companies have implemented this fact is through employee leadership training. Companies train their employees to be leaders so that in times of crisis such as short fall in staff, the employees themselves can rise up in position and play the role of leader. This eliminates the need to outsource help therefore productivity is increased within the organization.

Critical Concepts in Leadership

A study of Northouse (2016) reveals that there are certain concepts which are considered important to leadership in any given scenario. In summary they are majorly just concepts that the leader or someone who has studied leadership should demonstrate in their daily interactions. Some of these concepts include vision creation, decision making, establishment of constructive climate, adaptability to change and overcoming obstacles.

A vision is often described as a goal that one intends to achieve within a given time frame. A vision given by a leader could as well serve as a promise for a future with better conditions than the prevailing ones. Sonnenberg (2012) gives qualities that should be aligned with a good vision, such as realistic, believable and compelling. This particular concept is in line with the path goal leadership theory. The leader in this case develops the vision or goal that his people are meant to work towards. However, it is not enough to simply create the goal, the leader also has to find a way to formulate a possible path towards achieving the goal. This concept could also commonly be referred to as management by objective. Therefore a student who has studied a leadership course should be able to apply this concept. Such students could facilitate the implementation of their individual goals by aligning them with the organizations goals. They create the objective, and then motivate the rest to work towards that particular goal. In some ways, this concept employs parts of transformational leadership as well.

The establishment of a constructive environment, however, rhymes more with the qualities of a transformative leader. The transformative leader is usually called upon in times when the company is in need of a new working strategy or plan and they need a leader who could effectively bring around the idea of change but most importantly, motivate the employees that the new venture is just as pliable a field as the previous one. Such leaders bring a positive vibe around them as they mean to motivate employees in order to improve their prevailing conditions. They create the mood for positive energy.

More often than not, transformative leaders are people who are well established in their fields such that they command certain levels of respect from their peers as well as their juniors. With creation of an ambience within the organization, it becomes much easier for co-ordination of activities and productivity is bound to increase. Therefore, I would say that creation of a constructive environment is key to the business. In order to demonstrate this concept, the student needs to be an enthusiast in order to radiate off the rest of the employees in the organization.

Another key concept is decision making which has been hinted on earlier in the work. As a leader, the employees will look up to you to provide an answer in times of crisis. Ramstead (2015) states that making decisions is one of the important roles of the leader in his every day life. In line with the concepts from leadership theories, this particular trait is majorly associated with the authentic leader. This type of leader is usually described as a natural born leader since they usually exhibit innate leadership abilities. The authentic leader is an avid decision maker, who according to Kernis (2003), draws on fair decisions only after objective deliberation and analysis of the work presented to him. The decisions made by such leaders are usually unbiased and meant for the betterment of the company. Therefore, decision making qualifies as a critical concept a student could exhibit in order to show that they can apply concepts taught in the leadership class to real life situations.

Murphy (2015) describes adaptability of a leader as how well he or she can embrace shifts in his professional working environment and make the most out of those shifts. This means that a leader should be able to improve the company effectiveness in relation to any changes that occur. If the change is in favor of the company, then they should make maximum benefits. However, if not, then the damages should be minimized effectively. Students should therefore be able to demonstrate a flexibility level in their dealings to be able to fully implement this concept.

Finally, there is the obstacle overcoming concept. It is expected that in a business, things will not always run in your favor. As you make your gains, you are bound to make a couple of losses as well. This is in high correlation with the decision making part and the adaptability part. Once a challenge has been presented, the leader needs to be courageous enough to make a decision on behalf of the organization. In the event that the decision made yielded bad consequences for the organization, the leader needs to quickly accept the damage and find a way to minimize it, instead of wallowing in failure. Students will therefore have to demonstrate a sense of resilience in order to achieve this. They should know never to give up just because they had one failure.

Biblical Understanding of Leadership Theories

Michale Ayers’ article mentions a conflict that arises between leadership and theology. The article argues that the works of Northouse do not exactly embrace theology in the leadership context. Theology also on the other hand, does not really emphasize on the integration of leadership. The article describes a form of moral or spiritual void present in dysfunctional leaders who chase after ambition only. The article further stresses the need for a convergence or ‘common language’ between the two fields. Additionally, it draws on Greenleaf’s introduction of the servant leadership theory as a building point for the convergence.

This servant leadership theory matches biblical teachings in the gospel regarding service. Mark 10:42-45 states that Jesus said unto his disciples, “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as ransom for many.” (English Standard Version). In this example, Jesus taught that to be a leader is to serve others as well and not expecting to be served. Similarly, servant leadership theory entails serving the people under your authority as leader. Therefore, there seems to be some common ground established between the two fields in terms of servant leadership.

Mele and Fontrodona (2016) bring out a similar argument in terms of leadership and faith integration. They quote that we are meant to ensure humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it. This they originated from biblical teachings of the gospel in Mathew 6:24 which states that’ “You cannot serve both God and wealth.” This was also a teaching of Christ to his disciples. In relation to the quote mentioned earlier, this teaching integrates leadership and faith in a business world. The leader in the business is viewed as the wealth manager, so to say. The words imply that the leader should use what is generated, wealth, in order to serve people and not to use the wealth to rule them. Ruling them could be in the sense that the leader expects to be paid some kind of tribute by the employees for his work to the organization, at the expense of the rest.

Therefore, looking at it from an integrated point of view, the servant leadership theory is the one that is mostly in agreement with the biblical teachings of service as a leader.


  1. Kernis, M.H., (2003). Toward a conceptualization of optimal self-esteem. Psychological inquiry.
  2. Hamilton, A. (2017). Six Reasons Leadership training Should be Important for Every Business. Retrieved from: https://growmap.com/reasons-leadership-training-business/
  3. Newman, D. (2017). Adaptability: The key leadership trait in the digital transformation. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danielnewman/2017/08/01/adaptability-the-key-leadership-trait-in-the-digital-transformation/#1e261cbe4935
  4. Christie, P & Limerick, B. (2010). Leadership as a Field of Study. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0159630042000178536?journalCode=cdis20
  5. Sonnenberg, F. (2012). Leadership: Creating a vision. Retrieved from: https://www.franksonnenbergonline.com/leadership/leadership-creating-a-vision/
  6. Ramstead, J. (2015). Five Core Concepts of Leadership. Retrieved from: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-core-concepts-leadership-john-ramstead
  7. Murphy, P. (2015). Adaptaility: The most valued leadership skill. Retrieved from: https://www.thindifference.com/2015/09/adaptability-the-most-valued-leadership-skill/
  8. Michale, A. (2006). Toward a Theology of Leadership. Journal of Biblical Perspective in Leadership. Retrieved from: https://www.regent.edu/acad/global/publications/jbpl/vol1no1/JBPL_V1No1.pdf
  9. Mele, D. & Fontrodona, J. (2016). Christian Ethics and Spirituality in Leading Business Organizations. Springer Link. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-016-3323-3
  10. Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers, Inc.
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