In this post we shall be discussing leadership inrural communities. After studying the topic, you are expected to have achievedthe objectives listed below.

After studying this topic, you should be able to:

·define the terms “leader” and“leadership”

·outline the characteristics ofleaders

·explain the types of leadership.

The Concept of “Leader” and“Leadership”

The simple dictionary definition of a leader is “onewho leads or goes first”. In other words one who first perceives the groupsneeds far ahead of others in its implementation. A leader is a person whoexercises the acts which facilitate group goal accomplished. Beal et al., (1962) defined a leader as “anindividual in any social situation in which his ideas and actions influence thethoughts and behaviour of others”.

Reading (1963) in his Glossary of Sociological Termsdefines a leader as:

  1. Personinitiating interaction with other members of a group
  2. Person whoinitiates interaction more frequently than anyone else in a group, and
  3. Person whomoves the group towards group goal.

Gibb (1954) makes the followingdistinction between a head and a leader.

  1. Headship ordomination is maintained through an organized system and not by the spontaneousrecognition by fellow group members, of the individual’s contribution to thegroup;
  2. The group goalis chosen by the headman in line with his interest and is not internallydetermined by the group itself;
  3. In dominationor headship, there is little or no sense of shared feeling or joint action inpursuit of the given goal;
  4. There is in thedominance relation a wide social gap between the group members and the head whostrives to maintain this social distance as an aid to his coercion of thegroup;
  5. The leader’sauthority is spontaneously accorded him by his fellow group members –thefollowers, whereas the authority of the head derives from some extra grouppower which he has over the group members who may not be meaningfully calledhis followers.

The business executive, heads of departments, foremenand so forth, are examples of headmen. The workers under such people are notnecessarily their “followers”, they obey them on pains of punishment and accepttheir domination as part of their duties to the organization.

However, it is possible that sub-ordinates may come toidentify qualities which they admire in their headman and accord him willingcooperation thus giving him a leader’s status in addition.

Leadership has been defined in three fundamental wayson the basis of whose property it is. The first definition regards leadershipas a property of an individual. Leadership was therefore defined by Haiman(1957) as “the process whereby an individual directs, guides, influences orcontrols the thoughts, feelings or behaviours of other human beings”.

Thus while the term “leader” refers to a person or anactor, “leadership” is a process. Leadership includes the dominant personalitytraits of one person and receptive traits of one person and other traits ofmany persons in such a way that the course of events of the group is changed ordetermined by one person.

As a group property, Cartwright and Zander (1968)viewed leadership as the performance of those functions which assist the groupin achieving its outcomes. It consists of group member actions which facilitatesetting of group goals, moving the group towards the attainment of its goals,improving interactions among the group members, facilitating group cohesiveness,procuring resources for the group. As a group property therefore Pigors (1935)defined leadership as “a process of mutual stimulation, which by successfulinterplay of relevant individual differences, controls human energy in pursuitof a common cause”.

As a situational attribute, leadership is a propertyof a person or group of persons in a given situation whereby through successfulutilization by their qualities moves a group towards the attainment of itsgoals.

In the three definitions given above the use ofauthority and influence of one actor or group actors over another actor orgroup could be determined. The exercise of leadership therefore involves theuse of authority and influence.

Other related terms often used in discussing theconcept of “leader” and “leadership” include:

Followers are the members of a large group over whichleadership is exercised by a person or group of persons. Followership is thewilling acceptance and fulfilment of the authority and influence of a person byanother person or group of persons. Followership does not imply a passivereception of orders rather it connotes possession of qualities required foreffective response and responsibility in carrying out the instructions ofperson giving the directives.

Power: This is the potential or manifestability of an individual or group to modify the actions of others through theuse of force, authority influence or control. Control involves actualmobilization of power to obtain the results desired by the power wielders.Loomis (1960) defined power as the ability to control the actions of others.They considered power to consist of two major components, namely, authority andinfluence.

Authority is the right to control the actions ofothers, while influence is non authoritative control over the actions ofothers. Leadership acts cannot be exercised in a vacuum. To control the actionsof others through acts of leadership, a leader inevitably needs power. Herelies the relationship between leadership and power.

