According to M. E. Shaw, “A leader is a group member who exerts more positive influence over others than they exert over him.”
Terry defines Leadership as “the activity of influencing people to strive willingly for mutual objectives.”
According to Maclver and Page, “Leadership is the capacity to persuade people towards a common goal.”
Leadership has a significant role to play in the life of an organization. The success or failure of an organization is greatly dependent upon how the leaders perform their functions. There is no unanimity of opinion as to what the functions of leadership are. Nevertheless, the advocates of democratic leadership feel that the essential function of the leader is to work towards the securing of unity and cohesiveness in the organization. The supporters of the authoritarian view of leadership feel that higher production is the sole purpose for which the leader must work.
Hicks and Gullett have identified the following eight important functions of leadership:
Chester Barnard identifies three main functions of leadership:
To maintain communication in the organization.
To secure essential services from individuals.
To formulate purposes and objectives.
Some of the studies conducted at Ohio State University (U.S.A) have established nine dimensions of leadership functions. However, three of them are unique in nature. These are:
The closeness of the leader to the group. This involves how frequently he interacts with the members, and what his acceptability to the group is.
It is the responsibility of the leader to see that objectives are being achieved.
The leader is to see and work for facilitating effective interaction among the members of the organization.
Generally, the following are regarded as the important functions of leadership:
(1) Determination of Goals- Each organization has its goals. These goals are not automatic. These are to be formulated by the leader. The effectiveness of an organization always depends on the suitability of the objectives of the organization. In determining these, the leadership has to play a crucial role. It formulates concrete goals for securing the objectives.
(2) Interpretation and Transmission of Policies- During the course of activities within the organization, the members are bound to disagree on the course of action to be taken. Such a situation always gives rise to several problems. It is the leader who resolves the problems by interpreting the policies. The leader has to explain the policies to the subordinates as well as prepare them for achieving these.
(3) To give General Orders and Guidelines- It is the duty of the leader to give general orders and guidelines deemed necessary for fulfilling the objectives of the organization. The general orders and guidelines given by the leader are binding on the members of the organization. These are designed to ensure uniformity, collective efforts, and a coordinated approach. This enables the personnel to work together as a team of officials under the leadership.
(4) Coordination- It is an important principle of organization. In any organization, the parts have to work in coordination with each other for producing useful results. Coordination is a technique for drawing together a number of conflicting skills and interests and leading them towards a common end. Leadership has the onerous responsibility of securing coordination in an organization. Only leadership can bring coordination in the different parts or departments or agencies or units.
(5) Stimulating or Motivating Functions- It is the leader who inspires his followers to accept the organizational goals and to work effectively towards their accomplishment. It is the leader who lets his followers feel that their activities are worthwhile and important. Leadership is essential for motivating employees in doing their work effectively, efficiently, and productively.
(6) Appreciating and Praising Function- Praising is also an important function of leadership. Employees need recognition for the work done by them. They want a word of appreciation for the service being rendered by them. Leadership does this through sincere praise by letting their employees know that they are important and that their work is of value. It appreciates their work. The process of drawing out support from the followers for any aim is crucial for the leader. It is only possible when the followers are convinced that their interests and desires are being cared for and their work is being appreciated.
(7) Delegation of Authority to Subordinates- The next important function of a leader, particularly in public organizations, is the capacity to delegate authority to the subordinates for carrying out the desired and essential work. Leadership becomes effective when others are persuaded to accept the assignments given to them and they proceed to carry out their duties.
Leadership performs the essential function of integrating the officials into a team and motivating the team for securing coordinated efforts needed to secure the desired and needed results. Leadership is essential for coordination and effective management of tasks.