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Essay: Leadership

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  • Published: 17 September 2015*
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When defining what a leader actually does we are provided with a vast accumulation of tasks and goals, it is clear that a leader not only provides meaning and purpose but they inspire a shared vision. By structuring an environment to achieve goals, it allows motivation to set in which empowers and enables others. A leader is able to delegate responsibility effectively by communicating progress, culture and vision internally and externally it creates a open platform which facilitates the sharing of knowledge and skills.

Amabile & Khaire (2008) stated that the first priority of leadership is to engage the right people, at the right times, to the right degree in creative work, supporting the theory that a leader provides development and support to enable team members to ‘grow’.

After discussing what a leader does we can then look at what a leader is responsible for, a leader structures the environment to achieve goals, they span the control for managers, decide what the physical structure of the organization will be and they are responsible for outsourcing. A leader will form characteristics and attributes conveying fairness, integrity and consistency. Betts,W(2000) described a leader as ‘an outstanding member of a group who has the capability to create conditions within which all members feel a strong commitment towards achieving accepted objectives in a given environment’

There are distinctions between management and leadership although some theorists would agree that isnt necessarily the case, Henry Mintzberg stated ‘The notion that one can be a leader and not a manager is wrong. An executive cannot lead without managing. If they’re not coupled, the organization becomes dysfunctional.’ Allio.R(2011) However other experts have stated management and leadership should be separated, (Bennis, 1998) produced a paper on becoming a leader, he stated differences between being a manager and a leader.
The manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. Bennis provided a list of differentials between manager and leader.

Leadership Styles

Academics have formed situational and transformational leadership styles from building upon initial research on leadership this section will then discuss Lewin’s democratic, autocratic and Laissez faire theories of leadership whilst providing examples when a leader will need to adapt their style, John Adair’s concept of Action centered leadership will also be explained and analyzed.
The study of Leadership has gone through various interpretations from a historical viewpoint, In 1939, Kurt Lewin, identified three different styles of leadership Authoritarian, Democratic and Laissez-Faire.


Autocratic Leadership is often considered the ‘classical approach,’ it relies heavily on old ideas and beliefs because the manager retains as much power and decision-making authority as possible. Employees aren’t consulted when decisions are made and employees are generally expected to obey orders without any explanations. Creating a structured set of rewards and punishments produces the motivational environment (Boleman, 2014.)


Democratic leadership has been deemed the most successful leadership approach when used with skilled employees. This is because a democratic leader encourages team involvement and facilitates group discussion, Democratic leaders are constantly keeping employees informed about issues that affect them, even though they still make the final decision, they encourage followers to take part in influencing decision making process. Generally before making a final decision, the leader will consult followers and gather information from them.
Democratic leaders often work with followers helping them set goals, not only for their organization, but personal goals as well. In order to encourage growth, democratic leaders make it a point to praise and offer constructive criticism. (Bhatti et al, 2012) assessed whether democratic leadership styles have a positive effect on teaching staff in public and private schools, they found that democratic leadership has positive effect on employees output and job satisfaction.

Laissez faire

Laissez faire refers to a leader that believes in the freedom of choice for employees, minimizing supervision so they can get on with work. Such a leader provides minimal information and resources. There is literally no participation, involvement, or communication within the workforce. Because of this employees are out of the managers control. If there are goals and objectives it is just assumed the employee meets them.

Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (2000) stated that leaders do not have just one style of leadership, but rather have many varying styles depending upon the situation. For example, if employees lack knowledge and skills the leader must be in charge. Being an autocratic leader seems acceptable because followers do not know enough knowledge to make any of their own decisions.

Situational leadership theory is developed on the ways people react to working and being led in groups. There are the two key concepts, task behaviour and relationship behaviour. Task behaviour consists of the amount of guidance and direction you provide. Secondly is relationship behaviour, this is the amount of social and emotional support you provide in an organizational environment. These concepts don’t operate independently of each other they are interactive. According to modern theories of situational leadership developed by (Hersey et al, 2000) there is no one best way to influence people. The Army was used as an example, situational leadership theory proved effective because the leadership style you select and use will depend on the environment and the ability of your unit or your individual Soldiers.

There are four styles of leader behaviour:

Taken from Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson, 2000

The main point is that the follower determines the leadership style used, if a worker were confident and able to accomplish tasks, the leader would choose to let the worker carry on independently. However if a worker seems quiet and uncertain of how to get on with the task, the leader would step in and provide guidance.

