Officer saluting a military brigadeLeadership refers to the role carried out by a person or group of people who lead, direct, and offer support to others. Successful leadership requires the ability to establish a clear vision and encourage others to adhere to that vision, guiding and directing them along the way. This typically involves providing the necessary information and instruction to inspire others to follow willingly and realize the desired goals. Coordinating and openly communicating with all members or participants is a large part of this process, as difficulties and disagreements may arise.

Types of Leaders

Leaders can be found in many different groups of people. Often, there is a common goal the group being led is working toward. This may involve structured authoritative duties such as in a place of employment, classroom, or political office; leadership may also be associated with offering guidance and instruction to a pupil, apprentice, intimate partner, family member, or friend.

  • Leaders at work: Some leaders are assigned their positions by employers, while others seek out these roles through entrepreneurship, community engagement, or political involvement. For example, the CEO of a company has often taken on this role by pursuing a particular path and striving for personal success. He or she has taken a vision and actualized it. The marketing director of that same company may have sought out personal success in a specific field, but he or she is often working toward the external goals of a company or CEO.
  • Community leaders: Another form of leadership is when a person decides to devote his or her energy to a cause or community project. This typically involves time spent volunteering to organize, strategize, and actualize. For example, if a community member notices that no one in town is recycling, he or she may put effort into raising awareness and recruiting others to become involved in changing local recycling policies and practices.
  • Political leaders: Those who wish to dedicate their time to political endeavors may seek to hold an office, such as mayor, governor, senator, representative, or president. These positions place a large amount of responsibility and accountability on a person’s shoulders. Entire towns, counties, states, and countries depend on the decisions they make while in office.
  • Leaders in relationships: A more individualized form of leadership occurs between a teacher and student, a master and apprentice, or within close relationships. This is sometimes determined by age or employment status, as in the case of a parent and child, or someone learning how to do a job or perform a task from someone more knowledgeable and experienced. Intimate relationships may also involve some form of give and take that resembles leadership; that is, one person may be more adept at a particular skill, such as handling finances, while another may be better at preparing meals.
  • Peer group leaders: Leadership roles may also arise within peer groups. Certain personality types tend to dominate others in friendship or group settings, and these people will likely set the tone and pace for others in the group. Extroverted personalities tend to get more notice and attention than introverted personalities; however, those who are less inclined to speak and more prone to introspection and thoughtful analysis may also establish themselves as strong, reliable leaders.

Styles of Leadership

Different leaders will have different leadership styles. This is largely dependent on a leader’s personality characteristics, as well as on any education or training he or she may have received. Traits such as introversion, extroversion, intuitive abilities, emotional tendencies, and intellectual capacity will factor into a person’s style of leadership.

Two of the most common leadership approaches include:

  1. Task-oriented leadership: Leaders who are task-oriented will typically will lead others by assigning and delegating tasks with minimal or indirect communication and an expectation of autonomy.
  2. Relationship-oriented leadership: These leaders will motivate their team members, employees, or students with social connectivity, open communication, and a ‘we’re all in this together’ manner of accomplishing goals (Bahreinian, Ahi, and Soltani, 2012).

Stresses and Challenges of Leadership

Being in charge of a person or group of people and feeling responsible for their success and achievements can put a certain amount of stress on someone in a leadership position. These levels of stress vary depending on the environment and surroundings, the nature of the work, and gender.

If a person is assuming a leadership role in an environment that is friendly, positive, and encouraging, this may help to reduce stress. Social support plays a critical role in overcoming obstacles that arise along the way to attaining a goal, and a team-oriented approach to leadership may alleviate some of the potential burdens.

On the other hand, an environment that is negative, pessimistic, and overly demanding or poorly structured will exacerbate levels of stress and contribute to ineffectiveness and reduced productivity overall.

Leadership abilities and effectiveness are also influenced by the nature of the work being done. If a leader is passionate and intrinsically motivated to achieve progress in a particular field, this will inspire others to follow and participate willingly. If a leader is disgruntled and feels forced to perform his or her duties, this will impact those who are looking to him or her for guidance and instruction negatively.

While anyone in a leadership role experiences some level of stress, women leaders in male-dominated industries may experience significantly more stress than their male counterparts. Aside from having to manage and direct a group of people, they may have to face discrimination or misogynistic attitudes in the workplace. This added stress of having to prove oneself to peers may prove detrimental to a person’s physical and mental health (Gardiner and Tiggemann, 1999).

Therapy for Leadership       

Thankfully, therapists offer a wide range of services for people from all different backgrounds—leaders included. Someone who is needing therapeutic assistance in managing the stress and responsibilities that go along with fulfilling leadership duties may wish to seek professional help from a licensed counselor or therapist.

Those who are, by profession or personal choice, constantly having to tend to and be concerned with a broader vision or goal as well as the needs, progress, and success of others may easily neglect to take care of themselves. Likely, during the counseling process a therapist will work on stress management techniques, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, meditation, physical activity, and self-care. Through these and other strategies, counselors can assist people in leadership roles in learning how to slow down and structure their lives in a healthy, stress-reducing manner.

Leaders may also seek the guidance of a life coach or career counselor to improve their leadership abilities or explore their leadership-related goals and challenges.


  1. Bahreinian, M., Ahi, M., and Soltani, F. (2012). The relationship between personality type and leadership style of managers: a case study. Mustang Journal of Business and Ethics, 3, 94-111.
  2. Gardiner, M., and Tiggemann, M. (1999, September). Gender differences in leadership style, job stress, and mental health in male- and female-dominated industries. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 72, 301-315.

Last Updated: 08-11-2015

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