Leadership has evolved into one of the most critical concepts in the management of organiations. Leaders are able to contribute substantially to their organizations, depending on the strength of their influence on their subordinates who assist them in carrying out their goals. It is crucial for leaders to learn how to influence and persuade their followers; lest they fail in realizing the organization’s strategies and objectives.
The current paper shall present various leadership concepts, encompassing leadership styles, the distinction between a mere “boss” and a leader, and similar other comparisons. Finally, the author shall put forth recommendations on how contemporary leaders may contribute effecttually to the success of their organizations.
Prior to the deep discussion of related leadership constructs, it is imperative to have an appreciation and understanding of the leadership concept. By definition, leadership refers to the direction given to a party or group; moreover, it pertains to the aggregate of traits that permit an individual to influence, guide, and maneuver others under his jurisdiction (Deming, 1992).
As a process, leadership affects the tasks of employees, and it has numerous implications. Among them is the acknowledgement that leadership engages employees or followers. It is only plausible if followers find credibility in the leader since he possesses that trait that bespeaks of the position. Followers are critical in such a relationship and it is worthy to note that without followers, leadership may not be practiced. A second implication is that leaders are presumed to have power over their subordinates, and the latter may be influenced by the leader in more ways than one. Third, leaders must be morally upright and oriented with the apt values which will allow them to give proper direction to their followers across situations or contexts (Bass, 1985).
House (1995) defines leadership as the influence utilized in particular contexts, which relies heavily on the communication process to achieve specific goals. While it is associated with administration, the two are meaningfully distinct constructs. According to Bennis (1990), it is possible for an individual to be an effective administrator by being highly organized and objective, and yet still be perceived as an ineffective leader because one cannot motivate followers. It is ideal for contemporary organization to have individuals in critical positions who are both effective administrators and leaders – being both highly organized and systematic, and yet are also equally effective at motivating their followers.
Why is leadership such an important construct?
First, leadership is critical because people who are capable of effectively guiding others are indispensable to reaching organizational goals. Moreover, while most organizations have carefully planned strategies, they fail in the execution of these plans because they do not have the proper leadership amidst their ranks. The presence of leadership spells out definite competitive advantage for contemporary organizations who operated in cutthroat competition niches. It may even be that the organization lacks good strategy and yet are even able to pull through because of effective leaders who are able to steer along the process.
Styles of leadership tend to be modified across time and contexts. Historically, there are five eras with which leadership may be categorized. The first era is tagged as the conquest era, where leaders dominated and accorded their people with the promise of stability and security. These are the benefits which they yield in exchange for material good such as tax and their patronage. The second era of leadership is commercial leadership which began in the industrial era. This is characterized by the leader providing his people with economic benefits, specifically a better quality of life. The era of organizational leadership and innovation necessitated leaders who are both creative and adaptive, and who can influence employees into being loyal to their organization. The era of information leadership came to fore with the dawn of the information age, and places premium on individuals who have access to the right information at the right time. Finally, the era of new age leadership will entail an individual who has exceptional people skills and a remarkable ability to influence people. He is known to be a good listener and people developer. These give his organization differentiation and competitive advantage (Techrepublic.com, 2003).
At this point of the discussion, I would like to present the various leadership style typologies. These are modified depending on the tasks delegated and the demands that the context or situations asks for from the leader. Basically, there are three leadership models.
The first leadership model is autocrat leadership where leaders are given full accountability in making decisions, instigating moves or actions, influencing, and giving directions to their staff. A main characteristic of this model is the centralization of decision making and power to the leader. Only he has the power to make decisions; staff are not engaged and are thought to be incapacitated without the presence of the leader. Under this model, compliance and obedience of followers is the norm (Wren, 2004).
