The issue of leadership has drawn the increasing attention of the public and scientific communities for recent several decades, provoking intensive debates and generating new views. Researchers focus on examining leadership styles and theories, their main distinctions and commonalities, effectiveness in different contexts, and the impact on organizational culture and performance. Simultaneously, the public is primarily interested in the question of what particular individuals do to ensure their companies’ exceptional, resounding success. Indeed, although the authority of the position usually affects subordinates, their behavior, motivation, commitment, and attitudes towards their responsibilities always depend on the value of a leader in the eyes of the followers. In this regard, genuine leaders should possess charisma, competence in their field, and a set of various skills, especially the ability to define and actualize tasks and objectives.
This paper aims to discuss and explore the issue of leadership in terms of seven essential topics. First, the document will outline prevalent leadership theories and styles that have already demonstrated their advantage, including situational leadership, contingency leadership, transformational leadership, autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, and coaching leadership. The second theme will concern how persons manage to attain the desired success as a leader, indicating necessary leadership qualities. The paper will also determine how leaders respond to challenging situations and circumstances, resolve various workplace conflicts, and find a balance between corporate effectiveness and followers’ morale and satisfaction. Furthermore, the document will address how leaders use their approaches and theories to improve their organizations. Finally, the skill to cultivate the next generation of leaders and adapt to technological and social changes will be considered in-depth.
Leadership Theories and Styles
The situational leadership theory states that there is no “best” style of leadership, but the leader’s success is contingent upon the ability to adapt their behaviors and approaches to a specific situation. Hersey and Blanchard, the founders of this theory, argue that to be effective, leaders should carefully evaluate current contexts, especially challenges and demands, and implement appropriate strategies and solutions (Bickes and Yilmaz, 2020). On the ground of situational concept, Fiedler developed the contingency theory of leadership, which also requires assessing an emerged situation and defining the right leadership style. Nevertheless, in addition to these provisions, this model emphasizes the importance of leader-group relationships, the leader’s position, and the clarity of policies and rules. In the interview, Colin Powell, the former United States Secretary of State, announced that he followed situational leadership while making serious decisions or interacting with his subordinates.
Transformational leadership deserves special attention since it is primarily directed at producing quality changes in employees’ behavior and the overall organizational system. By motivating subordinates to pursue higher goals, this approach ultimately helps them become real leaders (Giddens, 2018). Transformational leadership strongly emphasizes workers’ morals and principles and the formation of long-term relationships between them and an organization. Such leaders are typically characterized by the ability to inspire and charisma, that is, the skill to earn trust and respect. It is worth noting that despite relative consonance in words, transformational leadership strikingly contrasts with transactional leadership style stimulating employees through a system of punishments and rewards. The exemplar of transformational leadership style is Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack software company, who managed to develop competitive corporate culture and the spirit of innovation in the workplace.
Autocratic or authoritarian leadership perhaps is one of the most popular types of leadership, particularly in business or educational realms. Autocratic leadership is the ultimate task-oriented leadership style that suggests keeping total control over the team, and stimulating employees via punishments, rules, and rewards. Autocratic leadership is the most relevant style in the time of urgency, especially when a quick adequate response to a critical situation is needed. In this regard, if applied correctly and without excesses, this model can uplift team spirit, consolidate efforts, win necessary time advantage, increase the quality of work, and even be a real savior in crises (Yildirim et al., 2020). Nevertheless, to be effective, authoritarian leaders should be consistent in their decisions and promises and deserve trust from subordinates; otherwise, their orders will be performed unwillingly.
The participative model, usually referred to as democratic leadership, occupies an intermediate link between the task-oriented and people-oriented leadership styles. This type relies on sharing decision-making opportunities with a team by considering the interests of the related followers or stakeholders and promoting social equality (Al Khajeh, 2018). In this context, the leader tries to deliver direction and guidance and make the final decision but also focuses on constructive feedback from and active cooperation with employees. Democratic leadership promotes loyalty, conducive corporate culture, and employees’ creativity but may be ineffective in urgent situations when a fast reaction is required.
