chapter  2
23 Pages


ByMats Alvesson, André Spicer

Given our confidence in leadership, we might assume it would have a clear and distinct meaning. Sadly, this is not the case. A quick look at some of the academic texts on leadership reminds us there is a very broad spectrum of definitions. Yukl (1989: 253) points out that ‘the numerous definitions of leadership that have been proposed appear to have little else in common’ than involving an influence process. Yukl himself tried to bring a little order to this complicated field by defining leadership as ‘influencing task objectives and strategies, influencing commitment and compliance in task behaviour to achieve these objectives, influencing group maintenance and identification, and influencing the culture of an organization’ (p. 253). This definition makes sense but it does not to say that much. Leadership is about influencing a range of things. It seems that even the best definitions of leadership are often so broad and ambiguous that they are of limited value and sometimes become fairly meaningless. It is difficult to establish cognitive control over concepts like of the trickiest). It works more through the associations it ignites.