Power structure: This is a patterned distributionof authority and influence among various actors in a group or community. Powerarises from the fact that in any group or community, the extent of possessionand utilization of the resources for power both qualitatively and quantitatively,by one member of the group or community, is often different from that of theother. Persons who exercise power can therefore be arranged in a constellationwhich depicts these differences.

Such as arrangement within a group or communitydesignates the power structure of that group or community.


  1. Whois a leader?
  2. Power consist of twomajor components namely…………….. and …………

Characteristics and Types of Leaders

Leadership calls for certain qualities orcharacteristics firstly on the part of the individual to want to become aleader and secondly on the part of a group who want to respond favourably tothe individual’s leading acts.

Ross and Hendry (1957), after a thorough review ofleadership studies, stated that a leader must possess the following elevencharacteristics, namely, empathy, be a member of the group, have consideration,surgency, emotional stability, desire for the recognition of leadership role,intelligence, competence, consistency, self-confidence and ability to shareleadership role.

  • Empathy is theability to share the feelings of others. When a leader puts himself in theshoes of followers, he can perceive their needs and develop the sensitivityneeded to search for ways of meeting such needs.
  • The leader mustbe a member of the group, particularly in a group of equals, share the groupvalues and endeavours to discharge his leadership responsibilities effectivelyas well. Consideration is the ability of the leader to help the group inpractical ways by explaining, giving instructions and giving helping hand ingeneral. The leader anticipates the difficulties which might confront groupmembers and arms himself with the knowledge and skill needed to providepractical solutions.
  • Surgency is thedegree of talkativeness, cheerfulness, enthusiasm, alertness, originality,acumen and alacrity of the leader. This quality is particularly important foran elected leader if he is to sustain his popularity, prominence, hedonism andprogressiveness.
  • Emotionalstability demands that a leader must be a well-adjusted and integrated personwith the ability to function confidently, courageously and smoothly duringquiet and stormy occasions. He should not be overinvolved emotionally incrises. Rather, he should look for causes of any crisis in the group and waysof resolving them.
  • The leader mustpossess the desire for and recognition of leadership role. Under normalcircumstances, leadership should not be forced on a person who sincerely doesnot want it. The leader must be of high intelligence, but does not need to beof much higher intelligence than the followers so as to facilitateunderstanding between the leader and the followers.
  • Competence ortechnical skill is required by a leader so as to be able to perform the grouptasks and assist the group in practical ways. Competence will increase thecredibility and request of the leader by the followers. Consistency requiresthat the leader must not change his mind, policies and words frequently, althoughhe cannot be completely inflexible against making some changes for improvement.He must follow agreed-upon decisions, be consistent in his attitude andloyalties.
  • Self-confidence,when grounded on competence in handling group problems and assisting the groupto attain its objectives, is an important quality of a leader. Effectivecommunication with members in performing group functions requires self-confidence.Surgency and competence would lead to self-confidence required of an effective leader,rather than empty boasting.
  • Ability toshare leadership roles prevents overtasking the leader and could increaseleadership effectiveness. When a leader has competent and trusted subordinates,it becomes important that he should share leadership role.

According to Ross and Hendry (1957) the first fivecharacteristics are more important than the next six.

Nelson, Ramsey and Verner (1965)identified four types of leadership:

Institution leadership. The institutional leader emergesthrough an appointment, promotion, selection or election to hold a formal leadershipposition. The position is his predominant leadership base. He performs thefunctions associated with his position, so that when he vacates the office,whoever takes over from him continues to perform the same essential functions.The choice of the leader is made by a source intralocal or extralocal to theinstitution. Examples of institutional leaders in Nigerian rural communitiesare School teachers, Muslim leaders or Imam, Church pastors, rural healthclinic officials, heads of the village Council and Agricultural ExtensionAgent. Others in a large community are the Chief of Police, and in moredeveloped countries, particularly in the United States, the Chief of fireservices, and leaders of various community social, fraternal, professional, patrioticand philanthropic organization such as the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, theMasons and Jaycees.

The situational leader arises when there is perceivedinadequacy in a social situation. He emerges to assist in rectifying theanomaly. He is therefore a product of the situation. His arrival is received enthusiasticallyby the generality of the people. His immediate assignment is therefore to meetthe challenges of the existing situation so as to justify his arrival and supportby members. As situations change, he has to modify his approach so as to meetthe changes effectively; otherwise as changes brought him to power, changes maysweep him out of the leadership position. Examples are games captains andmilitary leaders in political leadership positions.

