Challenges in Applying Leadership Theories


Leadership refers to the capacity an individual has to shape individual actions to achieve an objective as well as persuade the populace to progress in the direction of achieving an objective (Barach, 1996). Leadership entails dreams, the bigger image, transformation as well as the prospectus. Leadership is increasingly becoming significant as trade is becoming competitive and extra fickle due to the fast changing technology as well as other occurring transformations. Various challenges are experienced and this can best explained by the various leadership theories. An example of such a theory is trait theory which stipulates that a leadership can be distinguished by different characteristic which makes one an effective leaders.

In examining the leadership in an organisation, it is important to note that the point at which leaders step up a level determines not only how fast the individual as well as how effective the individual is in the new role but also, how well the leadership supply meets business demands at all levels (CIPD, 2005). Leaders in an organisation always face challenges when giving support to the employees of an organisation as well as other leaders when moving from one leadership rank to the next. Previous studies indicate that leaders play a significant role in helping other leaders grow as they get promoted. Nevertheless preceding studies have not put in consideration that a leader who has been promoted need to be supported as they rise through the ranks. As this is taking place many challenges are experienced namely older and wiser, political interference as well as fresh minds as well as.

This study aims at looking at the various challenges an organisation faces when applying the theory and principles of leadership. This study will look at the various challenges an organisation faces in applying the theories and principles of leadership. The main theory that will be looked at is the trait theory of leadership.

Older and Wiser

According to the CIPD (2005) research, organisations put great effort in a bid to find the leadership talent that an organisation need. A survey done on forty percent of the companies indicated that sixty seven percent of the companies’ main goals are to build up leaders with a high potential (CIPD, 2005). The question which comes to mind is what happens to the experienced managers mainly at the middle and upper level that have more prospective but may not be willing or have the capability of becoming future executives. The arising question is whether an organisation utilises their gifts to the maximum.

HR professionals need to put focus on an organisation’s leaders aged between ages 44- 54 as studies show that maturity brings a deepened understanding of the value that leadership adds t an organisation. An organisation therefore has to utilize these traits to their benefit as well as the individuals benefit, as they may feel like their careers have come to a halt. It is imperative for an organisation not to forget the seasoned managers when selecting resolution. This is because most of the organisations forget this group and leave them to suffer, and this becomes a loss to a company as an experienced manager is better placed to work efficiently in times of change and hence the HR professionals should position then in an imaginative way. Due to their experience they are also great teachers as well as great role models. Once the middle aged managers are incorporated in an organisation it will ensure that their talent is managed well where they can coach as well as mentor the junior executives. It is noteworthy that middle aged executives need to be self- aware as well as sensitive to different cultures, for them to lead well. The young executives tend to look beyond themselves for them to become better leaders. An organisation HR department should therefore look out for the different contribution of the leaders in an organisation on the basis of their age so that they can be assigned the right responsibilities that they can delegate well.

It is noteworthy that an organisation will face leadership challenges like the older and wiser challenge. This is more likely to occur if an organisation employs a theory like the trait theory of leadership which fails to appreciate the different characteristics of a leader like age which is an important factor in a company’s leadership. This can best be explained by the arguments in the trait leadership theory as follows:

Trait theory

This theory stipulates that leaders are inclined to have certain features or personal qualities for example energy, self- confidence, honesty, maturity, dominance, intelligence as well as proficiency. According to Ivancevich, Donnelly and Gibson (1994), despite the fact that leaders are viewed as being very intelligent as opposed to their supporters this might not always be the case. Leaders are believed to be alert as well as posses high energy levels, emotionally mature, original with a degree of integrity, as well as self-confidence are believed to be effective leaders. However not all leaders have all these characteristics. Recently effective leadership has been associated with ambition, achievement, motivation, and initiative as well as self- confidence.

This theory does however have some challenges when being applied by organizations is the fact that this theory assumes that specific leadership traits are a cause as well as an outcome of an association (Kim, 1994). It is this postulation that ignores any possible leadership activity as well as results that could have an impact on a person attributes. A case in point is when a leader achieves something and thus influencing his follower by imparting self –confidence in them. On the other hand followers could influence the leaders in a negative way and thus leading to poor delivery of services by the leaders. It also ignores the fact that a leader may act differently when dealing with different employees. This theory fails to address the level at which a trait may be regarded as effective. For example it is not obvious which leader character trait is better. As a result a wrong assumption of a good leader may be made where an organization may employ a leader who does not help the organisation in achieving its goals. This theory does not take into account important qualities such as age, weight, height, as well as one’s outward appearance in enabling a company to achieve its goals (Kotter and Schlesinger, 1992). Generally this theory fails to predict the best qualities required in order for an organisation to choose a good leader.

