The Sociology of Leadership: Climbing the Ladder

The Sociology of Leadership: Climbing the Ladder

What is the sociology of leadership and how can the analogy of a ladder help us comprehend its intricacies?

Figuratively, a ladder illustrates a series of phases by which one progresses in life while, leadership when simply put, is the act of being a frontier in different areas of life. The road to being an incredible leader isn’t a smooth one. Ladder and leadership are intertwined because attaining a leadership designation comes with diverse sacrifices and hard work. It can also be a reward for certain evolution on your journey through the walks of life.

There’s no gainsaying that each person has leadership traits in them and the fact that everybody wants to be called a leader. However, the question is: does everyone understand what leadership entails? 

The Sociology of Leadership and Role Theory

One thing I’ve come to realize in humans is the rate at which your heart works and the ways your behavior or actions influence your thoughts. A philosopher named Aristotle once said in his observations that, “people become virtuous by acting virtuous” he further stated that, people change their minds by first changing their behavior. 

In other words, it’s important to discover yourself first; the capacity to handle pressure in critical situations, and your leadership purposes, because only then can your behavior align with your leadership thoughts. 

Ralph Linton, a sociologist, and George Mead in social psychology conceived a theory named “role theory.” This theory refers to the cultural standards regarding the psychological and interactional elements of members of society. Roles can be likened to people’s stance in the social world and the associated behavior. 

In this regard, a leadership role is a reflection of the leader’s behavior in his society. Never forget that roles otherwise known as leadership, in this context come with certain benefits and risks which differentiate their charisma, historical time, and cultural beliefs. 

Let me share an example

I joined a particular creative organization about four years ago. I’ve been so active and involved in literally all the activities the organization engages in even though its headquarter is as far as another state. Still, I found a way around it. One day, the patron of the organization called me and said, “Quintessential, I see all you do for this organization—your activeness shows you can do more so, why don’t you pioneer our branch in your state since we have branches in other states? At first, I thought the leadership role will be somewhat enormous for me to handle and due to this, I declined.

So it happened that my younger sister attended one of our programs and she saw the way I interacted with everyone, innovated new ideas and all. At that moment, she blurted out “big sister, do you know you’re a great leader?” I asked her what she saw and she said “because you’ve been acting like one.” Would you believe it if I tell you that was where I began the creation of my state’s branch? Yes! 

Becoming a Leader through the Looking Glass Self

What happened there? Even though I never had the thought of being a leader or holding any leadership position in the organization from the outset, my actions revealed my leadership peculiarities before my mind picked it up. 

Another renowned sociologist Charles Cooley coined the theory of the “Looking Glass Self.” This theory explains the impact of social interactions on self-discovery. According to the sociologist, individuals develop themselves by observing how they’re perceived by others. This happens when individuals judge their behaviors, actions, and life by other people’s judgments or intuition. They use this assessment of how others observed them be, as a glass to measure their self-worth, confidence, demeanor, and values. Hence society and individuals are indivisible.

The Looking Glass Self and sociology of leadership
“I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.”
-Charles Horton Cooley

In lieu of this, a leader is first discovered by society through his actions, behavior, and innate activities before he discovers himself.

Sociology of Leadership and Categorizing Leadership Styles

Beyond the thoughts, actions, and behaviors of a leader, there are also distinct types of leadership in sociology. These categories will help you know the kind of a leader that you are or aspire to be.  

  1. An authoritarian leader.
  2. A democratic leader.
  3. A laissez-faire leader.

Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leaders are “all power belongs to me” kind of leaders. They are in charge of every action and has absolute decision-making and total control of their followers. This kind of leader sees no reason why they should seek advice or suggestions from their subordinates as regards issues. Instead, they dictate to them what to do and how to do it.

The benefit of being an authoritarian or autocratic leader is the quick response to emergency issues that need decision-making and most times stressful projects. However, a leader like this is often liable to downfall due to his one-way traffic belief and his follower’s inability to contribute which may not go well with them as he will be seen as bossy.

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leaders have empathy for others’ opinions. A democratic leader carries their followers along and makes sure their contributions are weighed before stamping the final decision. 

Such a leader still has the final say in every decision making but they never default in carrying their group members along. In essence, this kind of decision-making system involves the majority votes versus the minority and thereafter, the leader has the final say. Democratic leaders are famous for their teamwork and members’ inclusiveness, which enhances a feeling of belonging on the part of the followers. 

Laissez-faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leaders are the kind of leaders that give members or followers the liberty to make decisions without necessarily being despotic. A laissez-faire leader’s main concern is supervision. Yes, they merely supervise where necessary and as such, members become the soul management. 

However, this leadership style doesn’t allow any members in the decision-making but an expert in the field of the situation which needs to be decided on. This way, leaders challenge them to put in their best as they will be responsible for the outcome. He comes in only to motivate, encourage, guide and provide the needed resources to ease the process.

Qualities of a Great Leader

In every leadership role rests some attributes which distinguish a leader from his followers, but only when they are utilized. Without much ado, below are some of the needed qualities:

A good listening ear

This is one of the significant steps on your ladder to a great leader. A good leader pays attention to his follower’s needs. Listen to what people say and what they do not. A leader who always prefers to be the one talking automatically possesses zero leadership aptitudes, except in an authoritarian setting which is sometimes not the best. You must listen to other people’s opinions and thoughts as well.

Be available for dialogue

As a leader, don’t be one-way traffic. Give attention to your followers, and listen to their complaints and contributions. Great results often surface during random discussions, hence the need to be available for dialogue and suggestions from every member.

Be patient

Patience is another vital quality of a great leader. If you’re not patient enough, your leadership skill won’t be appreciated, observe more and speak less, hence the saying “be quick to listen but slow to give a response.”

Be a good role model

As a leader, you should be well aware some people are following your footpath and lay a good foundation for them to build on.

Be transparent

As a leader, you know there are some steps you take that nobody dares to confront you on how well you do it (think immunity). If your followers can’t confront you, know well that, the result of your actions will tell. Therefore, this should guide you whenever you’re going astray.

Be accommodating

A strict leader is automatically a bad leader. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a policy—you definitely should definitely. But, when you’re too brutal on your followers, you won’t progress as desired.

Final Thoughts on the Sociology of Leadership

The fact remains that, leadership roles demand actions before mindset because both concepts are interwoven, just like leader and ladder. Applaudable leadership skills should reflect in the prospective leader’s actions before the thoughts can be made a reality, and the sociology of leadership helps us understand why.

Sociology Consulting: Social Change and Leadership