The dictatorial leader could develop from an institutionalor a situational leader. He may be a member of a dominated family in thecommunity, a business magnate controlling the bulk of the economy of the community,or a political bag. He forces his decisions on the rest of the community.

The creative leader helps the group realize itscreative potentials, rather than for his own ego satisfaction. He is thedemocratically accepted leader.

The fifth type of leader is the charismatic leader. The term “charisma” means a divineor spiritual power. It also means a personal character or quality that enablesan individual to influence his followers or quality that enables an individualto influence his fellowmen. A charismatic leader is therefore the type ofperson who has such personal qualities: good looks, high level of intelligence,ability to speak fearlessness and commitment to certain ideals which when takenaltogether makes people follow him almost without questioning his authority.Examples in contemporary history of the world are Jawaharlal Nehru of India (1889-1964),John Kennedy of the United States of America (1917-1963), Murtala Muhammad of Nigeria(1937-1975), and Ahmadu Bello (1909-1966) of Nigeria who was assassinated inthe first military uprising in Nigeria in 1966. Many Nigerians, particularly inthe Yoruba speaking areas of the country regarded Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987)as a charismatic leader.

The sixth type of leader is traditional hereditary leader. This is one who is born into ahereditary leadership position which custom and tradition recognize. Hisleadership status is therefore ascribed rather than achieved. In other words,he has authority by virtue of the tradition of the community. This traditionaffords him an unlimited loyalty and unquestioned obedience from the communitymembers. Examples are the Emirs in Northern Nigeria, the Obas in South westernNigeria, the Obis in South Eastern Nigeria etc.


  1. Listthe characteristics of leadership
  2. What are the types ofleaders we have?


In this topic, we discussed the concept of “leader”and leadership, characteristics and types of leaders. From all these, you wouldhave learnt that the type of leader or leadership in rural communities determinesthe level of development in such communities.


The main points in this unit are:

  • A leader is aperson who exercises the acts which facilitate group goal accomplished
  • Leadership hasbeen defined in three fundamental ways on the bases of whose property it is: a)leadership as a property of individual b) leadership as a group property c)leadership as a situational attribute
  • Leadershipcalls for certain qualities or characteristics firstly on the part of the individualto want to become a leader and secondly on the part of a group who want torespond favourably to the individuals leading act.
  • The types ofleadership include: a) institutional leader b) situational leader c)dictatorial leader d) charismatic leader e) traditional hereditary leader


  1. Distinguishbetween “leader” and “leadership”
  2. Writebrief notes on the following: a) Authority (b)Followership (c) Power (d) Power structure
  3. Discussthe characteristics and types of leadership.


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Dynamic Group Action. The Iowa State University Press,Ames, Iowa.

Cartwright, D.and Zander, A. (1980). Group Dynamics: Research and

Theory. Harer and Row publishers, New York.

Ekong, E.E. (1988). Poverty and Rural Development in Nigeria: An

introduction to ruralsociology. Jumakpublishers Limited,

Ibadan, Nigeria, pp. 124-140.

Gibb, C.A. (1954) “Leader” In G. Lindzey (ed.) Handbook of Social

Psychology. Addison Welsey Publishing Co.,Cambridge, vol 2, pp 882.

Haiman, F.S. (1957). Group Leadership and Democratic Action.

Houghton Mifflin Co., York pp.4.

Jibowo, G., (1992). Leadership in Rural Communities: Essentials of

Rural Sociology. Gbemi Sodipo Press Ltd, Abeokuta,pp 180-201.

Loomis, C.P. (1960). Social systems: Essay on their Persistence and

Charge. D. Van Nostrand Company Inc.,Princeton, New Jersey, London.

Pigors, P. (1935). Leadership or Domination. Houghton Mifflin Co., pp 16.

Reading, H.F. (1963). A Glossary of Sociologicalterms. Centres Press

Co., Athens, Greece, pp 19-20.

Ross, M. C. and Hendry, C. E. (1957). New Understanding of

Leadership Association. Association Press, New York. White,R.

and Lippitt, R.“Leader behaviour and matter reactions in three social climates”. InCartwright, D.and Zander, A. op. cit. pp 318 – 335.

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