Understanding All Aspects of Leadership – 20 Different Perspectives on Leadership

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    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, Ph.D., Authenticity Consulting, LLC.

    Great Confusion About the Term “Leadership” Today

    Discussions about aspects of leadership today have become so frequent and impassioned that they have become almost evangelical in tone. Leading is a very human activity — everyone’s human — so everyone’s got lots of advice about leading. Leadership development has almost become spiritual development, rather than professional development.

    In our advice, we associate any desirable trait with what leaders should be. It’s difficult to publish a book about business with the term “leadership” in the title. While this trend has reminded us of the critical importance of leadership and sometimes greatly inspired us to greater
    achievements in life and work, it also has diffused the concept of leadership to the extent that the term has become almost useless in really helping people to become more effective in organizations.

    Leadership Cube (TM)

    Different people tend to talk about leadership from many different perspectives and not even realize that they are doing so. It is very simplistic to generalize about leadership as if the term applies the same way in every situation. Understanding the concept of leadership requires more than reading a few articles or fantasizing about what great leaders should be. To really understand leadership, one must understand the “Leadership Cube.” The Cube represents at least 20 different perspectives on leadership.

    The Cube includes the following dimensions:
    1) five domains of leadership
    2) two contexts of leadership
    3) two orientations of leadership

    Imagine each of these 3 dimensions along one side of a box, or cube. That would produce a cube with 20 smaller cells (5 times 2 times 2 = 20). Each of the 20 cells represents a unique perspective on leadership. You might consider some or all of the cells the next time that you use the term “leadership” in your studies, writings, research, discussions, etc.

    Five Domains of Leadership


    Relevant Leadership Skills

    Leading yourself Time management, stress management, assertiveness, etc.
    Leading other individuals Coaching, mentoring, delegating, etc.
    Leading other groups Meeting management, facilitation skills, etc.
    Leading organizations Strategic planning, Balanced Scorecard, etc.
    Leading communities, societies, etc. Community organizing, political skills, etc.

    Two Contexts of Leadership


    Focus of Context

    Roles Board Chair, Chief Executive Officer, executive roles, etc.
    Traits Charismatic, influential, ethical, etc.

    Two Orientations of Leadership

    (see NOTE below)


    Leadership Values

    Results-oriented Timeliness, efficiency, work direction, authority, etc.
    Relationship-oriented Participation, empowerment, relationships, etc.

    NOTE: The orientation of leadership is adapted from the Hersey-Blanchard situational model of leadership in “Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources”, Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982.

    Learn More in the Library’s Blog Related to Leadership

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blog which has 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.

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