Leadership is a Relationship
Dr. Peter G. Northouse, a noted authority on leadership, states the following about “Leadership Is a Relationship”:
"Another, and somewhat unusual, way to think about leadership is as a relationship. From this perspective, leadership is centered in the communication between leaders and followers rather than on the unique qualities of the leader. Thought of as a relationship, leadership becomes a process of collaboration that occurs between leaders and followers (Rost, 1991). A leader affects and is affected by followers, and both leader and followers are affected in turn by the situation that surrounds them. This approach emphasizes that leadership is not a linear one-way event, but rather an interactive event. In traditional leadership, authority is often top down; in the interactive type of leadership, authority and influence are shared. When leadership is defined in this manner, it becomes available to everyone. It is not restricted to the formally designated leader in a group.
Thinking of leadership as a relationship suggests that leaders must include followers and their interests in the process of leadership. A leader needs to be fully aware of the followers and the followers’ interests, ideas, positions, attitudes, and motivations. In addition, this approach has an ethical overtone because it stresses the need for leaders to work with followers to achieve their mutual purposes. Stressing mutuality lessens the possibility that leaders might act toward followers in ways that are forced or unethical. It also increases the possibility that leaders and followers will work together toward a common good (Rost, 1991)."
Relationship theory’s “mutuality” is seen as a strength of the theory because followers are given a voice.
A criticism of relationship theory is that it is time-consuming to assess followers’ interests, ideas, positions, attitudes, and motivations and to act upon them.
Peter G. Northouse, Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice (Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2009).
J. C. Rost, Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (Westport, CO: Praeger, 1991).