he company CEO, army general, political party leader, school superintendent, department head, team coach – these are but a few examples representing the two fundamental components of organizational leadership. First, there is the organization, which can be defined as “a group of people organized for some end or work.” Then, there is the leader, the person responsible for directing or guiding that group.
According to Jessica Dihn and her co-authors in a 2013 article for “The Leadership Quarterly,” the role of the leader is “to structure the way that the inputs of others are combined to produce organizational outputs.” But what distinguishes an organizational leader (OL) from, say, a functional manager or an executive with other leadership qualities?
The key difference is that organization leaders combine business understanding with their roles as “future visionaries and forward-thinkers who lead broad initiatives using integrity and ethics,” according to Dr. Linda Ellington, faculty lead for organizational leadership at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Organizational leadership, then, is a management approach in which leaders help set strategic goals for the organization while motivating individuals within the group to successfully carry out assignments in service to those goals.
“You have to be people-oriented,” said Dr. Lowell (Chris) Matthews, associate professor of organizational leadership at SNHU. “Organizational leadership is about leading and managing individuals toward achieving a strategic organizational goal. So, an OL is a change-agent, someone who sees the big picture but also understands the processes or steps to making change happen.”