Coaching leadership highlights the significance of continuous learning, which indicates its affinity with the transformational leadership style. Specifically, this model states that, in the contexts of constant technological, social, and theoretical changes, leaders should provide robust professional development to guarantee the steady growth of an organization. Moreover, the education of employees considerably contributes to the firm’s resilience to challenges stemming from rivalry and ever-changing market conditions. Workers’ learning should be primarily executed through regular counseling and guidance, especially in confusing or complicated situations and issues. Herewith, coaching leaders should go beyond their comfort zones, educate themselves, and be always concerned with replenishing their knowledge. As a result, this approach creates healthy manager-worker relationships and improves employees’ commitment, motivation, and retention.
Formation of a Successful Leader
The process of becoming a leader is generally gradual and flows as an individual goes through various behavioral stages of his or her development. In the interview, Colin Powell stated that true leaders always take responsibility for complicated situations (C. Powell, personal interview, 2021). He indicates that the most prevalent problem is that people frequently avoid challenges and tasks befalling on their fate in various settings, including work and family, which thwarts them from being a leader. Indeed, situational theory highlights the importance of maturity, implying readiness and experience to assume liability and achieve goals. Hersey and Blanchard, the founders of this theory, argue that the acquired skills and the level of personal development are much more significant than inherent characteristics concerning leaders’ effectiveness (Canakci and Derindag, 2020). In other words, when persons struggle with different problems and uncomfortable circumstances, they gain valuable experience and develop character and leadership skills.
Concerning leadership traits, to become a leader, persons should primarily target developing emotional intelligence that comprises four competencies. First, self-awareness is the fundamental quality of any leader, suggesting the ability to analyze personal emotions and their potential impact on the work performance and other individuals (Goleman, 2020). It also includes an objective evaluation of personal strengths and weaknesses. Self-management means the capability to control disruptive impulses, adaptability to situations, as well as initiative and resourcefulness. Social awareness entails empathy and support for others and active involvement in the organizational life and environment. Fourth, social skills are mainly connected with communications, inspiring employees with a compelling vision, guidance, and close cooperation. Finally, a genuine leader seeks new opportunities, experiments with new ideas, and even dares to implement extraordinary decisions. Nonetheless, before adopting such decisions, leaders thoroughly assess probable hazards and threats to avoid enduring significant losses or putting others at risk. The careful analysis of a situation and resources is a cornerstone of the successful realization of projects or intentions.
The Management of Difficult Situations and People
In their daily workflow, managers always face diverse difficult situations, have to settle conflicts and misunderstandings, and promptly respond to challenges. The successful resolution of any problem primarily depends on a leader’s experience, skills, and knowledge, as well as the preparation of a team. In this regard, Stewart Butterfield asserted that when a challenging situation arises, it is critical to acknowledge it and inform the whole team to discuss the problem and find possible solutions (S. Butterfield, personal interview, 2021). If the satiation is not argent, the group discussion, especially brainstorming, can point to the best way out of a difficult situation. However, it is worth noting that authoritarian leadership can be applied in a time of urgency when there is a necessity to provide a timely response to critical issues. Besides, Colin Powell noted that leaders should handle difficult situations with determination, enthusiasm, and reactivity (C. Powell, personal interview, 2021). This passion and view should be constantly conveyed to followers and subordinates.
In conflicts, leaders can turn to diverse conflict management styles (CMS), including collaborating (or integrating), competing, avoiding, accommodating, and compromising. Among them, many studies advocate for the effectiveness of the collaborating style. For instance, based on the finding from 165 questionnaires, Lu and Wang (2017) inferred that the integrating style had a positive correlation with high relationship quality. Moreover, another study by Yin et el. (2020) indicated that team leaders with collaborating CMS favorably impact team innovation performance in various entrepreneurial activities. It is worth noting that the collaboration style requires meeting the concerns of all parties or, at least, the majority. This practice is the best choice when a leader strives to build long-term relationships with workers and a team of unanimous colleagues.
