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Leaders and Leadership: Factors That Influence Leaderships

Part I

Yaniv Shenhav

SWU “Neofit Rilski”



Abstract: The phenomenon of leadership has been observed and researched for roughly 100 years and various scholars have tried to explain its development as well as examine the tools that enable its advancement. This article provides a comprehensive overview and explanation of the leading approaches to leadership research today and covers the Personality Researches and the Trait Approach to Leadership, the Behavioral Approach and Leadership Development, Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, the Situational Approach in Exploring Leadership, Reddin’s Four Style Model, Fiedler’s LPC Situational Dependence Model, Formative Leadership – Leadership’s Full Range Model.

Keywords: Leadership, leadership development, leadership research, approaches to leadership.



1. What is Leadership? A Review of the Leading Approaches to Understanding What Leadership is

A literature review of leadership research in the past 100 years will suggest that the leadership research has mainly engaged in investigating leadership’s influence on subordinates’ views and performance. To this day, most research engaging in leaders’ development processes has relied upon leaders’ testimonies and biographies, as presented by historians who investigated the course of lives of the studied leaders. Most of those studies did not include an actual discussion of the leader’s psychological development, but rather, of the historical setting and circumstances which led to his rise. Other studies, which did discuss the leader’s psychological development, focused upon two main research components. The first component involves a discussion of those leaders who were explored by historians. The second component to those researches is a psychoanalytical examination and the psychological and developmental aspects pertaining to the leader (Amit, Popper et al., 2008).

Research investigation and the attempt to understand and draw insights from it may be categorized by the contexts of its development, effectiveness and efficiency, based upon a variety of approaches, views, or interpretations; in philosophical aspects addressing the leader’s role in relation to the society and the states, through personality or trait researches as well as based upon approaches and studies examining leadership’s effectiveness and efficiency, its sources of power and capability to influence the environment, and the environment it creates.

In the following paper, I will review the leading approaches in leadership research over the past five decades.

James Burns argues that leadership is one of the most extensively observed phenomena in every society, yet the least understood by those investigating it (Burns, 1978). We know much of leaders and their mode of action, but too little of the phenomenon of leadership. The way the term “leader” is defined relies, to a great extent, upon the definition of the term “leadership”, namely, the leader will be the one to fulfill “leadership”, in varying situations but in the same mode. Most articles on the subject matter seldom distinguish the concept of “a leader” from the concept of “leadership”, since they are interconnected. Leadership is impossible without a leader, just as a leader may not exist without having fulfilled leadership, to some extent. However, there is a common categorization which attributes external phenomena to the concept of leadership, in association with its development – environmental, circumstantial, or historical, while the study of the concept of “leader” will seek to explore the leader as an individual, based upon personal development or innate qualities. Hence, leadership is the operation and fulfillment of the actual concept, while the leader will be the person in need, at a given time, to fulfill it.


2. Personality Researches and the Trait Approach to Leadership

The Trait Approach, or “The Great Man Theory”, originates from social psychology, constituting one of the oldest approaches in the field of leadership. It seeks to identify a set of leaders’ qualities, according to which identification of certain qualities in an individual will indicate the presence of leadership. The approach maintains that this “set” of qualities consists of innate leadership qualities, which may be identified at a young age, distinguishing leaders from other people. Relying upon those basic assumptions, the researches sought and examined subjects’ qualities such as initiative, proactiveness, achievement power motivation, masculinity, intelligence, extrovertness. Plus, the basic assumption states that a leader who possesses the qualities which characterize leadership will be a leader in any case. In other words, an individual who possesses the innate qualities set will become a leader at any social situation. This approach has also relied upon the Social Darwinism theory, which argues that the rules of the existence war in nature apply to human society as well. In society, as in nature, the most skilled and talented will survive. Among humans, too, those who possess the more powerful qualities, those associated with leadership, will become leaders. Hence, the process which aims to establish a structure to produce or train leaders will only be of assistance to those who possess innate leadership qualities.

That embarked the way toward the development of instruments for identifying and measuring leaders’ innate qualities. The first scientific research attempting to identify leaders, particularly their qualities, was conducted in 1904. The basic assumption was that leaders who possess that set of qualities will act as leaders at any stage. In order to identify those qualities, children groups and their coping in various social situations were investigated. Terman divided eight year olds into four groups, presenting them with memory, intelligence, and coping games. His research consisted of three stages:

1) Observing the children participating, attempting to identify the leader by examining innovativeness, leading, and the scope to which he served as a role model to the other group members.

2) The researchers approached the children’s teachers, questioning them who they viewed as the leader.

