Leadership Journal Diane Ladkin’s Rethinking leadership: A New Look at Old Leadership Questions offers a unique approach to thinking about and discussing leadership. Anyone can simply go to a dictionary and look up the meaning of the word. However, Ladkin is asking the reader to appreciate the reasoning behind the definition…
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It cannot simply be defined in a book like many other words. I had never thought of looking at the idea of leadership from this perspective but that seems to be Ladkin’s goal for the reader. This then leads to the question of defining a leader. A leader is a person – a thing – so it should naturally be easily definable, right? But if we are viewing leadership as a subjective ‘phenomenon,’ it does not seem possible to define a leader without difficulty. I was taken by surprise when Ladkin referred to leadership as a phenomenon. When I think of the word phenomenon I immediately think of an event or occurrence that is drastically out of the ordinary. Leadership and leaders are not something that is rarely seen, at least from a straightforward definition such as Webster’s ‘ability to lead.’ That really is no kind of definition of leadership. It simply requires a definition of the word leader. Leader is defined as ‘a guiding or directing head…’ With these definitions it can easily be stated that leadership and leaders are a constant presence in all aspects of our lives. Anyone who guides a group to some sort of goal is a leader and is practicing leadership. This hardly seems like a phenomenon. Therefore it is necessary to understand the meanings of the work phenomenon. One listing under the word phenomenon listed in Webster’s English Dictionary reads, ‘a remarkable or exceptional person; prodigy; wonder.’ My preconceived notion of what a leader and leadership are hardly seems to be remarkable or exceptional. Yet Ladkin insists they should be viewed as such. So now I am asking myself to identify what qualities in leaders and leadership fit the definition of phenomenon. I now find myself having to reevaluate my preconceptions of leadership because if I choose to only see it as a simple definition in a book, what point is there in even discussing or learning about leadership. If it is not a phenomenon, why is it important? Why is so much time and resources invested in something that is an ordinary occurrence? Therefore, I am inclined to examine further the circumstances in which a person is viewed as a leader or leadership is observed. I do have one concern before reading further. Ladkin is asking the reader to reformulate questions regarding leadership in order to gain a better understanding of the versatility of the word because ‘[d]epending on the kind of phenomenon leadership is, the way we go about defining it may be altered’ (Ladkin 3). If we can reformulate the question of ‘What is leadership?’, can we not reformulate that new question? A question can always be made more specific. I do not wish to linger on this but it seems that while Ladkin makes a very good argument as to why a philosophical approach to leadership should be taken, one must be cautious of the possibility that an endless philosophical debate will ensue. It seems that Ladkin views phenomenon by emphasizing all of its definitions. She mentions love and justice. The above definition is simply the one that applies to people. However, phenomenon can certainly be applied to the two previous words. They can be impressive and extraordinary, depending on an individual’s definition of them. They are subjective, just as leadership is. But what makes them extraordinary. I believe the point Ladkin is making is that because there is a lack of clarity in the definition of terms such as these and the fact that this in itself does not
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