Organizational Effectiveness and Follower Morale and Well-being
In the working environment, senior leaders frequently encounter the dilemma of how to provide organizations with maximum productivity and ensure employees’ satisfaction. Carucci (2019) states that managers should first alter their mindset and direct it at creating an inclusive work environment that boosts employees’ engagement in companies’ processes and activities. Workers should always be granted the right of voice during collective decision-making and the opportunity to actualize their potential entirely. Furthermore, leaders should instill a sense of shared purpose in every worker, which can eventually unite colleagues into one solid team energized to create and win. In this regard, a leader can allow workers to reveal their own purposes and then think about how an organization can connect these purposes to its central mission.
Regarding employees’ morale, it is vital that the company’s mission mirrors fundamental ethical principles, such as honesty, quality, and transparency, among others. At the same time, leaders should exemplify moral behavior evident in interactions with workers and customers. It is worth noting that recent research by Widyani et al. (2019) has proved the significant and conducive effect of ethical behavior on organizational performance, emphasizing the role of ethical entrepreneurial leadership. Indeed, if managers conduct in a pernicious and detractive manner, such behavior is likely to spread to the whole corporate environment and form in the organization as a specific culture.
Finally, active communication and tight collaboration between leaders and workers also play a considerable role in the latter’s well-being and motivation. Stewart Butterfield stated that when employees are often ignored, especially during meetings and conversations, and lack feedback from leaders, they feel alienated from the organization (S. Butterfield, personal interview, 2021). It is critical to creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and support, where a worker realizes that his or her opinion is valued or, at least, considered. Only in this way is it possible to build a strong team with satisfied and morally formed individuals.
Reliance on Theory
In the working setting, leaders usually practice or turn to specific leadership theory or philosophy to overcome diverse work-related problems and obstacles. In the interview, Colin Powell said that, in confusing situations, he frequently applied situational leadership (C. Powell, personal interview, 2021). This is because this style allows for addressing daily challenges and demands occurring in the daily workflow. For example, when interacting with workers, Powell tried to adjust his approach to all subordinates to assess their strengths and weaknesses and take advantage of the former. Furthermore, he noted that each concern or project requires thorough planning and preliminary examination to increase the chances of victory. Every risk, possible event, or perspective should be calculated and considered; otherwise, it is highly likely that a leader suffers bitter defeat that mandatorily reflects on his or her adherents. Finally, Powell recommends building an incomparable team by ensuring that workers know their job excellently and providing them with trust and necessary informational or material resources.
Stewart Butterfield relies on a slightly different approach while managing their organizational activities and moving his company forward. In particular, he highlights the significance of a collaborative culture that can be developed via transformational leadership. Butterfield also indicates that despite his skills and competency, he liked to turn to the advice, mentorship, and guidance of more experienced people who value that (S. Butterfield, personal interview, 2021). The point is that the team should have a shared, innovative aim or idea that attracts the minds of all members and can unite the effort to achieve success. Indeed, the study by Buil et al. (2019) demonstrates the beneficial influence of transformational leadership on employees’ performance, emphasizing the amplifying role of engagement and proactive personality. Overall, the principal function of a leader is to inspire, be straightforward in a crisis situation, and realize employees’ potential in everyday situations.
The Upbringing of Followers
The upbringing of followers should be among the major concerns of any leader to make their organization or team solid, progressive, and charged to win. Undoubtedly, the most relevant approach to nurture in this regard is the transformational leadership style that targets providing employees with conducive conditions and vast opportunities for self-development. In the given contexts, a transformational leader typically serves as a role model for subordinates, who is always concerned with modifying their behaviors by inculcating necessary principles, values, and views (Tang, 2019). In addition, transformational leaders encourage workers to assume higher responsibility, announce their opinions, and undertake various initiatives. As a result, adherents gradually grow into independent, morally formed, and integral personalities able to perform complicated tasks, confront challenges, and even take over leadership when needed. This is arduous and time-consuming work, but it is worth the effort.
