Leadership theories provide an excellent basis for effective communication between employees and managers in the workspace. However, these theories were developed based on existing leadership styles. For example, authentic leadership theory is consistent with CEOs’ leadership style since the main feature of this approach is the leader’s honesty, loyalty to ethical principles, and support for the organization. At the same time, transformational leaders are often middle managers, as this leadership style is characterized by closer interaction with followers. This paper aims to present two leadership situations from personal experience and analyse them in terms of course materials, applying leadership theories concepts.
Authentic Leadership in the Context of Personal Experience
To illustrate my understanding of authentic leadership, I want to share a story that happened to me a few years ago when I participated in a peaceful demonstration to protect the environment. I believe that environmental protection is an important issue, and each of us can change the situation for the better. Besides, ordinary people need to remind governments about the impact of carbon emissions on our climate. Therefore, I decided to join a Facebook group, “Green Planet,” as a volunteer. Since I took an active civic position, I offered the moderators my help, and I was asked to organize a peaceful gathering.
At first glance, it was easy – I only had to send out invitations and respond to messages from those who want to participate. However, as day X approached, many people wanted to join the demonstration, and it was not easy for me to cope with the massive flow of messages. Besides, we were afraid of the police reaction, and I needed to convince people that we were organizing a peaceful action and ensure their safety during the procession. When I arrived at the meeting point, I got to know the rest of the organizers, and one of them made a pretty strong impression on me. I think this person was an authentic leader, as he managed to calm down the agitated crowd and reminded everyone of the purpose of our peaceful march. He instructed me to monitor a group of people and ensure they would not harm themselves in case of a conflict with the police.
There were about ten of us, the organizers, and this leader, let’s call him Mr. N., easily coped with the task of directing a large crowd of people by distributing responsibility for these people among us. Fortunately, everything went well; we walked down the main street with environmental posters and even managed to get media attention. Besides, the “Green Planet’s” photographer took many good shots, which were then posted on Facebook. The group experience brought us together, and soon these people and I became good friends. Subsequently, I took part in similar actions more than once, and I consider this experience highly valuable.
Within this experience, I had to face some difficulties, and I could feel the difference between working alone and under a talented leader’s guidance. I think I learned first-hand the meaning of the concept of commitment to principles since Mr. N. seemed to express the very essence of a volunteer organization with his appearance and presence. He managed to communicate with many people who came to the gathering, including journalists. He explained to us how to convey clear instructions on behaviour during the demonstration. He expressed his organization’s idea and invited us to become a part of it and get its support. In those days, I only dimly sensed that this person possesses some fundamental qualities for managing people. However, thanks to this course, I can see which qualities were inherent in Mr. N., what his purpose was, and how he applied these qualities.
Authentic leadership stands out among other leadership theories. According to Northouse (2016), there are four major components of authentic leadership, which create the map for becoming this type of leader – self-awareness, internalized moral perspective, balanced processing, and relational transparency. These components are inherent in leaders’ behaviours, their relations with people, and self-reflection. Northouse (2016) denotes three sides of authentic leadership, namely intrapersonal, developmental, and interpersonal. The intrapersonal side reflects the leader’s experience and education, self-control, and self-understanding. The interpersonal side describes how a leader acts in collaboration with followers (Northouse, 2016). Finally, the developmental side reflects an authentic leader’s professional and ethical development during their life. In general, Northouse (2016) views authentic leadership as a style that emerged to satisfy a demand of society for honest and reliable leadership in an uncertain world.
Further, Banks et al. (2016) note that authentic leadership “demonstrates dominance over transformational leadership when predicting group or organization performance and organizational citizenship behaviours” (p. 634). Therefore, this leadership style is more applicable in cooperation situations when the group has common civic or organizational goals. At the same time, transformational leadership is a less acceptable model for such cases. Banks et al. (2016) also recognize that authentic leadership is less practical than transformational leadership in ensuring followers’ well-being, content with the leader, and job outcomes. This effect probably emerges since authentic leadership does not necessarily imply long-term direct interaction with the followers. Authentic leaders can leave their followers face-to-face with current challenges and problems without providing direct support.
Arda et al. (2016) emphasize that authentic leadership “may be an appropriate answer for managing the chaotic order as well as promoting ethical approaches in organizations” (p. 247). Therefore, scholars identify the two most important applications for this leadership style. Finally, Kiersch & Peters (2017) believe that educational institutions need to implement training to prepare students to practice authentic and servant leadership styles. Scientists believe “developing undergraduate student leaders who are authentic in their leadership and who have the drive to serve and support those around them” can be highly beneficial for students, educational institutions, and employers (p. 25). Consequently, scholars confirm that authentic leadership has broad practical application and can be learned. Scientists also believe that this leadership style’s disadvantages can be compensated by applying the servant leadership style.
Considering the above analysis, I can say that now I better understand the authentic leadership theory and intend to apply it in my practice. Now I work as the head of the ELV-systems department in a construction company, and my duties imply interactions with subordinates. In the future, I plan to experiment and apply authentic leadership theory by developing the correct attitude through self-control, inward-looking ethical perspective, and transparent relations. Northouse (2016) presents a questionnaire that helps assess to what extent a person possesses leadership qualities characteristic of a given leadership style. I intend to take this test to find out if I have the traits of an authentic leader.
According to scholars, authentic leadership can be learned and then applied in situations that require followers to support organizational ethics or in circumstances of chaos and uncertainty. My company is a reasonably large corporation, so our employees need to follow certain ethical principles. Besides, we work in a competitive and unstable market, which means that uncertainty situations will occur in my work practice. I will also need to combine authentic leadership style with other approaches, including servant and transformational leadership styles since a severe drawback of authentic leadership is the lack of consistent interaction with the followers.
