Leadership In Contemporary Organisations Management Essay

Leadership is considered to be the key enabler of organisational performance and competitive advantage by the organisations these days (Burgoyne, 2008). The job of a leader is to lead his/her team to achieve the goal set by the organisation. James MacGregor Burns argues that leadership is one phenomenon on earth that is most observed and least understood (Paul, 2002). The views about a leader and the definition of leadership vary among different people. “Daniel Goleman (2000) says that an effective leader sets strategy, creates a mission, motivates his followers and finally builds a culture in the organisation. Ken Wilber argues that an integral leader is a man or woman who supports people aspiring to move forward. They have to make their own integral map that covers all the area that humans have to deal with” (Volckmann, 2005). The concepts of leadership have been developed years ago though the word is reported to have appeared in English language recently.

“An effective business leader is one who is well informed of the latest research which impacts upon leadership and who is also capable of applying this to their own organisation with in an ethical framework”. I personally agree with this statement as it is important for the leader to move along with the changing organisational conditions. He should be updated with the latest trends in the organisation in order to effectively lead his followers. Further part of the essay will explore the research that supports my argument.


As mentioned, the concepts of leadership, leader and the follower has emerged years and years ago. “Even Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristofle have written about leadership in the period between 400 and 300 B.C. As years progressed, the focus on leadership research has undergone a dramatic change. In the earlier years, leadership research focussed on differentiating leaders and non-leaders by identifying their traits. It then focussed on the behaviour of the leaders and in the later phase focus was on the importance of situational factors, thus giving birth to the contingency approach” (Paul, Costley, Howell & Dorfman, 2002). The contingency approach, when compared to the previous two phases of research, is more theoretical and hence denies the notion of effective leadership traits and behaviour. Today, in modern leadership, Charisma has become a major underlining concept and the term has different meanings that overlap. The word charisma has been used to represent different concepts through out the phases of leadership. In a business leader perspective, it is the personal quality of a leader to gain the attention of a group of individuals.


An effective leadership requires a combination of cognitive, behavioural and personality factors (Kets De Vries, 2002) and it is necessary for him or her to keep learning. It is important to see the relationship between the leadership style of a leader and the context in which they operate. The range of behaviours of a leader is categorised as goal oriented, involving and engaging. The goal oriented leader sets a direction and plays a significant role in directing the followers to achieve the goal. The next two categories, involving and engaging are less leader-centric. “From a study conducted in ten organisations, it is reported that, a leader-centric and directive style is found to be inappropriate in a changing organisation context but are common and dominant in a straight forward context. Many behaviourists stated that the leader can change his style according to the organisational strategy but Fiedler (1964) came up with the contingency theory and disagreed to it. There can be leaders who are task motivated while others are relationship motivated. There is even socio-independent leaders who are neither task nor relationship motivated” (Dulewicz & Higgs, 2005). This implies that the leader should choose the situation that better match his/her leadership style and avoid situation that is against their style.

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After a few years, House developed the path goal theory and argues that leader’s behaviour can be adjusted to adapt to contingencies and thus find a suitable style for a particular situation (House, 1999). The basic idea of this theory is to support the subordinates and help them to achieve their own goals as well as the goals of the organisation. “Four kind of leadership styles have been proposed in this theory: Directive, Supportive, Participative, Achievement-Oriented leadership. An effective leader is the one who knows which style is to be adopted and when” (Silverthorne, 2001). Directive leaders tell their subordinates, what is expected from them and give the guidance by enforcing certain rules to fulfil those expectations. Supportive leaders would be friendlier and gives attention to the needs of their subordinates. The participative leaders lead their subordinates by involving them in making decisions and finally the achievement-oriented leaders set high standards and will be confident on their subordinates in achieving these standards. “According to the path goal theory, it depends on the nature of task for the leaders to decide upon which style to adopt and hence according to the requirement, the leader should be task oriented or relationship oriented” (Silverthorne, 2001). If the nature of work is unclear, then the leader should be task oriented by giving proper direction and guidance.

As the knowledge and practice of leadership change with time, many researches mention about the transformation of leadership. Earlier, the businesses tried to keep up with their rivals in the competition but today, the intentions have changed and they try to blast their competitors out. As far as business leaders are concerned, they would be left behind if they don’t accommodate themselves to these changes. “John Ralph, the deputy chairman of a leading Australian management company has expressed his views on transformation in leadership style while speaking about the changing culture of the organisation as, leaders should encourage their followers instead of commanding and should act as a coach rather than bosses. Ray Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Bell Atlantic expressed his vision of new leadership style emerging in the United States as a moral commitment where the leaders and employees should work as partners in achieving the goals of their organisations” (Sarros & Santora, 2001). Trust on the employees is most important in this.

Lot of researches establish the validity of the concept, transformational leadership which brings change and movement in the organisation. Many researchers define transformational leadership as one that motivates people to create change, by distinguishing it with transactional leadership that uses the power and authority that exists in the organisation. Transformational style is denoted as leader of innovation and transactional style as manager of planning and policy (King, 1994). Transactional style depends on the current structure in the organisation while transformational style creates new pathways (Mink, 1992). An effective transformational leader should have a clear sense of goals to guide their organisation in to new directions (Burns, 1978). They should have the capability to foresee the change to a long term. The interaction among the people in an organisation and the flow of information gives rise to the need for change in the organisation. A fresh look at trends and feedback from frontline people becomes the catalyst for change (Herrington, Bonem & Furr, 2000). Transformational leadership also influences the culture of the organisation. If the culture of the organisation itself is cultural, then the growth of individual and the organisation becomes more effective (Bass & Avolio, 1993). The cultures of people in and beyond the organisation are also influenced by this. However, transformational leadership have potential dangers associated with it if the leader doesn’t rely on a strong ethical and moral foundation as the danger lies in the leader-follower interactions. Such kind of behaviour is defined as pseudo-transformational leadership.

