Changes in perception about employees in organizations towards their consideration as a competitive advantage have influenced leadership theories to maximize their performance. Leadership is among the most investigated topics in organization management (Yammarino, 2013, 149). Schyns and Schilling (2013, 138) define leadership as personal influence, including rewards and information to control followers towards organizational goals. The definition implies that employees maximize productivity, including support towards company objectives under the influence of competent persons. Leaders are responsible for supporting followers to meet organizational goals by influencing change. The leaders play social roles in attracting employees to commit their interests to those of the company. Scholars and experts in the field have come up with different leadership models that explain divergent ways of influencing followers. This paper aims to review leadership models to understand how leaders exercise control in organizations and evaluate specific leaders’ behaviors. In the end, the study analyses lessons from the review on leadership practice and improvements.
Critical Review on Leadership Theories
Studies show that the transformational leadership approach makes outstanding leaders following the various features that provide for organizational performance (Schyns and Schilling, 2013, 144). The Association of transformational leadership with performance reveals a significant model because companies’ goal in getting the right leaders is to meet their objectives regardless of situations. According to Schyns and Schilling (2013, 145), transformational leadership guides that influential leaders develop visions to direct and motivate followers while effectively engaging others and providing “a sense of meaning.” The definition points out an important feature, engagement, that supports leadership influence on employees to support organizational goals and productivity. Transformational leaders influence through role modeling, where they engage followers in structuring vision and decision making. Ryan et al. (2009, 863) highlight collaboration as a key competence in leadership that attracts followers to understand and support leaders’ goals which align with organizational vision. Involving followers in work structures imparts trust, a vital element towards winning loyalty and employee’s interests (Ernst and Chrobot-Mason, 2011, 72). Trust towards leaders following followers’ engagement provides productivity since group members listen and respect each other to cooperate towards a common goal. Followers also develop an interest in leader’s supportive and inclusive behaviors leading to payback with similar motives.
Schyns and Schilling (2013, 145) provide another essential characteristic of leaders that transformational leadership holds to impart a sense of meaning. Transformation leaders motivate followers by making them find the value of their work to influence satisfaction. Covey (2004, 106) demonstrates that gains that an employee earns from work affect a different perspective to support company goals and leaders to attain the shared vision. Transformation leaders develop such internal motivation to enjoy and love their work since it has soft rewards such as a feeling of value in an organization and career development. Although employees’ primary goal is income, they also like to see their contribution and grow in their careers. Such experiences influence satisfaction and motivation to support company goals to leap more benefits. Impart a sense of meaning is a reward motivation since followers enjoy appreciation, inclusion, and career growth in addition to income. Yammarino (2013,149) demonstrates that human desires and the need for leadership have changed through biology and evolution towards supportive people who can influence bounding, acquisition, and compression. Followers are interested in leaders who can make them develop a strong relationship with their work by imparting meaning, for instance, through appreciation and training in transformational leadership.
Similar to transformational leadership in influence through trust is the authentic model emerging following the need for good and honest leaders. Northouse (2019, 308) demonstrates that the authentic leadership approach is a new development due to the recent challenges such as corporate scandals and 9/11 destruction. Yammarino (2013, 149) makes a similar observation that demand for leaders and related qualities are changing over time following trends of past leaders through investigation on their biographies. People continue recognizing the need to experience support from their leaders to grow in the organization and feel attached to the company. Authentic leadership provides attachment and growth through openness, transparency, and employee development (Northouse, 2019, 308). The theory relates to transformational leadership, where leaders model followers to subject their interests to those of the supervisor and organization through trust. Open and transparent leaders make it easy for employees to follow their actions since they are clear on the vision. Authentic leaders provide clear goals through efforts that match with their emotions, including employee development. Such accountability of actions, emotions, and position in the organization influences followers to be accountable for their work. Employees maximize their productivity and become transparent in supporting leaders following a culture of trust and openness.
Scholars in the field demonstrate that authentic leaders motivate followers through in-group and out-groups following leaders’ trust, oneness, and accountability. The leaders build authenticity through objective acceptance and approval of attributes and behaviors, leading to an authentic relationship with followers (Besen et al., 2017, 8). According to Northouse (2019, 310), authentic leaders “have strong values about” their practices and behaviors. Such ethics attract followers who are also ready to show accountability in their work with similar characters. Yammarino (2013, 149) indicates that contemporary workers increasingly value good leaders who will create bonds and influence career development and growth. The need to experience support from a leader motivates employees to adopt similar ethics leading to the backing of the leader’s visions. Authentic leaders inspire followers towards organizational goals through intimate relationships based on honesty and openness. Being in a relationship with a leader is a reward of being honest and open towards the leader’s visions leading to enhanced productivity. As a result, authentic leadership motivates by creating a demand for an intimate relationship with supervisors to experience growth and attachment.