Transformational Leadership in the Context of Personal Experience
Another leadership situation happened to me while working at a starting position in an international company. Even though my responsibilities were mostly simple organizational tasks, I consider invaluable the experience I gained in that company. I got the opportunity to work with an outstanding transactional leader, my manager. She knew her job, and during several months of my work for the company, she trained and supported me, helping me cope with the high volume of work through effective task management. She also helped me to familiarize myself with the typical organizational business processes. Thanks to this practice, in the future, I felt much more confident with other employers.
One day, just as my contract was nearing completion, my manager, let’s call her Miss L., ordered me to help her organize a conference with the participation of our international team, CEOs, and partners. It was a very responsible duty that had to be done quickly and required high dedication, as it consisted of many mini-tasks. Among other things, we needed to arrange reservations for comfortable rooms in hotels located in the city centre, set the rental of a conference room, organize a coffee break, and provide all guests with printed handouts. The last assignment involved printing out fifty copies of the company’s annual report and preparing several dozen badges for the company’s employees and key guests.
The tasks were not difficult, but failure at any stage could have unpleasant consequences for my manager and me. My responsibilities included booking hotels and airline tickets for the CEOs and a few key employees, printing and binding fifty copies of one hundred-page annual report, and checking last names on badges. Besides, I had to be prepared for any urgent errands on the day of the conference. It was not easy since only two days were allocated to organize this event, and I also had to carry out daily routine tasks. But fortunately, everything went well; even the names on the badges were all printed correctly.
Initially, I was startled when I learned that the responsibility for organizing the event laid with one person – my manager, and expressed my confusion. But Miss L. reassured me, saying that the responsibility also lies with me, so she counted on me. Her support over the previous months helped me become her reliable partner in this work since, at that time, I learned a lot of tactics and principles of work. I am sure that without my manager’s support and her excellent transformational leader qualities, I could have made a lot of mistakes. Some seemingly simple processes, such as booking flights, have pitfalls that one needs to know about in advance. Other procedures, such as printing and binding annual reports, can take much more time than one might initially think. Besides, hotels can sometimes cancel reservations without giving reasons, which leads to critical situations.
But my manager gave me clear instructions on how to get around these difficulties. She monitored and verified my actions in the course of work, which gave me confidence. Her support increased my level of job satisfaction since I did not have to face critical situations alone. In other words, thanks to the support of my manager, I was more successful and, therefore, more satisfied with myself, the manager, and the job. Therefore, this leadership style deserves special attention and subsequent application in practice.
Northouse (2016) notes that transformational leadership is inseparable from followers’ needs. In other words, the transformational leader “taps the motives of followers to reach the goals of leaders and followers” (Northouse, 2019, p. 264). Another important aspect is that transformational leaders interact with followers and develop relations that boost motivation and engagement. One outstanding example is Mahatma Gandhi, who met the aspirations and needs of his nation. It is also noteworthy that by investing in followers, the transformational leader changes himself, gaining recognition and support.
Northouse (2019) notes that a transformational leader can become an agent of change by making efforts to change corporate values and align them with fairness and justice standards to provide a higher level of organizational support. In this process, both leaders and followers can acquire a higher set of moral values. According to scientists, transformational leadership can be based on three main elements, “inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration” (Northouse, 2019, p. 272). This style is usually compared to transactional and Laissez-Faire leadership styles, which are much less effective.
Transformational leadership may become addictive as the manager moves followers to accomplish more than usual, thus expanding their boundaries (Northouse, 2019). This effect arises from the fact that employees can sacrifice personal interests for their company’s benefit. Therefore, transformational leaders’ most remarkable achievement is that their followers find sense in their work and identify with their job outcomes. Transformational leaders strive to maximize the potential of their followers. To do this, they apply management tactics of contingent reward and management by exception.
Most scholars recognize the transformational leadership style to be highly effective. Kim & Kim (2017) associate transformational leadership with emotional intelligence, noting that many studies support this connection. Andersen (2017) states that the transformational leadership style is most appropriate for educational staff. Arnold (2017) emphasizes that this style is positively related to followers’ well-being, noting that this relationship is not always direct but can be mediated with moderating factors.
Sun et al. (2017) also discuss this leadership style’s correspondence to the nature of the relationship between teacher and students and highlight three main style’s antecedents – the leader’s qualities, organization’s features, and follower’s qualities. Siangchokyoo et al. (2020) note that transformational leadership theory has gone all the way from developing phenomena to a mature paradigm. Many studies confirmed its effectiveness, which indicates the need to improve the approach, returning to earlier stages. Finally, Turnnidge & Côté (2018) propose to apply the transformational leadership approach to study educational and training attitudes in youth sport.
In my work and managerial practice, I intend to use the transformational leadership style to increase followers’ job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment. Scientists’ evidence confirms that by relying on theoretical resources, one can quickly learn to be a transformational leader. However, given that this leadership style requires the utmost attention to the followers’ needs and motives, putting such leadership into practice can be demanding. Fortunately, scholars say that transformational leaders receive recognition and genuine support from their followers. I love that this theory provides for a close and almost friendly relationship with followers and respect for their needs and desires. Importantly, this theory is highly humane and can also be applied in situations where leaders must act as agents of change, giving them more independence and support within the organization.
Thus, the paper presented two leadership situations from personal experience and their analysis from the perspective of leadership theories. Through a detailed examination of cases in terms of leadership theories, I was able to clarify some ideas in the light of scientific evidence. The reasons and strategies for my former mentors’ behaviour became clear to me, which enabled me to further learn from their experience. Besides, the analysis of real-life situations from the perspective of leadership theories allowed me to observe how theory is born from practice and enriches practical techniques.
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