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Leadership research is a hot field. The results are used to improve educational institutions and businesses. But, many people are still pretty much in the dark about how leadership research works, its primary purpose, history and how results are used. Here are 21 facts you may not know about leadership research.

  1. Leadership research has its roots in tests that filtered out the character traits of leaders as compared to the character traits of followers. Learning what traits natural leaders possessed helped to cement the foundation of further research.
  2. These first analyses took place between 1900 and 1950.
  3. The original research determined that there was no single trait or combination of traits explained the leaders’ abilities.
  4. Many studies have been conducted that examined how situations affected the abilities of leaders.
  5. Leadership studies of the 1970s and 80s focused on the individual characteristics of leaders who had significant impact on their organizations.
  6. Research from the 1970s and 80s determined that while leaders are an essential component of organizations, they are also one of the most complex components.
  7. Certain traits were examined in leaders. These included: intelligence, birth order, socioeconomic status, and child rearing practices.
  8. In 1974, Stodgill, one of the pioneers of leadership research, determined six categories of personal factors associated with leadership: capacity, achievement, responsibility, participation, status and situation. But, even with this discovery, researchers warned that the information was too narrow, saying that no person becomes a leader simply by possessing a certain list of character traits.
  9. The impact of situations on the development of leaders was important during 1970s and 1980s studies, as well. Research determined that the requirements of the setting played an important role in the development of leaders. In other words, to really become a good leader, one must be put in the position of having to step up to the plate.
  10. Many people are capable of being a follower or a leader depending upon the situation they’re put in.
  11. Research has determined that effective leaders are those who are able to address two different kinds of needs within their organizations: efficiency needs and human needs. Good leaders are effective at both planning and implementation tasks and at working with the people in their organizations.
  12. Research by Barnes and Krieger in 1986 determined that previous leadership research was insufficient because it relied on models of one leader/many followers.
  13. According Barnes and Krieger, leadership is more of a reflection of an organization, rather than a person. In other words, in the most successful organizations, leaders’ roles overlap, and different people take on leadership roles at different times.
  14. Barnes and Krieger’s research also focused on teams, rather than individuals as leaders.
  15. Later research began to focus on the trait of vision as an important one for leaders.
  16. Later research also focused on the differences between leaders and managers. The saying was formed that managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right thing.
  17. This research on the leader as compared to the manager helped us to understand that someone who is a good manager will see that the work gets done. Someone who is a good leader will ensure that the work we are doing is what it needs to be. The best executives have both the traits of a manager and of a leader.
  18. Some of the most recent findings on leadership have placed a great deal of emphasis on the fact that good leaders value the human resources at their disposal more highly than less effective leaders.
  19. Transformational leadership is one of the hot terms in leadership research. It is defined as a process by which leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation.
  20. Some of the most recent findings on leadership suggest that today’s leaders are more focused on being prepared to handle worst case scenarios. For example, the Journal of Management Development suggested in a recent article, that today’s leader would never have drilled a deep water oil well in the Gulf of Mexico until they were sure the technology existed to contain it.
  21. The Journal of Leadership Studies recently concluded that the more a company focuses on internal leadership growth, the better its sales, profits and profit margins.

Today, there is a lot of leadership research going on, but it’s difficult to tell how much business organizations really follow the research or use its findings to better their companies.

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