3) The researchers approached the children, questioning them to whom, of the group members they would like to compare.

The analysis of data provided the researchers with evidence that those three dimensions fully correspond to one another. The children identified as leaders by the researchers, were viewed as such by the teachers and by their peers. The following qualities were found in the research: appearance and a higher degree of articulation, relatively to the other children. Thereafter, the groups were re-arranged, thus those who were perceived as leaders were replaced by others who possessed leadership qualities, hence other children would become leaders within the group. It may therefore be concluded that an individual becomes a leader for possessing a quality which the group perceives as leadership-related. The group is the one to determine the leader, and the leader, in turn, should possess a set of leadership qualities, which may facilitate that (Terman, 1904).

Until 1948, more than one hundred and twenty similar researches were conducted, investigating physical and mental qualities, as well as social skills. At this context, it will be interesting to point out that the various researches were not found to correspond, such that one research’s results would sometimes contradict the results of another, and leadership qualities emphasized by one researcher, would not be emphasized by another. Stogdill (1948) was the first to question the Qualities Approach, which relies upon personality tests, after reviewing all researches which had been conducted and published by 1948. He came across the insight that leaderships was independent of a constant set of personal qualities, but upon different components deriving from the setting, time, need, place, and situation the leader faces (Lord, De Vader, Alliger, 1986). Christy and George also argue that the conclusions they drew may rely upon research methodologies which are not sufficient to prove that given qualities are associated with leaders. Zaccaro (2007) further states that the present research’s results were influenced, to a great extent, by the parameters influencing the setting and the leadership which was formed within it.

In a later course, Stogdill (1974) even compiled another review of all researches which had been conducted, coining the term “traits” instead of “qualities”, implying his professional view. Qualities are innate, and may not be learned, while traits constitute a set of instruments which may be acquired, learned, and practiced. Stogdill (1974) distinguished traits from “skills” mentioning several components which are relevant to the development of learned and acquired leadership, such as intense striving for responsibility and task completion, vigor and perseverance in achieving goals, courage, and innovativeness in problem solving, drive to assume initiative in social settings, self-confidence, and sense of personal identity, ability to assume outcomes of a decision, willingness to tolerate interpersonal pressures, willingness to withstand frustrations and delays, ability to influence behavior of others, and skills of forming social connections for determined purposes.

Although the Trait Approach, or “The Great Man Theory” is not a typical approach, and has not been clearly and leadership-specifically proven, even in this day and age personality tests are implemented, and traits are examined within the framework of employment assessment structures, group dynamics, and observations, in an attempt to identify traits, attribute and predict successful performance in various management or leadership roles [1]. Perhaps those, similarly to Zaccaro’s definition (2007), maintaining that leadership may be more effectively examined by combining several traits and characteristics, in various situations, because the examined traits demonstrate a somewhat stable tendency to lead in different ways, as in organizations, or prove to stem from a broader context, such as an inner drive or moral motives (House, 1971).

In his book “Good to Great”, Collins (2001) presents to a greater extent the more modern dimensions of the Trait Approach to leadership, and its application in the business world as well. Similarly to other books he has written, such as “Built to Last” (Collins, 1994), and others, he investigated excelling business companies which succeeded to survive challenging business and economic conditions, in an attempt to characterize organizational and human traits which may account the organization’s survival capability. According to Collins, there are two situations which may bring about a company’s progress:

1) The “Subordinates” Dimension: referring to those employed in the organization. In this case, the successful leader does not establish a vision, but selects the suitable team, which bears the proper traits, and together with them, he establishes a vision, shaping the business and organizational path, leading to success. Thus, the leader’s skill is to select the individuals most suitable for the organization, who possess the most proper and decent traits for organizational success.

2) The “Leader” Dimension: This dimension seeks to present the process, or the traits which may facilitate the development the leader who is suitable for the organization, and in fact presents five stages. Organizations which survived in varying conditions were rewarded with what he refers to as “Fifth Stage Leadership”, hence those leaders possess traits and skills enabling the organization’s success at any case. Let it be emphasized that Collins assigns and portrays a different role to each organizational stage, and various dimensions to its development. A brief review may emphasize the following components of each stage:

Stage One: Portrays a talented individual, who owns knowledge and professionalism, from which he contributes for the organization’s success. He works individually.

Stage Two: The individual becomes a team member. At this stage, an interaction with people and partners who share the same goal occurs. An individual who invests his abilities in favor of the team’s goal, and is able to work with a team, placing the team’s goal before his own.

