Monday, February 2, 2009

Leadership trait or skill?

We’ve often heard astounding leaders being described as ‘born leaders’ or gifted. This topic is quiet relevant in light of the fairly recent inauguration of President Obama. In my Analysis of Educational Issues: Socio-cultural Perspectives class Obama came up in one of our class discussions; we were asked to discuss the predominant factors that led to his victory. The pro Obama students gave responses like: He is a gifted communicator; He involves the people in the decision making; He acknowledges that he is human and gauges the expectations of the public accordingly; his policies are sound. These responses highlight some important skills that a leader must have, the ability to communicate the vision; ability to motivate people; ability to analyze problems, look ahead and devise effective strategies. The big question is do these things come naturally or are there a set of skills that can be learned?

One of the required text for my class “Leadership Theory and Practice” by examines the Skills Approach in Chapter 3. (Yeh, I can tell that I am back at school...referencing all these books and classes )

What does the skill’s approach purport?
  • Leadership involves skills and knowledge that can be learned and is not just based on inherent gifts and attribute.
  • They define Leadership Skills as “The ability to use one’s knowledge and competencies to accomplish a set of goals or objectives.”

Robert Katz is one of the early adopters of the Skills approach to leadership and he proposed a 3 skill approach model, outlined below.

Robert Katz 3 Skill Approach
  • 3 foundation skills are necessary for effective administration
  • The three skills can be summed up as Technical skills: Competence in the skills and knowledge of the content area of the job, Human Skills: knowledge and ability to work with people and Conceptual Skill: Ability to work with ideas, conceptualize the vision of an organization.
  • The type of skill and intensity that is needed varies according to Management level (Top, Middle and Supervisory management) (See Fig 2 below).
  • More information on Katz model

(Fig. 1 Summary of 3 skill approach double click to see larger image)

(Fig 2: Katz 3 Skill Approach based on management level)

Is leadership as clear cut as this approach puts it? How does this approach stand when you think of the Gallup strengths-based findings, which emphasize that we all have strengths and we perform better in capacities that utilize our strengths? In addition, they assert that our time is better spent building on our strengths than our weaknesses. I say this to question if some of these traits that can be learned as proposed by Katz aren’t based on individual inherent strengths. Can everyone be a leader if trained? What are your views and experiences?

In my next blog post I will discuss five components that some other psychologists (Mumford et al) of the Skills Approach school of thought proposed.


Ale Rossi said...

Thank you for sharing such a great information on leadership skills. Everyone should have good leadership skills to handle client or operate business.
Ale Rossi

Alex ken said...

To be an effective leader, you should be confident enough to ensure that other follow your commands.