A second leadership model is participative leadership which gives subordinates the chance to engage in decision making process in the achievement of some goal. The leader listens well to the suggestions of his followers and is accepting of them. Participative leadership allows subordinates to influence decision making unlike autocratic leadership in which the process is centralized. Under this model, the leader consults his followers for opinions and ideas and may make a decision after such an engagement. He may also undertake a joint decision in which the leaders converse with his followers to tackle issues and to collaboratively make a decision. In such an arrangement, both parties are on equal footing and have equal say in the final decision. In the fourth type of decision, the leader may delegate the decision to an individual or group of individuals. While followers are actively engaged or may even be solely responsible for the decision, the final choice may or may not be carried out depending on the leader’s decision (Wren, 2004).
The third leadership model is liberal leadership in which the leader engages his followers in the decision making process. In such a model, the leader gives his followers all the leeway in making decisions and undertaking tasks but is strongly results driven. Exercising this model presumes that subordinates are competent and capable (Wren, 2004).
Management needs to be prudent in choosing which leadership style is apt depending on the culture of the organization and the environment in which it operates. The prudence with which this choice is made will determine leadership effectiveness (Spencer, n.d).
Distinguishing between a Group Director and a Group Leader
At this point, the differences between a group director and a group leader ought to be pointed out. In terms of priorities, the group director gives prime importance to results and does not give premium to communicating with his followers. In contrast, the group leader acknowledges the importance of a clear and compelling vision and explains to his followers how such a goal may be shared and achieved. In terms of approach, a group director tends to be reactive while a group leader is proactive and is supportive of the team. With the level of engagement, a group director involves staff in planning and crafting resolutions but only to some extent. On the contrary, the group leader facilitates synergy of the team and engages them in making decisions. Problem solving is considered a tedious process by the group director whereas the group leader holds each team member accountable for this process. On trust, the group director does not have much trust in their employees; in contrast, the group leaders give adequate recognition to his people and promote accountability among them. The control of information is done stringently by the group director and may not be transparent with some matters. The group leader, on the other hand, is open and generous with sharing information with his followers; he also welcomes inquisitive employees who ask for information. The resolution of conflict is not a priority for the group director, while it has primary importance for the group leader who aims to promote camaraderie within and among groups. Finally, the group leader is more respectful of group agreements and does not change this merely out of whim or personal liking (Weathersby, 1998).
There are similar distinctions between a boss and a leader. For one, a boss has authority and privilege to give out order whereas a leader considers such authority as an opportunity to be of service. A boss may inspire fear whereas a leader breeds confidence amongst his followers. Finally, the boss perceives subordinates as “domino pieces” while a leader acknowledges the individuality and uniqueness of each person (Weathersby, 1998).
There are certain important assumptions on the characteristics of leaders. One such assumption is that the leader is a part of a group who have the same norms and uphold the same culture. Another is that a leader does not yield his power and authority because of physical traits, but rather because of his fairness, assertiveness and ability to influence. Moreover, each group creates its own model of leadership which will permit the group to be directed and motivated towards its objectives (Bass, 1990).
Just how important is authority in the exercise of leadership? Authority pertains to the capacity of an individual to influence others’ behavior. The conventional set up is authority from top down. On the other hand, it is more ideal if authority is vested upon by the followers themselves, based on the firm belief in the credibility of the leader. With such acceptance, followers are responsive to directives and are easily influenced towards attaining organizational goals. Leaders who have been bestowed with formal authority must still strive to achieve respect from their followers to allow collaborative synergy within the group (Bass, 1990).
Transactional leadership is based on a relationship pf exchange between the leader and his subordinates. Its potency lies in the fact that it will be best for the subordinates to comply with what the leader wants. There are four kinds of behaviours which are related to this concept, namely, contingent reward, active management by exception, passive management by exception, and laissez-faire leadership (Tichy & Devanna, 1990).
Contingent reward behaviour pertains to the clarification of expectations from subordinates so that they may garner their desired rewards. While the exercise of this type of leadership may prove effectual in certain contexts, its potency decreases in the long term. Followers are driven to carry out tasks because of the promise of reward but they cannot be expected to go beyond these roles. Unlike the transactional leadership model which does not focus on intrinsic motivation, transformational leader goes beyond an exchange relationship to one that focuses on motivation and influence (Tichy & Devanna, 1990).
