Concept of Leadership

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Leaders, Elites and Coalitions

Policy and Practice for Developmental


Background Paper 04

Conceptions of Leadership
Heather Lyne de Ver
March 2009


Leaders, Elites and Coalitions

Policy and Practice for Developmental


The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international policy initiative informed by targeted research and directed by an independent steering committee. DLP is supported by a global network of partners and currently receives its core funding from the Australian aid program. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent those of the Australian Government or any of DLP’s other partner organisations.


Conceptions of Leadership
Heather Lyne de Ver

There is now a wide recognition in the international community that ‘leadership matters’ for growth and development, just as there was recognition some years ago that ‘institutions matter’.2 But what is ‘leadership’? How is it defined and can there be universal understandings and application of the concept? Leadership is a concept which is often talked about, and which has generated a proliferation of literature, especially in the field of management and organizational science (Jones, 2005: 259). However, despite the almost unanimous agreement on the importance of leadership for the success of private sector organizations and institutions, and the countless works on the concept, “the field of leadership studies has not succeeded in articulating a coherent, paradigm-shifting model or approach that both scholars and practitioners can accept and work with” (Ibid., 259). There is no unanimity as to what ‘leadership’ means. This brief survey sets out a representative sample of some of the ways in which…...

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