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From the year 1999 to 2004, there has been a considerable increase in the research on servant leadership as a result of emergence of certain servant leadership models developed by several researchers. Trust is a common factor in all the research conducted on servant leadership. Servant leaders generate and sustain trust through their communicative and supportive behaviour (Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 1998). “Servant leadership begins with a natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first and then conscious choice brings them to aspire to lead, who is sharply different from one who is leader right from the beginning. Listening and understanding, imagination, acceptance and empathy, intuition, foresight, the ability to persuade, healing and serving, the ability to build community etc are some of the other attributes of a servant leader” (Greenleaf,1997). It not only builds the trust between the leaders and the followers but also among the followers themselves and is thus established as an important variable in the development and maintenance of organisational trust (Joseph & Winston, 2005). Studies indicate that servant leadership has the potential to improve the organisational satisfaction, productivity, safety practices and financial performance.

There are numerous researches being conducted on job satisfaction and organisational commitment. Both are at times linked to each other as the employees become less committed to the organisation if they are dissatisfied with their job. Many researchers came up with a suggestion that leadership and organisational culture has great impact on both job satisfaction and commitment. Employee’s job performance, behaviour and expectations vary with the nation they belong to, and the way organisations are managed reflects the national culture. There are significant differences between the way firms in east and west are managed as a result of difference in national culture. Goal setting, performing the task and decision making are directly influenced by the culture of the organisation. The researchers on organisational culture has come up with different types of organisational culture but the people working in an organisation have their own values, beliefs and attitudes which are part of their national culture. Depending on those values and beliefs the organisation can have a bureaucratic, innovative or a supportive culture. Most eastern organisations have a bureaucratic culture while western organisations have innovative and supportive culture.

“Leadership plays a major role in the success and failure of an organisation. The relations between leadership and performance of an employee have been explored in various researches. The attributes of transformational leadership such as empowerment and clear vision can bring greater satisfaction to the employees in their job and this leadership style works well with western organisations. The leadership in eastern organisations are based on seniority, position and authority and the leader can gain commitment of the employ by their personal relationship. There have been only a few researches done on the leadership in organisations having two or more cultures also called as multicultural organisations. In a study conducted in an organisation with Australian and non Australian workforce, it was indicated that both the work groups wanted different transactional and transformational behaviours from their Australian supervisors. Hofstede came up with four dimensions of cultural values in his research. They are power distance, individualism/collectivism, uncertainty avoidance and masculinity/feminity. Out of the four dimensions, Hofstede states that power distance and individualism/ collectivism are the most relevant ones and these dimensions were applied in the organisation where the study was conducted” (Lok & Crawford, 2003). An effective business leader has to be aware of the researches on the organisational culture as he is directly linked to the success of organisation and if unaware, the whole organisation can fail due to his/her actions.

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Team building is an activity that a leader must concentrate on to continue to be effective in his/her operations. The leaders will have to modify their leadership style according to the changing needs of employees and also the organisational change. All the books and research papers on team building clearly differentiate groups and teams. “Managers seem content with group performance while leaders always lead teams which are more productive and bring improved profit to the company. Team centred leaders are visionary and they inspire team work and mutual support. Effective leaders should have the ability to get their team members involved and committed. They communicate openly and mediate conflicts before it turns destructive” (Maddux & Wingfield, 2003).


It is the nature of most human being to enter corruption when they gain power and control, or in other sense people tend to misuse the power they have. This possibly becomes the negative side or unethical side of leadership. In transformational leadership, charismatic leaders may develop lot of enthusiastic and honest followers who will even fail to notice the negative traits of their leader (Stone, Russell & Patterson, 2003). Power with in a leader even tends to create politics in the organisation which can be called as the darker side of leadership and can weaken the leader member relationship. “Organisational politics leads people to become reluctant in assisting their co-workers and hence there will be a decline in the organisational commitment. These are the times when personal interest of the leader gets dominant and they may even manipulate conflicts in order to achieve self goals instead of organisational goals” (McGinley, 2009). As viewed by Rost, ethical framework of leadership must make individual leaders and followers accountable to their ethical responsibilities as human beings (Rost, 1993). An effective leader is the one who is aware of how and where to use the power of his/her position or personal power. Using positional or personal power in the organisation with out hampering the organisational ethics and thus maintaining a strong relationship with followers is the quality that leaders should possess to make their organisation more productive.


The essay has described about the evolution of leadership and the various researches conducted on it. The role of an effective leader in most of the leadership approaches have also been explored in the essay. Its been argued that learning latest studies on leadership keep leaders away from work due to information overload. But considering the changing organisational culture and change in the needs of people, it can be suggested that the leader should always keep in track with the researches. Leaders face challenge in applying the latest studies among their followers in the organisation. Effective leaders explore these studies only by following the organisational ethics, morals and leadership principles. The outcomes of unethical approach to leadership studies have also been described in the essay. It is said that negative traits of charismatic leaders are overlooked by their followers and hence they are utilised by the leaders to achieve personal goals. But this always results in weak leader member relations and reduced organisational commitment.

From this essay, it can be concluded that leaders should keep themselves updated about the researches and also should act according to the ethics and principles to make their operations more effective and thus improve the productivity of their organisation.

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