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The present research reviewed the literature on leadership, and noted the lack of a well-founded theoretical conception of leadership that would provide a general, cross-situational approach to leadership identification and develoment. Subsequently, it was suggested systems theory might be used to gain some understanding of leadership as it occurs in bureaucratic organizations. This led to the hypothesis that formal leadership activities will always be focused on the attainment of certain goals specified in the leadership role, and so will represent a form of problem-solving activity. The literature supporting this hypothesis was reviewed. The personal characteristics of a leader which would be likely to facilitate goal attainment and problem solving across situations were outlined as well as certain problem-specific processes. Finally, some implications of this approach to leadership identification and development were considered.