Another effective leadership approach is distributed theory which scholars have also called collective and shared leadership following employee involvement (Feng et al., 2017, 2). Under the model, leadership is a group quality to work towards specific functions, including decision making and development of structures to achieve organizational objectives (Feng et al., 2017, 2). Distributed leadership follows an influence system based on joint action and interdependence. The model distinguishes leaders from managers and provides a framework significant to controlling without coercion. Unlike managers, leaders attract people to follow their vision, where the distribution of leadership among employees is a strategy to allow ownership of the process. Such shared responsibility in leadership influences productivity and vision since followers behave like leaders to serve the organization. Employee inclusion in leadership influences supports towards organizational goals through shared responsibility (Fitzgerald et al., 2013, 228). Leaders who share their powers, such as decision-making with followers, make them feel part of the goals and vision. The shared ideas influence a burden of accountability to the achievement of company objectives and team support. Distributing leadership shifts the position from being a follower to a leader, making employees loyal to organizational goals in their behaviors and tasks.
Günzel-Jensen et al. (2018, 111) question the importance of formal leaders in distributed leadership model, arguing that all workers would be supervisors. The argument hints at the model of distributed leadership, where leaders facilitate a culture of sharing with and among workers. Followers in shared leadership become agencies to express their thoughts to shape experiences (Günzel-Jensen et al., 2018, 111). In the distributed approach, leadership is a process since it involves consultation among other informal leaders, including employees. The framework demonstrates outstanding leadership that involves the attraction, influence, and motivation of followers through information and openness. Leaders using the framework are coordinators to combine ideas that lead to shared decisions. Fitzgerald et al. (2013, 228) report that distributed leadership leads to interrelationship that influences outcomes. The scholar demonstrates that leaders who share their powers with followers attract group interaction and responsibility-sharing. Similar to transformational leadership, distributed model motivates employees through a sense of meaning where they own the process of structuring the workplace. Unterrainer et al. (2017) note that the framework provided autonomy among employees to increases loyalty towards organizational goals and the leader’s vision. Leaders empower daily interaction and exchange with employees, making them feel like owners and accountable to shared goals. Distributed leadership is a reward through autonomy and employee empowerment, leading to motivation towards productivity.
Evaluation of Leader’s Behaviors
I know about leader A’s behaviors and leadership approach following ten years as friends where he partly worked for a government institution X and later company Y. My experience with leader A, including sharing and studying his performance record, enables me to learn about his behaviors while working for government institution X. A critical lesson and experience of leader A’s leadership behaviors and styles comes from his work at company Y, which is my client. I have known company Y before and after leader A’s leadership leading to a substantial knowledge about his leadership.
Among the essential behaviors, I admire from leader A is his sharing and explaining his vision to employees. When leader A was joining company Y, employees were scattered in their goals with group failures. His leadership has made employees focused, supporting each other towards a shared goal as success in finances and other projects reveals. The ability to articulate a vision is among the distinguishing features between leaders and managers and allows idealized influence instead of coercion (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2019, 598). Leaders provide direction that brings all employees’ strengths and efforts together to achieve a common goal (Warren and Nanus, 2004, 65). Focus is vital since it makes followers subject their interest to that of a group as leader A did, leading to financial success.
The behavior of articulating vision with followers aligns with the transformational leadership approach to idealized influence, revealing A as an outstanding leader. Transformational leaders’ behaviors are in such ways that they attract followers to admire, trust and respect, leading to shared goals and support (Northouse, 2019, 264). The interaction also relates with the transactional leadership model, where supervisors exchange behaviors with followers on the promise of a bright future through the proper articulation of vision (Hussain et al., 2017, 2). Similarly, sharing an idea with employees inspires followers to identify with the leader due to a clear direction that imparts responsibility and attachment to the organization. As a result, leader A’s behavior in developing and explaining vision and goals to employees is a decisive influencing factor towards employee support of organizational goals.
A close behavior with sharing vision which leader A practices is communication. The leader’s success in the company results from proper communication structures to his followers, which he developed to minimize fear, lack of direction, and failed contribution of ideas from employees. Communication is a significant behavior in leadership since it supports influence through information. Antonakis and House (2014, 764) describe communication as an inspiration element in transformation leadership. Transformational leaders inspire employees towards supporting a shared goal by communicating vision and other motivational complements. Communication provides shared meaning to the vision to consolidate employees’ interests and provides a path towards achieving goals, leading to further inspiration. Communication is also a vital element in authentic leadership to inspire trust. Authentic leaders show honesty and openness through clear communication of their feelings and motives. The leaders also motivate loyalty, respect, and support from followers through balanced processing, which results from the proper articulation of ideas after listening to different viewpoints (Northouse, 2019, 316). Leader A has been a good listener of his followers while asking follow-up questions to have a clear glimpse of the different ideas. The reduced fear among employees implies trust and respect. As a result, A possesses good communication behavior that influences confidence, inspiration, and motivation towards the leader’s vision and organizational goals.
The second leader is my employee at company Z, whom I have worked with for over two years. I knew leader B some eight months before joining Him after merging my company to gain scale. My work under leader Z’s supervision has made me learn about his leadership behaviors which I don’t like.
