In recent years, management experts, psychologists, sociologists and behavioural scientists have tried to identify the functions of leadership in varied ways and from different viewpoints. Let us analyse some of the views in brief.
Among the sociologists, who want to go into the deep to study the functions of leaders, the opinion of P. Selznick (1957) may be considered as the most appropriate. He had viewed leadership function in setting goals, shaping and reshaping organization and reconciling internal and external forces. In fact, it is creative function of the leader that calls for viewing and reviewing organizational environment, work accomplishment and determining near and remote goals in the above perspective.
The review of the work of other sociologists highlights that the leader is supposed to build goals and determine policies into the social structure of the enterprise. It is his fundamental duty to see that the enterprises do not mere survive; it grows into stature. Leaders should be in a position to read the desired changes, movement and functions of the enterprise to get it placed in the industrial complex.
Another important function, however, is to manage and mitigate internal conflict. It is a hard fact that conflict is imminent in big organization due to diverse opinions, views, beliefs and values. The effectiveness of leaders lies in their endeavour to win the consent of several groups and put them to work in accomplishing the objective and the enterprise mission in the ultimate analysis.
In the opinion of psychologists, people will best respond in terms of output if the organization provides opportunities for them to appraise and appropriate their basic, social and ego needs. As a matter of fact, one of the basic functions of the managers and executives or leaders in other words, is to devise the necessary motivational system to meet their needs.
It should, however, be kept in view that though the above arrangement is sound from the view point of motivation, it is not adequate to outline the scope of their psychological needs, in precise, for the exercise of leadership on the part of the management.
Management experts, of late, have given a lot of attention in identifying the exact function of leadership. From the study of management experts, leadership function can be viewed as (i) directing, (ii) responding and (iii) representing. The eminent scholar Leonard Sayles viewed directing as the primary function of leadership.
In big organizations where divergent views and number of groups exist, it is essentially through the means of directing that all of them are unified and coordinated for a central purpose. In this matter, of course, managers and executive have to take the required initiative with intelligent approach and rational attitude.
Management experts consider responding as the second function of leadership. It signifies responsiveness to the initiations of subordinates. It may often be noticed that subordinates sometimes ask for guidance, assistance, advice and help from their superior. Moreover, subordinates always want to be assured to get their best rewards for the services rendered. Leadership quality helps superior to appraise the needs of their subordinates and meet them intelligently.
The other essential function of leadership is representing. It signifies that superiors would properly and effectively represent the interests of the total group among their peers and to the higher level in the managerial hierarchy. This aspect of thought on the part of subordinates may vary. It may commonly be observed where subordinates initiate action that requires to be accomplished by their superiors or the higher-level personnel. In fact, leadership quality enables the executives to represent such group effort and get positive response.
Effective leadership undoubtedly creates a well-to-do environment among the employees not only by the influence of the leader but also his responsiveness to their problems, feelings, aspirations and ambitions. On the other hand, it enhances the image of the organization to the outside world.
From the above discussions, we can list the functions of a leader as follows:
i. To develop teamwork in organizations
ii. To act as an important change agent in organizations
iii. To balance the use of power
iv. To act as representative of subordinates
v. To be a counsellor to employees
vi. To help the employees to optimally utilize their time
vii. To help in achieving organizational effectiveness
viii. To enhance the level of motivation and morale for employees
ix. To inculcate human values in organization
x. To increase level of commitment and loyalty of employees towards the organization