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The Emergence of a Leader

Looking at world history, identify two situations that led to the emergence of a leader. Examine which situational factors led to the emergence of that leader.

Situational Factors

In addition to qualities of the leader and characteristics of followers, many situational factors influence the leadership process. The following is a discussion of important situational factors, including the size of the organization, the social and psychological climate, patterns of employment, and the type, place, and purpose of work performed. Also included is a discussion of leader-follower compatibility.

■ Size of the organization. Studies show that the size of an organization demands a certain type of leadership skill. A small organization needs a leader who is both a salesperson and a production manager. Outside the organization, the leader is the organization's chief advocate, personally meeting with clients and winning their loyalty. On the inside, the leader organizes the work, assigns tasks, coaches employees, and evaluates progress. In contrast, the leader of a large organization devotes efforts primarily to the organization's public image and its investment and growth plans. Leaders of large organizations think in broad terms about the community and the marketplace, considering how the organization can be placed best in both.

■ Social and psychological climate. Social and psychological factors such as confusion, anxiety, and despair can also influence the leadership process. Consider pre-World War II Germany, where a great depression and the inactivity of the people seemed intolerable:

The streets of German towns were full of millions of unemployed waiting for the dole, which was scarcely sufficient to provide for the indispensable needs of daily life. These observations were common to everyone who lived in Germany during the years preceding Hitler's advent to power. The lack of such an important educational factor as compulsory military service on the one hand, and the plague of unemployment on the other, produced their inevitable consequences in the slope of a deplorable moral relaxation and in a not less deplorable decrease of patriotism. In these circumstances that were ripe for leadership, Adolf Hitler came to power.

■ Patterns of employment. In his book The Age of Unreason, management author Charles Handy describes how contemporary patterns of work are changing in fundamental ways. He describes the "shamrock" organization, in which there are three workforces supporting an organization, but only one leaf of the shamrock is permanent and full-time; the other two are (1) part-time or temporary or both, and (2) independent workers and contractors who form alliances with the organization to perform specified tasks. Handy describes how the seemingly unusual work assignments of our day- working at home, flextime, independent contractors, networks of professionals, associations, virtual offices and companies, and the like-are part of a new pattern of work that adds to the challenge of leadership.

■ Type, place, and purpose of work. The type of work to be done is an important factor in the leadership process. Leadership studies show that, in general, when the work to be done is clear-cut, routine, or monotonous, a nondirective and supportive approach is best. If work duties are defined loosely, a directive and task orientation is needed until roles, responsibilities, and relationships are clarified. Also important is the context of place and purpose. Where is the setting, and whatis the goal? Is the place the farm, the factory, or the lab? Is the purpose selling or serving? Is the task shipbuilding or singing? What is the challenge-starting a
business or minding the store? All these factors of the situation have tremendous influence on who will light the path and how bright the light will be.

Solution Preview

Think about all of the pivotal movements and moments in history throughout the world, as you are studying world history. One such example as a situation that led ot the emergence of a leader is the Civil ...