It is worth noting that coaching leadership can be applied to educate followers as well since it is directed at providing practical and continuous guidance for subordinates. In this context, it is even consonant with the transformational leadership style that considers all-around support as one of the key pillars of the team’s comprehensive development. Nevertheless, the main distinction between these approaches is that the latter offers much more independence for employees in decision-making and is more inclined to motivate them rather than give them advice and recommendations.
Moreover, despite a widespread assumption that transformational leadership is a soft type of leadership, it actually encourages managers to challenge subordinates to make them exhibit higher creativity and performance. This regular emotional and intellectual stimulation typically generates unique and inspirational ideas and constant alacrity to work and accomplishments. Concerning the selection of followers for leading positions, it should be indicated that the preference should be shown to those most capable, initiative, active, knowledgeable, and competent. Besides, a leader should pay close attention to the presence of other important leadership qualities such as empathy, willingness to help, sociability, and assiduousness.
Adaptation to Changes
The ever-changing environment is an indispensable component and concern of leaders’ life. For example, social transformations bring changes in tastes, demands, and preferences, while technological upgrade allows for seizing new opportunities and expanding organizational influence. Failure to adapt to upcoming changes usually threatens to lose the leading position in a particular market segment or even be sidelined at. In this respect, Butterfield states that to stay afloat in any situation, especially under evolving rules and conditions, it is essential to be flexible and leave aside past decisions or modify them according to the current demands (S. Butterfield, personal interview, 2021). He also adds that when specific changes occur, a leader needs to be upfront, explain the situation to the team, and discuss potential solutions, herewith considering every suggestion. On the other hand, Powell indicates that determination and zeal play a crucial role in the resolution of challenging situations and addressing changes appropriately (C. Powell, personal interview, 2021).
In terms of changes, it is worth considering the effectiveness of particular leadership theories. For instance, the main focus of the coaching leadership approach on continuous learning provides the organizations or groups with resilience towards any technological and social shift. Coaching leaders care for enhancing their human resources by helping employees acquire versatile professional skills and gain the necessary knowledge, especially about recent innovations. This, in turn, ensures the sustainable development of employees and building a corporate culture able to be flexible and adaptable to any circumstances. It is also worth mentioning the situational leadership theory that places a special emphasis on a leader’s ability to adjust their decisions and approaches to concrete situations. This concept also specifies that adaptability is the principal requirement that should be met to survive in an aggressive business environment.
Leadership is a concept or phenomenon that is challenging to understand and can be interpreted diversely. Some people regard it as the ability to give correct orders and provide efficient control over organizational activities, while others believe that leadership is about being at the forefront of realizing a specific idea. Nevertheless, one point concerning leadership is apparent: leadership is always tightly conjugated with a constant readiness to take responsibility for personal acts and the well-being of the team. They try to inspire and support team members and uplift them to a new level of development. Furthermore, leaders are always proactive and initiative, face a risk first, and never retreat before obstacles, difficulties, and failures on the path towards success. They are forward-looking, progressive, and broad-minded, which always distinguishes them from the majority.
This paper has comprehensively discussed and the issue of leadership in the framework of seven topics. Specifically, special attention has been paid to the examination of famous leadership theories and styles, including situational leadership, contingency leadership, transformational leadership, autocratic leadership, democratic leadership, and coaching leadership. Each approach is unique by itself; herewith, there are always points of contact with other views. For instance, both transformational and coaching styles underscore the role of mentorship and support for effective team development and the progress of the company. On the other hand, autocratic and situational types admit one-sided decision-making, especially in urgent situations.
Other themes also comprise the ability to respond to complicated issues and conflicts properly, a balance between followers’ morale and effectiveness, the upbringing of leaders, and adaptation to various changes. For example, upbringing followers necessitate leaders to be role models in terms of exemplary conduct and performance, whereas an adequate response to problems and confusion requires thorough analysis and planning and the estimation of all risks and threats. It is worth noting that the discussion of the topics has been supported by relevant scholarly sources and data from the two interviews.
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