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Leadership, Community, and Virtue

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Journal article

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Augustine of Hippo, the 5th century philosopher and Father of the Church, noted that one knows what time is until asked to define it. Leadership may resist definition in the same way. But can one really comprehend something without being able to define it Thus, I offer this succinct definition leadership is the ability to inspire appropriate action beyond the expectable. While this denotation is unlikely to find its way into the academic literature on the subject, it serves as a point of departure for looking at leadership. If some action or conduct is routine, ordinary, and predictable -- that is, expectable in every sense -- leadership is very likely unnecessary. It is in the nature of leadership to offer something beyond the expectable. If a group of people may be expected, for instance, to achieve a desirable outcome regardless of leadership, one might fairly assume that, with effective leadership, the same group might be able to achieve even greater things. Thus, leadership contributes to success on the margins -- it is value added. One might think of it as yeast that has a positive catalytic effect. Most definitions of leadership contain synonyms. One thesaurus gives direction, guidance, instruction, administration, authority, command, control, domination, superiority, and supremacy, which are all very useful terms. But nouns dodge a very critical adjectival question How do we separate good leadership from bad The definition proposed herein emphasizes that leaders inspire appropriate correct, fitting, suitable, rightful conduct. Leadership that promotes inappropriate incorrect or wrongful conduct may be tyranny, despotism, or dictatorship, but it is not genuine leadership, which one takes to be a positive influence. Therefore, leadership inspires appropriate conduct beyond the expectable. That is, I contend, what leadership does. But if that is what leadership does, how does it do it

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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