Stage Three: Referring to the skilled manager who has received a goal or an objective which he has not established, but succeeded in drawing and leading his subordinates to the goal and the process under his responsibility.

Stage Four: Referring to an effective manager, who possesses a vision. The effective leader will possess the ability to connect the employees to his vision and recruit the organizational environment in his favor.

Stage Five: An integrated, highest level manager, who possesses traits of humility and modesty on the one hand. On the other hand, he is resolute and charismatic, with an intense desire to fulfill the goals established.

Fifth stage leaders are those who do not view themselves and their own benefit as the focus of their interaction with the environment, but rather, the benefit of the organizational environment and its goals. They may be characterized as ambitious, but their ambition will not be channeled toward their own promotion, but first and foremost toward the organization and its success. The willpower is manifested by resoluteness and determination to promote the organization, where all employees are involved in its success, not only the one serves as its head, aside from humility and modesty, while assuming responsibility for lack of success, and when damages occur.

Collins states that there are some individuals who possess the traits to become Fifth Stage leaders, while some lack those components. Those who bear the potential to fulfill Fifth Stage leadership may develop it under the appropriate circumstances – introspection, conscious personal development, guidance by a leader of great stature, substantial life experience, and so forth. Thus, it may be concluded that even in this day and age and in the research of the field of organizations, the Trait Approach is still relevant and is further validated in management methods.

Often, the proper “set of trait” for leadership development and application is published in magazines and included in professional training proposals. For example, the American Management Association (AMA, 2013) published on its website “Six Skills That Will Make You a Leader” [2], offering a review and enhancement of traits which may be of assistance to the leader in fulfilling his ability. Some of the traits mentioned are:

A. Leadership: Leadership content development programs.

B. Communication: Message conveying skills, communication and the community, effective communication

C. Leadership and Critical Thinking: Decision making, strategic thinking, and vision planning

D. Collaboration: How to achieve success and leadership through others; leadership by means of emotional intelligence, persuasion and influence techniques

E. Finances: Finances and investments management, budget planning, economic forecasts

F. Project Management: Employing Microsoft technologies, teamwork; project management – summary.

NSW government in Australia, in collaboration with the Australian Business Council developed training and practice courses for those employees who are interested in succeeding in their jobs and become promoted (Springall, 2008). Along with 150 leading employees, combined with research and academic literature, they formulated a list containing seven skills which are essential to develop in order to succeed at work and become promoted:

A. Communication Skills; which contribute to productive relationship with employees and customers.

B. Teamwork Skills, contributing work relations with other employees and customers.

C. Problem Solution Skills; which enhance productiveness of results.

D. Initiative and Leading Skills; inducing innovativeness and productive leadership

E. Independent Learning and Practice Skills; for personal responsibility, independent progress, and productivity.

F. Planning and Organization Skills; contributing to satisfaction within the business environment, managerial environment, and among the customers.

G. Technological Skills; for effective completion of tasks

Based upon those, the government developed courses and training programs for employees, managers, and leaders in a government training school [3] which encounters thousands of students who seek to acquire a set of instruments for success at their work and for a rapid promotion in the organization.

To sum up, the Trait Approach, or “The Great Man Theory”, addresses from its beginning to a set of traits which may not be truly learned or acquired, since they are innate, lasting traits, or present as a potential for an individual who has not yet fulfilled his ability to acquire them. The variety of researches conducted through the years have collected ten thousands of traits relevant to leadership, and the most common critique of this approach is probably the traits’ reliability and research consistency, namely, the traits defined as leadership traits did not repeat in different situations and different times. Furthermore, the “Great Man Theory” focuses on the traits of the leaders themselves, not addressing at all the organizational environment, and neither their subordinates. This approach to research has, in time, lost its dimensions, which were mentioned previously, particularly due to various studies [4], which were conducted early in the 20th century, referring to the environmental aspect and to the employees within sociological, managerial, and leadership processes. Combined together, those established the foundation for a new, or an additional approach, which will allow to investigate the development of leadership based upon the individual’s action, not only based upon his traits, also considering his organizational, human environment. This approach will be titled “The Behavioral Approach”.


4. The Behavioral Approach and Leadership Development

The behavioral approach is based upon learning through conditioning, namely, a process of learning and adopting leadership skills and instruments, which are behavioral instruments, acquired through classical conditioning and operant conditioning, thus given the proper set of stimuli, namely, a positive stimulus, a negative stimulus, and a punishment system, leadership may be induced, molded, and taught. The approach maintains that the stimuli and responses are universal, thus the conditioning set given in the east and in the west do not differ from one another. Rather, the instruments will be available for leadership development in any case. At this point, let it be emphasized that this approach does not address the way leaderships are elected, but the way in which leadership occurs, while addressing leadership’s effectiveness aspect.

