It might sound a little strange that a lot about leadership can be learned from studying fish, but that is just what a group of researchers recently discovered. The major finding from the study of fish suggests that leadership is a dynamic process that is dependent on the context of the followers. In other words, the followers and the context determine who the leader shall be. Researchers found that depending on the situation and the goal to be achieved different fish stepped up to be the leader. Very few fish were effective leaders over different context and situations.
Why this matters: The Cultural Leadership view of leadership suggests that leaders must be experts at understanding the different identity groups that exists within their organization. By understanding their identity groups leaders can hone and tailor their messages for each group. Thereby eliciting a sense of connectedness to each group. For instance, when President Obama talks about the role and impact his grandmother and grandfather had on his early upbringing he is making several group identity connections to his different constituency groups. Primarily senior citizens, patriots, and European Americans.
The fish story also suggests that the trait view of leadership, while not totally of disregard is not robust enough to explain the variations of leadership. It is now apparent that there are not a set group of traits that enable one person to be a leader and another not to be. In other words, leaders are not born or made, but they emerge based upon the unique circumstances encountered by their group. What is interesting though is the idea that while a set group of traits are not useful in every situation it required that different traits are needed for different situations. There are some traits that have the ability to “activate” the dynamics or chemistry needed for an organization to excel.
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