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The Leadership Point of View

5 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008  

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

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This note is in introduction on what leadership is. The definition proposed is that real leadership is accomplished by the kind of person who is able to 1) see what needs to be done; 2) understand the underlying forces at play in a situation; 3) initiate action to change things. A person who wants to become a leader in his organization needs to learn and observe as much as possible about the organization and to think about where it should be going. He or she should go beyond his immediate situation to think about this, to have a proactive point of view of the business as a whole.




The task of a great leader is to get his people from where they are to where they have not been. . . . Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision. Those leaders who do not are ultimately judged failures, even though they may be popular at the moment.

—Henry Kissinger

Anyone can take a leadership point of view. It doesn't depend on your title, level, or status in an organization. Whether you do or not is up to you. Your title does not determine whether you will be a leader. To say that the people with the senior titles in an organization are its “leaders” is to misconstrue position with leadership. Clearly, a senior title invites a person to be a leader, but it does not guarantee that the person will fulfill that role. There are many people with titles who are not leaders, and there are many people without titles who are strong leaders.

Society tends to think that people who occupy leadership positions are leaders. If one is a “president,” we think of that person as the leader of the organization. In fact, this may or may not be true. We've all met many people with leadership titles who were not strategic thinkers, who had little influence, and who weren't sure where they were going—or how to get there! Some of the most powerful leaders in history, for example, Mother Theresa, Jesus, and Gandhi, never held titular offices, yet they led millions of people. At the same time, some of the incumbents of the most powerful leadership positions were—and are—viewed as weak or ineffectual leaders with little influence. In the private sector world, boards of directors are constantly reviewing and shuffling incumbents in senior management positions, always looking for someone with strong leadership skills—and removing those whose leadership did not, on some dimension, measure up.

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Keywords: leadership

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G., The Leadership Point of View. Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0791. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=911115

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/clawson.htm

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