Transformational leadership causes change in individuals and social systems. It develops valuable and positive change in the followers eventually expecting followers to become leaders. Transformational leadership improves motivation, morale and performance of followers through a variety of methods. A leader will try being a role model for followers that inspires to be them; they will also challenge followers to take greater ownership for their work. a leader will also understand the strengths and drawbacks of their followers, so they can assign followers with tasks that optimize their performance. (Langston, 2012)

According to (Burns, 2003), “leaders and followers encourage each other to seek a higher level of morale and motivation”. According to Burns, transformational leadership redesigns perceptions and values, and changes expectations and aspirations of employees. Alternatively in the transactional approach, it is based on the leader’s personality, traits and ability to make a change through a set vision and goals being met.

Action-Centred Leadership

The action-centred leadership model consists of three elements: Achieving the Task, Developing the Team and Developing Individuals. John Adair developed his action-centred leadership model during the 1960’s and 1970’s, and in terms of management theories it is still relatively recent. According to Adair, good leaders need to have full command of the three main areas of the action-centred leadership model.

Taken from (Stellar, 2012)

There are core functions of leadership that are essential to the Task, Team and Individual model:
Planning, which consists of seeking information, task allocation and setting standards.
Controlling, which consists of ensuring standards are met and progress is apparent
Supporting, making sure team morale and team spirit is high by encouraging workers
Informing, which makes sure feedback is received and tasks and plans are clear.
And lastly Evaluating, which clarifies whether the idea was feasible and performance was good. This further suggests that the action-centred leadership model fully integrates the concepts of managing and leading.

Culture and Motivation

This section will discuss how organizational structure can affect communication and span of control of employees, it will state the key things a leader might do to influence a culture of trust and respect. This section will then look at the benefits of diversity within a team, then going on to compare the motivational theories of Locke, Latham and Mahen Tampoe.

Organizational structure is an arrangement of jobs within an organization; the structure describes the levels and status of people within the business organization. It is found more in larger more complex companies. The structure gives people a clear sense of whom they report to and whom they supervise. However depending on the type of structure for example a Hierarchal style communication between employees can get lost, because a manager can become out of touch with whom they supervise also factors such as jealousy between employees when one gets promoted could hinder team performance and morale.

A flat organizational structure which are more commonly found in smaller companies provides faster communication, decision making involves almost all employees as they give their feedback which in contrast to a hierarchal style, although managers will have more to do because the numbers of managers are less.

Span of control refers to the number of people that report back to one manager in the hierarchy, the more people under the control of one manager the wider the span of control is. There are two types wide span of control and narrow span of control.
Wide span of control depends on the type of product being made, because products that require minimal supervision can be managed by one person therefore widening the span of control. Also it can depend on the skills of managers and workers, as the more skillful workers are the less supervision is needed and the wider span of control can be.

Narrow span of control refers to using a high level skilled manager to control a greater number of employees keeping close control over the activities of their employees.

Establishing a culture of trust and respect is essential for a leader (Handy, 1993) provided a summary of different organizational cultures,

Power Culture

Power culture is a strategy driven by leaders it is done by command and control of workers encouraging rapid results from workers.

Task Culture

Task culture is a strategy driven by teams they share values and day-to-day procedures, which mainly occur in projects or innovative tasks.

Role Culture

Role culture is a strategy driven by committees, structures and systems are developed to ensure efficiency in repetitive tasks.

Person Culture

Person culture is a strategy driven by individuals, based upon personal creativity it encourages innovation

Locke & Latham,(1990) developed a goal-setting theory it’s stated that setting goals and objectives, which are challenging but achievable can be measured, controlled and motivational. According to Locke & Latham there are five Principles of Goal Setting; in order to motivate goals must have,

Clarity, Challenge, Commitment, Feedback and Task complexity

Mahen Tampoe suggested that employees who apply their theoretical and practical understanding of a specific area of knowledge and called knowledge workers.

Tampoe added that the motivation of knowledge workers is based on the value they place on the rewards they expect to earn at work. In addition, the performance of knowledge workers is dependent upon four key characteristics: Task competence, Peer and management support, Task and role clarity and Corporate awareness. Tampoe built upon Locke & Latham’s goal setting theory however Tampoe’s theory is more complex in comparison to Latham’s.

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