In 1939, with World War II in the background, which also involved an ideological conflict between “democratic” and “autocratic” leaderships, three researchers, Lewin, Lippitt, and White (1939) established three working teams consisting of ten year olds. Each group included five boys who painted pictures. Each group was guided by an adult “leader”, who was instructed to act according to the research’s framework. In order to examine the long term effectiveness framework, the children’s teamwork lasted several weeks. The leaders would work by three clear methods. In fact, each method emphasized another situation which allows the development of leadership:

1) The first leadership style was defined as an autocratic, authoritative leader; his leadership style was characterized by clearly establishing policy, work methods, and progress stages. He would even reveal only one step ahead, thereby preserving the vagueness. The authoritative leader was not actively involved at work, was rather dominant while facing the group, and personally provided positive or negative feedbacks. 45% of the statements he made, were orders; 11% were orders interrupting a wish or a child’s act; abundant personal, negative, non-constructive criticism.

2) Democratic Style Leadership led the group through pleasant group processes. The decision making process involved all group members. The whole work plan involved the control components. The democratic leader allowed the group members to choose their working teams, as well as to establish the tasks. The nature of the feedback that leader provided were objective, and he made an effort to demonstrate availability and involvement in accomplishing the tasks and objectives determined within group. 24% percent of all behaviors included guiding suggestions; 16% of the behaviors were a manifestation of encouraging self-guidance; egalitarian attitude toward all members, did not call attention to their leading position. The feedbacks he provided were objective in nature.

3) A “Laissez faire” leader took a side position, allowing the group to act as it wished. The leader allowed the group full freedom in establishing its policy and work methods, or choosing partners. The leadership style with the group merely included providing material and information when requested. The “Laissez faire” leader would not provide feedbacks on a regular basis, and responded by small, spontaneous comments on the boys’ work. 49% percent of the behaviors involved providing information, but not guidance.

The research’s results indicated significant differences in the boys’ behaviors among themselves and their attitude toward the leader. As for the outputs, two main aspects were considered; the output aspect, along with the long-term output aspect. The group output under the leadership of a Laissez faire leader was significantly lower than the outputs demonstrated by the two remaining groups, while the difference between the latter two groups was insignificant, yet tended toward the authoritative group. The matter was mostly manifested in the long term, as it was revealed that in the democratic group, the motivation level was higher, and the boys continued working even in the absence of the democratic leader. Their group consciousness was more developed than the other groups’. In the long term, the output, which increased, was most influenced.

On the other hand, in the group led by an authoritative leader, the boys developed a more dependent, submissive behavior than in the other group, surfacing hatred and hostility, including hostility against “scapegoats”. This hostility resulted in manifestations of self-destruction, work abandonment. The boys openly expressed their satisfaction when the work with the authoritative leader came to an end, and most boys obviously preferred to work with the democratic leader. Presumably, not only does a democratic leadership style affect the group atmosphere, but also on the outputs. Plus, the long term output of such a group may exceed the output of group acting under an authoritative leader.

Similarly to the research presented above, the organizational leadership researcher Likert (1967) investigated the leadership methods by four styles prevailing in organizations:

1) Explotative-Authoritative leadership

2) Benevolent-Authoritative leadership

3) Consultative leadership

4) Democratic leadership

Likert found that the democratic leaders were the most effective ones, and ranking the highest in all of the following four aspects:

1) Granting the employees support, friendship, and attention

2) Group unity, encouraging opinion exchange, group work

3) Focusing upon the goal, encouraging to put forth effort, strictly abiding by standards

4) Encouraging employees as a group toward initiative, work planning and organization.

Explotative-Authoritative leaders were found to rank the lowest in all parameters. Additional researches in economic, industrial, and even military organizations reinforced the conclusion that democratic leadership is most effective at the context of outputs, all of which yielding a series of organizational “democratic leadership” training programs for managers.


5. Ohio and Michigan Researches

In the 1950’s, two universities – Ohio State University, followed by Michigan State University, embarked on many leadership researches, which are perceived as pioneering studies in the behavioral approach research, also focusing in studying leadership aspects through the employees, rather than the managers. In the Ohio researches, subordinates in large organizations, civil organizations, and military organizations were investigated. They were requested to portray the leader’s/manager’s behaviors through questionnaires, which included portrayals of various behaviors (for example, the manager would inform his subordinates when they have done a decent job, or, for instance, conveys clear expectations, expresses concern for the employees as individuals, etc.).

