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Running Head: Power in Leadership

Power in Leadership

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There are three individuals who have profoundly affected contemporary perspectives on society, power, authority and leadership. Confucius, Machiavelli and Rousseau had a different view of human nature and society.

Confucianism is primarily a Chinese, or more precisely, East Asian tradition.  To understand Confucianism as a way of life or as a traditional system of values, we have to go to its homeland and find out how it came into being and how it was transformed.  A popular method that is used in presenting the Chinese Confucian tradition is to divide its history in as many periods as there are Chinese dynasties.  In this way Confucianism becomes part of a much more complicated history and Confucian progress is mixed up with the general changes in political, social, economic, religious and culture life. 

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On many occasions Confucianism gained strength and positive influence from these changes, yet on other occasions it suffered from the breakdown of the social fabric and responded by becoming more flexible.  Throughout the history of the Chinese dynastic, Confucianism changed and adapted itself to new political, social demands are as important as the teaching of the early Confucian masters. 

In The Analects often focus on issues related to the social transformation, raising the questions of what constitutes merit, how one recognizes it and how one develops it.  Also, how the Analects

In Confucius often refers to historical and legendary figures, good and bad to illustrate his points.  He says that what he proposes has historical precedent and can be accomplished again.  His thinking thus emphasizes a union between theory and practice.  The Analects was considered essential to the education of those preparing for official careers in the Chinese imperial government.  Officials in the imperial government were in large part the leaders and managers of Chinese society.  They performed a variety of functions such as calendar making, astronomical observation, historical scholarship, census taking, tax collection, fiscal management, economic planning, supervision of civil engineering projects and policy formulation. 

In the lifetime of Machiavelli coincided with a period of immense vitality, coupled with complete unrestraint in the social life of the times.  One of these stretches of time over which certain similarities can be traced occurs in a comparison of some of the characteristics of the Italy of the late fifteenth century with own twenty first century. 

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Also, the Italy in the fifteenth century saw the breakdown in many states of long established forms of democracy and the substitution of dictatorship.  The Republican form of government, familiar from the most ancient days, had not worked out well against the strain imposed by constant and intensified warfare.  Military failure and social misery drove the people in some cases to accept a despotism, which gave them safety, material prosperity. Machiavelli looking on those changes, pondered them in his heart and produced a striking account of their causes as a result of that the modern interest in him once more induces us to turn with renewed activity. 

Machiavelli as a purely political thinker deprives us of a moral philosophy of the highest values based upon a magnanimous conception of life pervaded by irony and self-irony, tolerant to the variety of the human world, sympathetic to poetic abandonment to beauty, love sensitive to the affections of ordinary life.  For Machiavelli politics has to provide a shelter against the evils that torment men’s life, beginning with ambition and avarice, the causes of discord and war.  In every province, city and village to deprive men of the most precious benefit of peace. 

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Rousseau’s intellectual effort in educational, moral and political theory is conceived as solution to the problem that arises when natural men become aware of each other and begin in impinge on and conflict with each other. The natural principle is for each to pursue his own ends and to see others either as means or obstructions to them. The other in nature has no status except as means. He did not distinguished from natural forces. Each individual exists for him alone.  But in society others must cease to be treated as means and must be recognized as having valid claims on one. The possibility then exists of treating the other in his particularity as and end for one and so of aiming to please him as well as oneself and accommodate one’s own particular ends to the particular ends of the other.  The result is the mutual dependence of men in their particularity.  The benign oneness of nature, the fact that each individual need take account of only one person, one will, one system of ends is himself and his own which is destroyed and replaced by a multiplicity of persons, wills and ends, each seeking accommodation with the others. 

In Rousseau this is the worst possible social condition.  It is an existence of corruption, of endless competition for superiority and of depravity. The only hope for men lies in the reconstruction of society on the principle of nature, in the recovery of the oneness of nature.  Each must come to recognize the other as an end for him, but must do so without recognizing him as a particular individual differentiated from himself. He must always be able to treat the other as a mere duplication of himself, so that in acting for the other, he is not acting for a different individual with different individual with different ends, whom he wishes to please. The solution involves systematically conceiving of the individual’s relations to others as relations to him. 

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The Rousseau’s solution involves the recognition of the other as equally an end for himself. So, as having an equal right with oneself to pursue his particularity, the independent existence of others is being acknowledged and valued.  Which that it is precisely this attitude to the other that is absolutely necessary in order to value him as an individual.  But the recognition and value he has for one is as an abstract, not a particular, individual.  The whole point of the theory is the real estrangement forms others that are made possible by an apparent moral recognition of and relation to them.  But this is only achieved by abstracting the moral element from the real interests and real relations of men and making it stand in opposition to them, so that it comes to deny and repress what it is meant to harmonize. 

