Leadership Theory and Research


Leadership is one of the most important elements of growth and success within any social or commercial setting. The ability of an individual to create a vision, convince people to support it, and offer the right kind of motivation for followers to work towards achieving a common objective is not an easy task. Over the years, leadership has been associated with roles such as supervision, influence, direction, and command (Dugan, 2017). The styles of leadership applied are different depending on the kind of people being led, the set objectives, and urgency. Today, leaders have a harder task compared to those who preceded them because contemporary society is more educated, exposed, advanced, and diverse (Miner, 2015). This means that for a leader to succeed in the contemporary world, he or she ought to have outstanding qualities that will convince people to follow.

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Styles of leadership

Several styles of leadership apply in providing direction, creating a vision, delegating duties, and making good decisions. Some of the leadership styles that are commonly used include transformational and servant leadership. The transformational style of leadership refers to an approach where a leader willingly chooses to work together with his or her subordinates. Together, they identify gaps, develop mitigation strategies, and work in collaboration to fill them. A transformational leader does not develop a vision to fulfill his or her interest (Dugan, 2017). Rather, their main intention is promoting team spirit, as well as enhancing the motivation and performance of all people. One of the principles that define the concept of transformational leadership is the need to attach a sense of collective identity to every vision (Chesser & Cullen, 2017).

One of the modern leaders that have proven her transformational abilities is Meg Whitman the Chief Executive Officer of Hewlett Packard. She has been at the helm of the company for more than five years, before which she had held senior positions at reputable organizations such as eBay and Disney. Characterized by bold decisions, as well as a focus on team building, empowering employees, and having a shared vision, Whitman’s leadership style has attracted a lot of admiration across the globe. One of her common leadership rules is breaking down barriers between employees and the management team. At Hewlett Packard, she made sure that employees and the executive used a common parking lot as a way of symbolizing the need for togetherness and free interaction between employees and the executives.

Servant leadership refers to the philosophy of a leader giving priority to the needs of other people ahead of his or her ones (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018). According to leadership experts, a servant leader focuses on helping people achieve as much success as possible. One of the distinguishing elements about servant leadership is that it applied the bottom-to-top approach rather than the top-to-bottom approach (Philips & Gully, 2013). Servant leaders exist to serve, which means that they dedicate their lives to unlocking the potential of those around them and instilling the spirit of innovation. Research has established that organizations that have servant leaders tend to have prolonged success and a huge competitive advantage because the output of the workforce is always high (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018).

The rate of employee retention in such organizations is always high because employees enjoy fulfillment in the jobs and are always motivated to work. Some of the advantages associated with transformational leadership are the ability to bring positive influence within a society, as well as a high return on the investment made to employees of an organization (Chesser & Cullen, 2017). One of the main disadvantages of servant leadership is the fact that it takes a lot of time before results start showing because employees ought to understand the level of responsibility that comes with this style of management (Blanchard & Broadwell, 2018).

A good example of a servant leader of the modern era is Desmond Tutu. The archbishop of Cape Town is one of the heroes of the fight against apartheid rule in South Africa alongside the late Nelson Mandela. When Mandela was imprisoned for their efforts, Tutu continued to push for a more equitable and racism-free South Africa by organizing numerous peaceful protests that sought to pressure the government to end the violations against its citizens. He was a strong advocate of a peaceful resolution to the problem, as well as promoting the value of mutual forgiveness.

Qualities of a good leader

The value of good leadership cannot be overestimated. A good leader should be honest, intelligent, committed to a course, creative, passionate, a good decision-maker, an eloquent communicator, as well as highly responsible and accountable (Dugan, 2017). Honesty helps a leader to earn the trust of followers, while a strong commitment to a course gives value to a vision. A good leader should also have the ability to make good and bold decisions, which should also be communicated to all the involved parties. According to leadership experts, one of the distinguishing elements between a good leader and a bad one is the willingness to take responsibility when things go wrong (Miner, 2015). A good leader also empowers his or her followers to become better and promote the principle of the common good.

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Good leadership is also associated with the concept of motivation by empowerment. It entails the ability of organizational leaders to challenge their employees to achieve maximum output. The employees are allowed to work with greater freedom as long as they have clear goals and a flexible work plan. Many organizations use the concept of motivation by empowerment to increase the motivation of employees, the level of job satisfaction, and the retention rate (Philips & Gully, 2013). Organizations empower their employees by encouraging them to participate in decision-making and rewarding performance.

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a concept closely related to organizational leadership. It refers to the management efforts made by an organization to create a competitive working environment where employees are continually motivated to improve (Harrison, 2017). The concept is mainly developed on the need to achieve the best quality in terms of the products and services offered by an organization. Although it has been overtaken by other quality control models such as Six Sigma and Lean manufacturing, many organizations still apply it for improving the experiences and satisfaction levels of their customers. TQM is guided by several principles that aim to help an organization achieve its full potential. The first principle is those customer requirements define the quality level to be achieved by an organization. The second one is that the process of quality improvement requires continuous efforts that should be equally shared and spread by all the individuals involved within the workplace (Harrison, 2017).

The third principle is that organizational leaders should take responsibility for initiating quality improvement programs. Although employees can play a part in identifying any gaps, the top management should give the necessary directions. The fourth principle is that increasing the quality of products and services ought to be embedded in systematic analysis and evaluation of production mechanisms (Philips & Gully, 2013). The organization should focus more on the processes rather than individuals. The fifth principle of TQM is that quality should be quantifiable. The effectiveness of a TQM system is the ability to quantify the results and establish the degree of progress. The sixth principle is that quality improvement programs should be a long-term investment whose results should not be expected immediately. The leadership style applied in effecting quality management strategies is very crucial to the ability of an organization to maintain high-quality standards.

The seventh principle is the adoption of institutional leadership. This connects to the eighth principle which encourages the leadership to drive out fear to guarantee success in the workplace. The ninth principle involves breaking down barriers that demarcate the staff region (Philips & Gully, 2013). The tenth principle involves the elimination of slogans and targets in the workplace. The eleventh principle involves the elimination of numerical quotas and goals. The twelfth involves the removal of barriers that inhibit people from achieving their potential. The thirteenth principle involves the introduction of programs that enhance learning and constant improvement in the workplace (Philips & Gully, 2013). The fourteenth principle involves the effort to sensitize everyone to work in the interest of the vision and mission of the organization.


Effective leadership is very crucial to the ability of an organization or entity to achieve prolonged success. Good leaders should have the ability to make good and bold decisions, as well as the willingness to take responsibility for them. Honesty, reliability, accountability, and commitment are also qualities associated with good leaders. Transformational and servant leaders have a lot in common about their ability to empower their followers to be as successful as possible. The willingness to work at the same level with everyone and give priority to the needs of others makes one a special leader.


Blanchard, K., & Broadwell, R. (2018). Servant leadership in action: How you can achieve great relationships and results. New York, NY: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Chesser, J.W., & Cullen, N.C. (2017). The world of culinary management: Leadership and development of human resources, (6th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education, Inc.

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Dugan, J.P. (2017). Leadership theory: Cultivating critical perspectives. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Harrison, C. (2017). Leadership theory and research: A critical approach to new and existing paradigms. New York, NY: Springer.

Miner, J.B. (2015). Organizational behavior 1: Essential theories of motivation and leadership. New York, NY: Routledge.

Philips, J.M., & Gully, S.M. (2013). Organizational behavior: Tools for success. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.

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