Leader B’s approach to leadership is charismatic, although he does not give employees a chance to articulate their issues and ideas or seek clarification about visions. The leader believes in his maturity in leadership to the extent of thinking that he is right. In my first experience with the leader, he was too talkative to the extent that I could not raise all my concerns and ask questions. Such an approach is inappropriate since it influences over management and under-leadership. Ernst and Chrobot-Mason (2011, 72) describe leadership as a process of “forging a common ground” to influence through shared goals. Unlike managers, leaders control through information once they get follower’s views to develop vision and inspiration. Failed inclusion of followers’ ideas is contrary to authentic leadership since leaders do not honestly address and support followers leading to a lack of trust (Besen et al., 2017, 8). I have experienced low confidence towards leader B following his failure to respond to my question on my position in 2, 3, and 10 years after joining the company. Authentic leaders influence a positive involvement by being socially responsive. Leader A is not sensitive to his employees, a behavior that weakens his influence through mistrust.
Another leader B’s behavior is the provision of minimal autonomy among followers, leading to failed empowerment and motivation. The leader does not allow followers to decide on their own and has to be involved in minor issues, for instance, criticizing speeches, as happened to me in an annual meeting. The leader lacks ethics such as post-conventional morality that requires an individual to decide based on a social contract on what is suitable for society (Northouse, 2019, 490). Autonomy is significant in making employees feel like a part of the organization and motivation towards shared goals. Leader B’s behavior of limiting decision-making autonomy blocks a relationship with followers that is significant in leadership to influence control without coercion and motivate employees. According to the leader-member exchange model, the dyadic relationship is the main focus of the leadership process (Naktiyok and Emirhan Kula, 2018, 122). Leaders negotiate roles, making followers members of an in-group to influence responsibility and accountability. However, failed autonomy in decision making in leader B’s leadership approach implies the absence of negotiation where followers work on defined roles. Denied freedom has made employees at company Z lack interest in developing a relationship with leader B because they feel that he cannot give an opportunity to negotiate ideas and roles. As a result, the leader is more a manager following lost relationship, a key element in leadership.
Despite the negative behaviors, leader B is good at articulating an organizational vision that influences personal identification. My first encounter with the leader made me identify with his agenda, charisma, and motivation to take the company to greater heights. The leader takes a significant amount of time to show his followers that the company will succeed in some years. Although he does not demonstrate followers’ benefits in the future, his description of company performance and development attracts workers to follow his ideas. Personal identification influences emotional bonds with a leader and results from the leader articulating their competency in delivering success (Zhang et al., 2016; Yukl, 2013, 312). Leader B’s behavior in influencing personal identification relates to ethical leadership, which attracts employees towards a shared vision and goals by demonstrating a positive future (Northouse, 2019, 495). Ethical leaders have values, vision, virtues, and a voice that allows following inclusion. Understanding the leader’s goals and values accommodates employees to be part of the process by upholding similar features. As a result, leader B possesses a significant behavior of influencing personal identification that imparts shared goals.
Summary of Lessons to Practice and Develop in Leadership
One of the lessons I have learned is that leaders should have and practice good communication skills. Unlike management, communication, both speaking and listening in leadership is vital in developing a motivated team with a shared vision. Collins (2001, 68) states that a leader should be a contributing team member and, therefore, need skills and knowledge to effectively and successfully work with other people. Leadership theories under review also demonstrate that leaders’ critical role is to influence a team towards a common goal as a team that demands communication skills (Javidan et al., 2010, 109). For instance, leaders use communication to inspire followers by communicating ideas, including painting a future picture in transformational leadership (Antonakis and House, 2014, 764). I will improve on my communication skills and practice them to become an effective and influential leader.
I will improve my communication skills through improvement in self-awareness. Goleman (2013, 51), writing for Harvard Business Review, states that focus on self is a crucial future in emotional intelligence, which guides listening and speaking. A self-aware person is cautious about moods, emotions, and thinking patterns, hence regulating for proper decision-making about relationships and communication. I will develop self-awareness through meditation, analyze issues that bother me about others, reflect on how I respond to problems, understand issues that make me happy, and identify triggers to my negative emotions. Another step will be to take short part-time courses about communication skills.
Another lesson from the review on leadership theories and behaviors is the value of ethics in influencing and motivating followers. The authentic leadership model demonstrates that trust is a significant feature towards effective control of followers (Northouse, 2019, 308). Trust also applies in transformational and distributed leadership since workers would disagree with an unopen leader and who tells lies about the future or socializes self-interests. Ethics in leadership extend to providing followers’ autonomy and including them in decision making since they are part of the success process, as the model of leadership ethics on the appendix shows. I have learned that ethical leadership influences and motivates followers to support the shared goals since they believe in their leader and feel supported.
I will improve my ethical practices through the development of a more profound sense of truth about things. A sense of truth is vital to objective judgment on right and wrong, leading to morally good decisions. To develop a sense of truth, I will spare time alone in nature and when still and paying attention to heartbeat and breathing. I will later start paying attention to sounds and what I see without judgment to develop objectivity. Another step to improve on my ethics is to avoid stepping other’s values. The habit of respecting people’s lives and beliefs will influence appropriate judgment and moral practices in leadership.
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Appendix: Model of Leadership Ethics