This sample of JIM Collins' research and reflection opens up a vast sea of contemporary findings about leaders and leadership. About twenty-five years ago one of the most influential students of leadership, James McGregor Burns, made a succinct claim that scholars have tried to respond to ever since. According to him, leadership is one of the most overlooked and least understood phenomena on earth. Over the past several decades, attempts have been made to address this deficiency in various educational formats and institutional contexts.

After reading some of the more influential studies of leadership, it soon becomes clear that this is a single effective methodological theory. Without claiming to be anything like a comprehensive explanation of the ever-growing body of knowledge and inquiry, it is still possible to find common themes and parallel findings, especially regarding the interpersonal relationship between leaders and followers. Although this is often called the social exchange theory of leadership, this term is misleading, as these relationships are more significant and compelling than the mechanical term exchange. A primary focus on leaders' skills, qualities, methods, styles, contexts, and authority typically involves interpreting leadership as what leaders do for others, rather than precisely engaging with others. Some of the most interesting and promising motives for understanding leadership in academic communities come from relational understandings of leadership.

Leadership as agency

First of all, it is observed that many modern scholars portray leadership as an activity, a form of human agency. Humans as agents are self-determining beings who are in charge of their own conduct. They give form and purpose to their lives through their choices and actions, as operates within various meaning systems. Leadership in this context is largely a pattern of engagement and a relational process within a larger framework of human sensemaking rather than a position of authority in an organizational hierarchy. Leadership is located in that area of life in which human beings create meaning with others and work toward common social and organizational goals to meet their needs and realize their values. Interactional leadership is central to historical causality, so the record of human endeavor exhibits leadership as agency.

Leadership as fundamental

Leadership is a fundamental and relevant term. This term describes the dynamics of the inevitable nature of social interaction by naming the relationships that influence and are influenced by particular individuals. Relationships have many characteristics, one of which is that leadership is a fundamental element of human social organization, not an optional addition. As stated by Thomas Wren, leadership is viewed as a process by which groups, organizations and societies strive to achieve common goals, while it encompasses one of the fundamental streams of human experience. One does not first create an organization and then find ways to bring leadership into it. Rather, leadership occurs simultaneously with social organization.

Leadership as relational

One consequence of this approach is that the term leadership always includes the notion of followership. If no one follows, no one leads. Leaders and Followers Both sides of the leadership equation need each other to make sense. Followers and leaders develop a relationship in which they influence each other as well as the organization and society and that is leadership. They don't do the same things in a relationship, but they are both essential to leadership. A relationship has characteristic features and patterns of interaction that give it texture and meaning.

Leadership as Sense Making

One of the central forms of reciprocity is effective communication about challenges and problems between leaders and followers. Leaders try to influence their followers to adopt the leader's interpretations of their shared experience, and they use a variety of linguistic and non-linguistic communication forms to do so. They use symbols and metaphors and tell stories of identity and aspiration to create a shared sense of meaning. When communicating with followers, leaders typically convey a compelling sense of vision for the future. A leader doesn't tell it like it is, he/she tells it like it is, a leader is a giver of knowledge. Sensing and sensation-making give people a sense of possibility that an otherwise hostile, indifferent, or incomprehensible world can be brought under their control.

Ethical leadership

Followers or constituents are not empty vessels filled with material provided by the leader, especially in a democratic context, as modern scholarship on leadership makes clear. When they are fully engaged, they are committed to the leader's program and often to his or her person. Yet it is clear that followers do not give their support blindly but rather according to their own needs and interests which are satisfied by the leader.

Followers bring expectations and norms to the relationship based on mutual respect between them and the leader. Treating people with respect is ethical leadership and people expect their voices to be heard, their problems to be solved, their needs to be met, their hopes to be fulfilled. They seek safety and protection from dangerous situations. If the goals they entered into the relationship to secure are not met, their support will dissolve over time. It is at their peril that leaders forget that support is always conditional. Authority is not absolute but is always expressed in the name of larger social and organizational goals and measured against the criteria required by that goal. Together, leaders and followers share a third thing, a common cause that defines their relationship. Regardless of the social context, followers always have the means to influence and evaluate the effectiveness and legitimacy of their leaders. From gatherings of elders to the ballot box, from passive resistance to street violence, followers know how to influence their leaders and take their place.

The depth that leadership reaches leads to clear moral expectations of followers from their leaders. Follower support is based on the leader's legitimacy, credibility, and trustworthiness. If there are many fake notes, the leader's credibility soon starts to erode. If falsehood or duplicity is exposed, the leader's credibility disappears overnight. Also, credibility is not just accuracy in communication, as it also includes integrity in a leader's conduct and commitment. To be credible, a leader must embody the values for which the organization stands, otherwise the leadership relationship will be weakened or broken. When leaders use careful moral reasoning, establish high standards, enforce them, live the values they profess. Sacrificing their own interests to do so, they become revered or even holy figures in the eyes of their followers.