Fresh minds

Organisations have to recognize the importance of fresh minds in order to steer the growth of a company. If this is not appreciated a company is likely to face problems. This is especially so in the senior level where some things are better learned in a certain way than through trial and error. It is noteworthy that most organisations fail to recognize that they need to help newly appointed leaders in succeeding to achieve something more essential as opposed to acquisition of skills: the mindset which fortify leaders behaviour, affects greatly the manner in which they adapt to a change in their career. To some extent this has to do with motivation whereby different leaders are pleased with different motivation factors plus some leaders may have different changing world views as well as what guides their main concerns.

The challenge that HR professionals face when promoting an employee is the potential of an employee to have good leadership skills. In a company it is imperative that employees are aware of the career path they are taking as opposed to just focusing on climbing the corporate leader. The HR department needs to work with the senior sponsors for them to choose the best leaders. This is because an elevated performance is not a guarantee that one will make a great leader CIPD (2006).

The role of the HR is to teach line managers how to identify tomorrow leaders as well as assist in discussing the virtual advantages of a potential candidate that is to be selected as a leader (CIPD, 2007). The study carried out by CIPD indicates that line managers have a significant role to play in giving support to learning as well as development. HR therefore it is necessary for the HR to be the keeper of an organisations leadership ‘genes’. This will help an organisation aware of the criterion utilised to select leaders on the basis of a company’s requirements. An organisation should shape its leadership structure such that people do not strife to move up the career ladder while they can be better leaders elsewhere without having to strife to, move the career ladder and thus performing roles that do not suited for them.

It is imperative for HR professionals to link up with the line managers to get the time of intervention right prior to, then three months after in order for the transitions to give support as well as ample time to the up coming leaders for them to learn. Leaders will only work effectively if they have knowledge that some activities that they were performing earlier will not earn them a reward as opposed to when they do not posses this knowledge. If this information is not passed to the new leaders in an organisation, an organisation may have leaders that are not cooperative in their day to day activities.

Political interference

Despite the fact that modern organisations is organised into layers as well as open, an organisation is faced with unhealthy competition as well personal interests at the high level. The arising questions would be what precautions an organisation takes in order to ensure that a company’s leader copes well with the office politics. Politics in an organisation can only be kept at a minimum level when transparency is present as well as fairness. Excessive politics slows down an organisations operations plus the development of leaders. Politics in an organisation comes in when employees in an organisation have vested interests and this slows down the operations of an organisation as well the leadership of an organisation since a leader may be influenced negatively by the junior employees such that a certain employee is targeted and fired.

It is noteworthy that as much as a leader influences the behaviour of other employees, other employees can influence an organisations leader. This then poses a challenge for an organisation where leaders become ineffective when they get influenced by other employees.


For an organisation to operate effectively it needs good and efficient leaders. Various principles as well as theories are applied by organisation in their leadership styles for them to achieve their goals. One of the challenges experienced is a challenge known as the older and wiser challenge where organisations are confused about the leadership qualities they should look for. In this case most organisations tend to ignore the middle aged executives who despite their age contribute greatly to a company’s growth. If ignored and not given their rightful position in an organisation, an organisation might not achieve its full potential. This is also the case with the traits theory which focuses on leaders personal traits while ignoring factors like age, height, weight and so on which can affect an organisation negatively or positively. It is noteworthy that leaders from various age groups have different contributions to an organisation and hence should be incorporated in the right way for the normal functioning of an organisation. Another challenge that a company is likely to experience is the fresh mind challenge whereby an organisation has to incorporate leaders who can accommodate new ideas as opposed to trial and error. This will ensure that leaders can adapt to change in an organisation as opposed to remaining static in case of change as this will slow down the growth of an organisation. Lastly political interference in an organisation has to be checked as leaders can be influenced negatively as they perform their duties according to the company’s rules.

List of References

Barach, J.A., & Eckhardt, D.R. 1996. Leadership and the job of the executive, Westport, CT: Quorum Books.

CIPD. 2007. Learning and development, Annual survey report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Web.

CIPD. 2006.Talent management: understanding the dimensions. Change Agenda. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Web.

CIPD. 2005. UK global comparisons leadership forecast 2005–2006: best practices for tomorrow’s leaders. Survey report. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Web.

Ivancevich, Donnelly and Gibson, 1994. Organizations: Behaviour, Structure, Processes, 8th edition, Boston: Richard D. Irwin.

Kim, A., 1994. Lecture Resource to Accompany Organizations: Behaviour, Structure, Processes, 8th edition, Boston: Richard D. Irwin, Inc.

Kotter J,& Schlesinger Leonard., 1992. “Choosing Strategies for Change,” in Managing People and Organisations, Boston: Harvard Business School Publications.

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