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Northhouse (2007, p.6) citing Fisher (1974) highlights the positive communication behaviors that account for successful leader emergence:

  • being verbally involved,
  • being informed,
  • seeking others' opinions
  • initiating new ideas, and
  • being firm but not rigid.







Researchers have also found that personality plays a role in leadership emergence. For example, Smith and Foti (1998) found that leaders with particular patterns of personality, which included generalized self-efficacy, intelligence and high dominance were most likely to emerge as leaders.

In emergent leadership, contrasted to officially designated leadership, the perception of leadership is key. Individuals only serve as leaders for as long as others see them in that role. Individuals whom others in the group come to view as leaders exert significant influence over the other members. Leaders emerge when group members reach a consensus that "one (or more) individual(s) could serve the group more usefully in attaining group goals than the other members" (Bass, 1981, p. 13, cited in Kolb, 1998).

Leadership emergence may also be affected by gender-biased perceptions. Watson and Hoffman (2004) found that women who were urged to persuade their task groups to adopt high-quality decisions succeeded with the same frequency as men with identical instructions. Although women were equally influential leaders in their group, they were rated significantly lower than comparable men on leadership (Northouse, 2007, p.6).

Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 3.0 License

Sirje Virkus, Tallinn University, 2009