Leadership: Definition, Types & Leadership Qualities

Leadership is the ability to influence the activities of others through the process of communication, towards the attainment of goal (Miller 1985). It is a process where one person exerts social influence over the members of a group (Tilley and House 1969). It is the art or process of influencing people so that they will strive willingly towards the achievement of group goals (Koontz, and Donnel 1983). It is the ability of a superior to influence the behaviour or attitudes of subordinates towards a particular end (Obikeze and Obi 2005). Leadership is the ability to influence the behaviour of others in a group or organization towards the achievement of goals.

Features of leadership

  • Leadership as to do with trying to make subordinates loyal to the course of the leader.
  • A leader must be convinced that something must be done and persuades others to get it done.
  • A leader must have the competence, the skill and understanding to motivate employees towards the achievement of organizational goals.
  • It is a non-coercive activity aimed at influencing group efforts towards achieving organizational goals.
  • It is also a dynamic process.
  • It entails the use of influence and motivation.
  • It is directed at accomplishing organizational goals/group goals.
  • It entails some degree of voluntary compliance by followers.
  • It involves inspiring the group to accomplish organizational goals.
  • Leadership implies that there is followership.
  • It involves unequal use of power and usually exercised in superior-subordinate relationship.

Importance of Effective Leadership in Organization

  • It provides mission and vision for the organization.
  • It provide the base for effective management of conflict in the organization
  • It facilitates progress and inspires the group to accomplish organizational goals.
  • It serves as glue that binds the work group together.
  • It constitutes a catalyst that triggers employee motivation.
  • It provides emotional stability and optimism in organization in times of change and turbulence.
  • Effective leadership results to voluntary compliances to directives or instructions in an organization.

Difference between Managers/Administrators and Leaders

  • Administrators are appointed with the legitimate power to reward or punish subordinates while a leader is either appointed or emerges naturally from within the group and can only influence people by his personal strength not by constituted authority.
  • Administrators have formal authority while leaders do not.
  • Administrators are more concerned with the achievement of organizational goals while leaders are more concerned with people welfare.
  • Administrator could be a leader but a leader may not necessarily be an administrator.
  • Managers adopt impersonal attitudes towards goals while leaders adopt more personal and active attitude towards goal achievement.

Types of Leadership

There are three main types of leadership. They are traditional leadership, qualitative leadership, which is based on personal qualities and legal leadership, which is leadership based on law or derived from the constitution of the land.

Traditional leadership: This type of leadership is based on the custom and traditions of the people. This form of leadership is associated with the stool, tradition or customs of the people. The leader may be seen as God, a divine king, a spiritual head or a representative of the ancestors. The leader is associated with holiness just like the Pope in Roman Catholic. The traditional leader is respected by his subject in turn. Note that the traditional leadership may be imposed by custom and tradition. The traditional leadership in Nigeria are the Alafin, the Oni of Ife, the Oba of Benin, the Ata of Igala, the Etsu of Nupe, the Aku of Jukun, the Obong of Calabar and the Igwe of Igbo people etc. this form of leadership may be hereditary, appointed or selected or imposed by divine powers.

Qualitative leadership: This type of leadership is created by nature, whereby the person possesses rare qualities. A qualitative leader may be selected after an inter community war or after a battle with another tribe, in which the leader exhibited exceptional quality of leadership.

Legal leadership: This type of leadership is based on the provision of the constitution or the law of the land. The constitution usually provides for the age of such leader, the qualities or character he should possess, his citizenship, class, income and other qualities. The leader may be selected by voting and after selection he occupies the position of leadership for a term of years. This type of leadership is backed by law and term of office is limited by law. A leader must be chosen by the people or elected.

A leader who carries the will of the people with him is usually a good leader. The traditional, qualitative and legal leadership must aspire to carry his people along and do what will benefit the society. Note that, despite the types of leadership any leader may ascribe to, a leader must be knowledgeable, wise, assertive, cooperative, adaptable, persistent, tolerant, confident, kind, energetic, honest, charismatic and morally strong. He must not possess all but a combination of the above attributes.

Other types of leadership includes, visionary, charismatic, transformatory, invitational, directive, supportive, participatory servant. A leader must work for collective interest of all either in the short or long run.  A leader who works for the interest of a group or for the selfish interest of a few to undermine the collective interest is a bad leader. But if he works for the interest of a few that will positively impact on the collective interest of majority on the long run, he is a good leader. A good leader must have the Wisdom of Solomon and the foolishness of Absalom put together.

Visionary leader: A leader with a vision is a visionary leader. This is the kind of leadership that is referred to as a philosopher king. The leader must know, articulate and plan his programme for the state. He must select men of good character in his planned programmes. Examples of such leaders are George Washington of America, Ghandhi of india, Chissano of Moszambique etc.

Charismatic leader: A charismatic leader is one who is cherished by the masses or who has massive following. Charismatic leaders are good orators; their speeches are powerful enough to draw legions of followers. Charismatic leader does what pleases the heart of the people.

Transformatory leader: This type of leader seeks to transform the society from an agrarian economy to an industrial one, from a poor state to wealthy society. The transformatory leader looks at the society and seeks to change it for better. A leader who have a transformatory character, looks at the primary factors of development like education (both technical, theoretical and research) civil service, establishment of basic necessities, provisions of roads, water, electricity and provisions of basic necessities of life. A transformatory leader has the desire to transform his society to a better standard in the society of nations.

Invitational leader: An invitational leader is one who opens his hands and invites other members of the society to support and contribute to leadership. This type of leadership lends credence that two heads are better than one. The leadership under him invites supports both technical and artificial from within and without for the good governance of his society. Note that a leader may not use of the advice but must select the best of them in his programmes. A leader that understands the enormous duties and responsibilities of leadership usually invites professionals in their various fields to support his administration. The good advice of the invites is naturally carried out by the leader to achieve his goal.


Ability to communicate: a leader should have the ability to communicate effectively with subordinates. He should as a matter of necessity have the ability to write and talk clearly and forcefully for persuasive, informative and simulative purposes.

Ability to persevere: he should have the ability to endure, work for long hours, intensely apply himself to work, show enthusiasm and have tenacity of purpose.

Ability to inspire: a leader should have the ability to inspire followers to apply their full capacities towards the attainment of set target.

Ability to initiate: a leader should be able to initiate actions and get his group moving.

Ability to understand things fast: a good leader must be able to understand what motivates his subordinates and how to keep them motivated.

Ability to socialize: a good leader must be a social person, friendly and easy to approach.

Ability to teach:  a leader must have the ability to demonstrate how a task should be accomplished, correct mistakes and prepare followers for advancement.

Ability to emphasize: a good leader must have the ability to look at things objectively and understand from another person point of view.