Effective Leadership

Leadership is definitely a complex notion that involves many aspects with many applications and details. Although this notion has appeared quite a long time ago, still there is no exact definition of it. Leadership requires personal approach, and it is impossible to become a really good leader just based on the well-known rules and without uniqueness. It is important to remain authentic in every sphere, though the world often makes us less unique and often alike. Leadership has definitely become an integral part of the society and its gradual development. Every day we are surrounded by numerous people, and in order to avoid chaos and frequent disputes, there should be some leader who can manage the whole situation and show the best direction. We live in the world of numerous innovations and technologies, and still it is impossible to cope without a powerful and skillful person who can show the correct way out.

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Every person lives according to a particular philosophy that is usually based on certain historical patterns. Socrates and Machiavelli certainly belong to the list of the most distinguished philosophers, and their studies and lives are often perceived as role-models. Both Socrates and Machiavelli provide their readers with useful guidelines in order to succeed and become noble and remarkable leaders. Socrates and Machiavelli have quite different views of effective leadership as Socrates makes an emphasis on the necessity of enlightenment to rule, and Machiavelli views a good leader as the one, who maintains power and is feared.

Both philosophers agree that every aspect of our life including religion, business, politics, etc. requires the interference of a leader. Although the exact actions of various leaders can differ, still, the main idea and the most general characteristics are the same. In information society, discussion is very much about people looking for charismatic leaders who can provide meaning in life and reduce modern uncertainties, at the same time as social structures become more horizontal, and time as well as distance is disappearing. However, all societies, no matter where, are asking for leaders in their own terms, exerting their function in their own environment.

Moral values are valued highly in any society because of their significance in shaping visions of individuals, organizations or institutions. Leaders with moral values develop clear visions of the future they prefer to be associated with not only their organizational, but also for the societies from which they originate. Therefore, it is important to have a vision that reflects moral values and incorporates personal and organizational perspectives. Socrates and Machiavelli discussed a great number of topics in their studies such as for instance citizenship, leadership, and authority. However, I would like to focus attention on the way these distinguished philosophers imagined effective leadership. It is important not only to analyze their studies and works, but also analyze their individuality as many people listened and keep listening to their guidelines and thus accept them as true leaders. It is important to pay attention not only to their philosophy and doctrines, but also to their lives as every doctrine is inseparable from the man and the man is even greater than the doctrine. It is of a particular interest not only to study and analyze the works of these two distinguished philosophers, but also to finds out what features of character and behavior helped them become patterns to the ancient world.

Socrates was a philosopher, an intellectual: his great, indeed his only interests in life were science and studies. But he and his works make an impression of something much more than a mere thinker. What is uncommon is the union of great intellect and great moral force in one man. Then there was his teaching. Socrates teaching is very interesting as he tried to appeal to the emotions and gradually bring truth to light. His teaching surely impressed many people and his idea “to clear people’s minds of error and lead them to see things as they really are” changed many lives.

Socrates was sure that balance and stability were very important for every society and every state and in case they are lost the whole state with its citizens may suffer. Moreover, in his opinion leaders in such type of a state do not require special training and the main goal and task for them is to be good at communicating with people and creating friendly and fruitful relations with them. Socrates believed that the purpose of every effective and real leader is to gradually cultivate and discover the potential of his followers. He used the metaphor of a physician tending to the sick, and he stated that “the physician possesses special knowledge and talents and then uses this knowledge to benefit the rest of the society”.

Apart from being himself a leader of ideas Socrates was the first person to ask some of the key questions about the nature of leadership. As a citizen-in-arms he served with distinction in at least three campaigns, but the greater part of his life he devoted to philosophical discussion. Socrates set himself the task of clarifying for himself and other men current issues of political and moral life.

The tendency of people to follow a leader who knows what to do is strengthened in a time of crisis. In a discussion with Pericles, son of the famous statesman, which took place when an army from the Greek state of Boeotia was threatening Athens, Socrates made the additional point that such a crisis should be more to an effective leader’s liking than a period of ease and prosperity, for it is easier to make things happen. He illustrated this point with a favourite analogy, the behaviour of sailors at sea, and stated that a good leader can bring confidence and make sailors more attentive and “amenable to discipline”.

For Socrates and his school, as exemplified by Plato, knowledge is the main gateway to leadership. We can trace here the beginnings of a major theme in the Western tradition of leadership. The desire for educated rulers, governors or leaders, men and women with an authority based on knowledge and experience rather than those who relied upon birth, title or position, would encourage the establishment of schools and universities.

He also believed that the leader is expected to be a person of the moment. This means that the leader should be a person whose attention is in the present in everything he or she does. The leader should also to be a person that is humanistic. This is the only way that he/she could make a rational judgment when considering which contribution should be included in the decision to be made. The integration may not only be done at the decision-making stage, but also at the implementation stage. This model is therefore likely to result in teamwork. Real leader should be always ready to make some changes and help his followers and team find new direction and follow it. Besides, in order to attain leadership effectiveness, it is necessary to consider the basic personality characteristics that both the leader and the group members should obtain and gradually improve in order to collaborate successfully. Moreover, leadership is also considered to be an equivalent to such aspects as dynamism, vibrancy and charisma; management with hierarchy, equilibrium and control, and some other features.

For Socrates grounded authority in having the knowledge appropriate to the situation in which those concerned found themselves. In such circumstances as producing wool, he says, “women govern the men because they know how to do it and men do not”. In other words, the principle that ‘authority flows from the one who knows’ applied impartially to women as well as men. But when Socrates turned on to his other tack — arguing that leadership consists of general abilities and qualities, functional activities meeting human need which can be transferred from one working situation to another — he is silent on women. There is no suggestion, for example, that a woman who managed men in making wool could learn to take command of a Greek war trireme.

As for Niccolo Machiavelli, he is a well-known politician who wrote a book with the title “The Prince” and this book had a great impact on his legacy. After this event his name became associated with such notions as cunning and corruption in politics. The main reasons of such an attitude are a harsh attitude to the voting irregularities of third world proportions and the relations with the opponents. Such a behavior was quite criticized because many third world countries are trying to create successful and fruitful relations with the leading nations in modern ‘proper’ democracy.

Machiavelli can be called a teacher of wickedness as he was the first example of such a behavior and he explained it is his book. After that there were many events that proved that such a right as freedom of speech could be transformed and used in order to disgrace a political opponent. Some organizations specially hired a person in order to perform such a role of a provocative. However, there is also an opinion that it is a myth that Machiavelli preferred authoritarian rule to democratic or republican rule. In fact he supported representative government, but he believed that his book “The Prince” can help him to earn favor with the Medici ruler.

Moreover, ideas and political thoughts of Machiavelli are often called Machiavellian’ and this notion contains only negative and offensive connotation. If somebody is called Machiavellian’ nowadays it means that his principles in conducting work are highly criticized. Some of the academics consider Machiavelli to be not only a teacher of wickedness, but also a teacher of “evil”. However, there are some politicians and academics that think that the negative side of Machiavelli was quite exaggerated and such factors as the historical and political setting that was characteristic for that time and some of the peculiar traits of his personality were neglected and caused serious misunderstanding.

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