The Science of LeadershipLeadership has been practised by mankind since time immemorial and over the years many have attempted to perfect the definition of leadership only to end up even more confused and lost.
There is a saying that when something no longer works you should just return to the basics. This article is intended to do just that, take you back to the basics; not to relearn leadership all over again but to understand and appreciate its pure essence and how we seem to have taken that essence for granted.
What is leadership – not as a matter of opinion but as a matter of science?

Over time, Leadership has been defined in various ways. It might even be safe to say that there are presently far too many definitions to the point of marring the true meaning of Leadership.
To understand leadership from a scientific point of view one must look at the leader and the followers. It goes without saying that there can be no leaders without followers, but not all followers follow the leader in the same manner. Unwilling followers have to follow due to the formal authority of the leader, willing followers on the other hand choose to follow even though the leader doesn’t have any formal authority.
That difference is what ultimately defines leadership. As human beings, we abide by certain universal principles that make us like and get along with some people more than others. These people seem to know just the right thing to say and do that makes them more appealing so that others actually choose to trust and follow them.
It all boils down to human behaviour and interaction. The better you understand how these principles work the better you’ll be able to influence people around you.
The science in leadership comes down to the necessary knowledge and skill but also very importantly the ability to influence the human behaviour and response of the followers to choose to follow the leader.
Some are born leaders while others get the opportunity to be groomed as leaders. Does either one have an edge over the other?
Well, this question has long been deliberated and debated around the world by psychologists, educationalists, behavioural analysts, coaches and just about any other professional who impacts human behaviour, growth and development. Let’s break down the components shall we?
Talented leaders are born with unique strengths and traits that enable them to “lead off the cuff”. They are often envied for their natural people skills and the ease with which they handle everyone, even the more difficult personalities. Alternatively, developed leaders have to work more diligently and be prepared to settle with lower effectiveness compared to their natural-born counterparts – the talented leaders – as their acquired competencies may not be naturally in sync with their own personalities and attributes.
From this basic comparison, it may, at first glance, seem that born leaders have an edge over those groomed for leadership but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The natural-born talented ones, having it easy all through their lives at getting people to do what they want, very often lose out due to their complacency and their “I know it all” attitude, remaining in their comfort zone throughout their lives. The groomed developed leaders though, having learnt many of their lessons in leadership the hard way, are more ready to take on life’s challenges and strive to continuously improve themselves making them more skilled at leading as they grow older.
The ultimate pinnacle for every leader however has to be how many lives he has touched to make better with the embodiment of time-tested leadership principles of humility, empathy, advancement, relationship and trust. The edge then has to be not where the leader began but in all the good he has done for his followers through his life’s journey.
How does an employer spot potential leadership material?
It all depends on what the employer is looking for in the potential leader…what function or role will the leader assume, the level of seniority in the organisation, how large the followership is…that type of assessment.
On a broad perspective however, there are some underlying traits that all leaders must possess, the most significant being commanding respect and trust from their followers. High potential leaders do this by exhibiting in-depth prowess in knowing what to do, when to do it, how to do it and who to rope in to get the desired results. They know just how to pull out all the stops and employ articulation, speaking, listening, thinking, delegating, planning, coaching and various other skills to get the job done.
I hope this article has provoked a thought or two on the basic values of leadership…what it really means to be a leader, how leaders come about and what makes them tick. What new revelations has it helped you uncover on the intrinsic essence of leadership?


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