Ten Most Important Leadership Functions

September 19, 2010

I’m reviewing the seventh edition of Gary Yukl’s classic textbook on leadership entitled “Leadership in Organizations.” As textbooks go, this one is excellent – easy to read and packed with both contemporary and classic research on leadership.

Yukl concludes his book with his opinion of the 10 most effective leadership functions for enhancing collective work in teams and organizations. But he reminds us there is no recipe for leadership, and these 10 functions can and should be performed by anyone, anywhere in the organization. Here is Yukl’s list:

1.      Help interpret the meaning of events

2.      Create alignment on objectives and strategies

3.      Build task commitment and optimism

4.      Build mutual trust and cooperation

5.      Strengthen collective identity

6.      Organize and coordinate activities

7.      Encourage and facilitate collective learning

8.      Obtain necessary resources and support

9.      Develop and empower people

10.  Promote social justice and morality

I want to stress again that these recommendations, while subjective, are based on Yukl’s interpretation of the best theories and empirical findings of the extant research on leadership. What do you think of this list? Is this list missing anything significant?

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Comments (9)

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  1. davidburkus says:

    Yukl’s text is one of my favorites. Thanks for the reminder to re-read it.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I’m not a big fan of leadership textbooks. Daft’s is my favorite, but this one by Yukl is also very good.

  2. I like this list. I would add, “Foster relationships.” I never realized the power of my networks until I PCS’d and had to start all over with new people…USMC Capt Erik Orient writes about his recognition of the importance of relatationships here: http://leadership.wharton.upenn.edu/digest/09-07.shtml

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Mary! I think you add an excellent point to the list. Thanks! Bret

  3. What would happen if 50% of leaders spent one day a week trying their best to live up to this?

    I’m printing this and posting right beside my computer to remind me of my true purpose.

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    I’d be happy if 25% worked on it! That would be a significant difference. Thanks, Lisa! Bret

  4. Bret, thank you for the list! We sure appreciate the linear, BLUF approach in the “west” or U.S. don’t we? We are looking at this list of leadership tasks to then identify which cultural dimensions (Hoftede, et al) would most impacts those tasks in the cross-cultural environment. What makes a great leader in one culture or people group, are not the same characteristics that are valued in another. Thank you!

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Elena. Absolutely true. The view of leadership that I articulate has a strong cultural bias. They are generalities, but one must always be aware of cultural differences, even when operating within the boarders of your home country. Thanks, Bret

  5. Oh…two typos!
    Hofstede and
    impact rather than impacts.