1) Initiating Structure: Task-oriented, engaging in role determination, work arrangements, determining work relations and goal establishment; referred to, at times, as goal- or task-oriented.

2) Consideration: People-oriented, develops mutual trust, expresses respect for subordinates’ ideas, concerned with their feelings, treats everybody as equal, assisting in resolving personal problems; referred to, at times, as “social” or “promotional”.

The earliest Ohio studies were satisfied with identifying leadership styles, and did not engage in the question who of those types will be more effectives until a later course, when the researches investigated effectiveness dimensions, and were convinced of relevant differences. The consideration style was found to be more strongly connected to the individual. It was noticed that the considerate leader’s subordinates were more satisfied with their position, were more motivated, and more respective to the leader. However, when the group or organization effectiveness, or productiveness was examined, the initiating structure leader was found to be more effective. Hence, it may be concluded that both types are effective, but their effectiveness is manifested in different forms.

Simultaneously to Ohio studies, the Michigan studies were conducted, aiming at examining dimensions of effective leadership. Similarly to Ohio studies, the Michigan researchers identified two main leadership styles:

1) Task-oriented leader – similar in character to the Initiating Structure leader, as specified above.

2) People-oriented leader – similar in character to the considerate leader, as specified above.

Contrary to studies which preceded and followed Michigan studies, the latter revealed that the people-oriented leader is more effective also in the group productivity dimension and the satisfaction dimension. In other words, those studies identified a people-oriented leader’s priority.

The studies attempted to address, among other questions, the question whether a leader may be both people- and task-oriented. At this context, the Ohio and Michigan studies were not consensual. The latter referred to both styles as two extremes of the same scale. Namely, a leader may not be both people- and task-oriented. The more task-oriented the leader is, he will be necessarily less people-oriented, and vice versa. In their opinion, the two styles are contradictory in terms of behavior, thus a leader may not be characterized as both. Ohio studies, on the other hand, referred to both styles is independent on one another, hence the leader could have attained high values in both dimensions, low values in both, or high values in one style and low values in the other.


6. Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid

Following the Ohio team, and based upon them, two researchers, Blake and Mouton (1964) developed a leadership style analysis model, titled “The Managerial Grid”, or “The Leadership Grid”, which refers to two dimensions based upon Ohio researches, namely, people-focused or product-focused. Blake and Mouton divided each dimension into nine levels. Eventually, the combination of both dimensions yielded 81 prospective leadership styles. Each of the style’s dimensions is divided into nine levels, forming a “net”, or a “grid”, containing 81 possible leadership types. The following lines will address a few;

The style 9.9 demonstrates a maximum interest on the manager’s part both in output and concern of his subordinates. Managers who are characterized by this style integrate various types of power sources in their belief and behavior, so as to achieve maximum output, yet succeed to express utmost consideration to their employees, and sensitivity to their needs. An agreement between the manager and his subordinates, and his sensitivity toward human needs yield the development of mutual trust and respect. Blake & Mouton refer to this style as “Team Style”;

A manager, who takes style 1.1, will express minimal interest in either output or people. A manager of that style will only act within the framework of minimum output requirements and human needs in his organization. This style is referred to as “The impoverished style”.

Style 5.5 is referred to as “Middle of the road” style, expressing the manager’s tendency to balancing organization’s performance requirements and the need to be considerate of employees’ morale and personal needs.

Style 1.9 expresses a minimal tendency to obtain outputs in the organization, along with a maximum tendency to fulfill human needs and expectation therein. Such a manager will devote most of his attention to his subordinates, and their satisfaction will be held as most important. Blake & Mouton referred to that style as “Country club style”. A manager who is characterized by this style emphasizes the pleasant, positive atmosphere, radiates friendship, etc.

Style 9.1 implies a maximum tendency to aim at obtaining outputs and of a minimum tendency to tend to human needs and problems in the organization. A manager who is characterized by this style will demand compliance with authority, emphasizing that the core of group behavior is task performance and attaining satisfactory outcomes. For this purpose, he will induce working conditions which will facilitate effective executive behavior.

As suggested, the offered model eliminates the limitation posed by the styles continuum, which entails some compromise between them, when the presence of such a limitation causes a certain style to supersede another. The Managerial Grid refines the combination prospects of both styles, based upon the assumption which allows both dimensions a dynamic part.



[1] For example; public service’s admission tests and psychological characterization in various assessment employment structures.

[2] Originally titled “Six skills that will make you indispensable”.

[3] Information regarding the school and the courses offered:

[4] For example, Carey 1967.



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