The Rousseau’s theory lies precisely in the elaboration of a social ideal founded on a rejection of the right of individuals to live and value each other in their particularity.  Since, this is the source and content of the mutual affection, which alone can, hold both small and larger groups of men together. Through all their conflicts, the denial of all validity to it and its characterization as corrupt and can only ensure its replacement, as the essential social principle, by the despotic imposition of some people’s particularity on others.

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Rousseau’s also views, which he had been elaborating on how a legitimate state should be established, organized and run.  What marks a state as legitimate for Rousseau, thus giving it a right to unqualified obedience, is its guarantee to all its members of the freedom to enact their own laws.  If those who are subject to a state’s jurisdiction assemble together to make its laws, that state is legitimate, since all of its members then have a direct and equal legislative voice. Rousseau main task in On Social Contract is to tight connection between direct democracy and legislative freedom by identifying the numerous contextual requirements and institutional conditions which a direct democracy must meet, if its members are indeed to be self-legislating.

In the society must be small, isolated and egalitarian.  A superhuman lawgiver must launch the state by endowing it with sound principles.  Political institutions meticulously divided into legislative and executive must be in exquisite balance. Rousseau’s bleak assessment of the prospects for legitimate democracy is bound to distress those of us who are inspired by his vision of citizens a lawmakers, assembled together to decide their own fates. In Social Contract is for help in deciding whether that vision should be abandoned, adjusted or intrepidly sought.  

 In today's complex work world, things no longer get done simply because someone issues an order and someone else follows it.
Most of us work in socially intricate organizations where we need the help not only of subordinates but of colleagues, superiors, and outsiders to accomplish our goals. This often leaves us in a "power gap" because we must depend on people over whom we have little or no explicit control.

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Power is a mysterious, yet pervasive phenomenon. We experience it in some form or another, at each instant in life, and often wonder at the way in which circumstances either remain adamantly unchanged or change swiftly, no doubt in both cases, through the application of different kinds of power.

Power has been defined in several different ways. It can be defined as potential influence or as enacted influence. Power may be viewed as influence over the attitudes and behavior of people or as influence over events. It has been described as the probable rate and amount of influence of a person or a position occupant. Similarly, power can be measured in several different ways. For example, it can be measured in terms of target perceptions or in terms of objective characteristics of an agent and the agent’s position.

Leadership has been defined as the direct or indirect purposeful exercise of formal authority or personal influence. By its very definition, the leadership process necessitates exercising power and influence over others. Therefore, it is important for the study of leadership to include investigation into the role of power.

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The concept of power, however, is not well understood. There is more conceptual confusion about influence processes than about any other facet of leadership. Terms such as influence, power, and authority have been conceptualized in different ways by different writers, and are often used without any explicit definition. For the purposes of this paper, power is defined as an agent’s potential influence over the attitudes and behavior of one or more target persons. Power is the potential to influence others and it is exercised through the use of influence tactics.

Power over others is an inevitable part of leadership, but it also carries with it the risks associated with the misuse or abuse of power. The role of leaders as transmitters and upholders of organizational values is essential. In a military context, lack of trust in leadership and lack of group belonging during combat have been found to be related to psychological breakdown in combat. These incidents also demonstrate the importance of studying the role of power in leadership to prevent future occurrences of such dramatic events. Moreover, this damage is corrosive to both the members’ pride and morale.

Power plays a major role in the interactions occurring in organizational life. Power over others is intertwined with an understanding of leadership processes. Yet, despite the relevance of power to organizations and the understanding of the leadership process, research studies of power and leadership are not well integrated. Assumptions regarding power often remain unstated and untested in the literature.

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The literature generally suggests that effective leaders express their need for power and influence in ways that benefit the organization. Some scholars contend that there is a common delusion among leaders that their efforts are always well intended and that their power is benign. They believe leaders are motivated to be pro-social toward the organization and its goals rather than driven by desire for personal gain. Historically, even the most villainous personalities often arouse social-power responses in their followers, who saw themselves as elevated and empowered.

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Effective leadership is observable and, to a significant extent, learnable. Academic debate about the difference between leadership and management has resulted in consensus that a difference exists, but it is not a matter of better or worse.  Both are systems of action.
While leadership involves power and its use, at its best it is an influence relationship among leaders and followers that reflects mutual purposes and collective results more than hierarchy, and relations between superiors and inferiors.  Clearly, many can and must be leaders. Leadership is defined by specific situations, contributions to enterprise-wide purposes, and relationships.


Atwater, L. E., & Wright, W. J.(1996), Power and  transformational and transactional leadership in public and private organizations, International Journal of Public Administration, 19(6), 963+

Bailey, R. (1988), Not power but empower. Forbes, 141, 119-124

Kotter, J. P., Power and Influence, Publisher: Free Press (June 1, 1985)


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