Social Exchange Theory
There are various theories that are anchored on the concept of social exchanged. Majority of social interfaces are based on the exchange of favours. These may be material or psychological or may involve both. Frequently, it is through such exchanges that a person surfaces as a leader of a group. His/her influence over group decisions is then compared to that of other group members. Furthermore, an individual who has demonstrated good judgement accumulates ‘idiosyncratic credit’ which allows him/her more latitude than other group members to deviate from nonessential group norms (Bass, 1985).
Leader/follower interaction is a key component of the social exchange theory. Like transactional leadership, social exchange theory is based on an exchange of benefits and favours between the leader and the followers, but there are two important differences. First, in social exchange theory, the exchange might involve more abstract items and followers are motivated by more that what the leader can award to them. Second, in social exchange theory, followers play an active role in determining and retaining the leader. The leader is not a power yielder like the transactional model proposes (Bass, 1985).
LPC Contingency Model
Fred Fiedler’s contingency model of leadership is a situational theory that reinforces the relationship between leader traits and the situation. The model depicts how the situation moderates the relationship between leadership effectiveness and a trait measure called the least preferred co-worker (LPC) score. Moreover, Fiedler implies that the score is reflective of stable traits of the leader and that a consistent leadership style results from the LPC score. He concludes that it may be ineffective to try to change a person’s leadership style (Leadership Models, 2006).
Transformational leadership allows the metamorphosis of subordinates. It is frequently related with impeccable ethics and of thinking in the long term. It does not merely involve a transactional relationship between the leader and the follower. Rather, transformational leadership reinforces the process of engaging subordinates and forging bonds that result in strong motivation. A transformational leader is effective in addressing the motivational needs of followers and of helping them attain their potentials (Tichy & Devanna, 1990).
Bass (1990), one of the leading researchers on transformational leadership, the leader changes and drives followers through the following: heightening their awareness towards the criticality of results; convincing them of the importance of group rather than individual goals; and appealing to higher order needs. Motivation and performance of employees are enhanced through the exercise of transformational leadership (Bass, 1990).
Transformational leadership entails both the performance of subordinates and helping them self-actualize. There are four primary factors which are related to this type of leadership, namely, idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration (Tichy & Devanna, 1990).
Idealized influence is more popularly known as charisma. It depicts individuals who are specially and who seem to have magnetism that people draw themselves toward him. These leaders project themselves strongly as role models who have desirable behavioural and ethical standards. Their subordinates hold high respect for them and are able to link them meaningfully into the organization’s mission, vision and strategies (Bass, 1990; Tichy & Devanna, 1990).
Inspirational motivation depicts the leader who is able to inspire commitment among his followers. Moreover, he is able to instil a clear and compelling vision amongst group members. He attains this through symbols and emotional appeal to influence them to be one with the organization’s goals. Subordinates are then able to place group goals ahead of their personal agenda (Avolio et al, 1999).
Intellectual stimulation encompasses the promotion of a culture of innovation, encouraging subordinates to be inquisitive about the beliefs of the group. Moreover, employees are encouraged to think critically and to solve problems logically (Avolio et al, 1999). Individualized consideration depicts leaders who are able to promote an atmosphere of support amongst his followers. They have exceptionally effective listening skills and are engaged in hearing out subordinates’ concerns. They are also effective coaches who advise their subordinates towards self-actualization (Avolio et al, 1999).
In conclusion, we can say that the ideal leadership model depends on the context or situation in which leadership is demanded. The individual must be able to strike a healthy balance between administrative and people skills. Apart from being a content expert, he must be a people expert as well, driving and influencing people towards the achievement of organizational goals. In contemporary times, it is imperative for leaders to have thorough knowledge on language, communication, and even technological skills. However, more importantly, they are expected to have exemplary interaction skills, organization skills, and proactiveness. Moreover, they are expected to have a multitude of skills and must be able to motivate people amidst adversity to persist in pursuing agreed upon goals.
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