Leadership is the process by which an individual influences thoughts, attitudes and behaviors of other people. Leaders set a direction for the employees and enable them to see what is ahead. Leadership is very critical in an organization and its absence will lead to an organization degenerating into a state of argument and conflict, since, leadership joins people together and facilitates them into harnessing their efforts together.
A leader must have a vision for an organization and should demonstrate commitment towards realization of the organization’s vision (Mills, 2005). There has been unanimity that leadership involves influencing a process between leaders and followers in order to ensure the realization of organizational leaders.
The success or failure of an organization is largely linked to its leadership; leadership effectiveness or ineffectiveness and this makes leadership central to any organization. The Australian Leadership Development Center defines leadership as “any behavior that influences the actions and the attitudes of followers to achieve certain results” (Australian Leadership Development Center, 2007, p. 1).
There has been much focus towards the comprehension of the relevance and effectiveness of transactional versus transformational leadership, whereas other studies have focused on transformational and charismatic models. Charismatic and transformational leadership theories are both relevant to contemporary leadership theories, so, do servant and situational leadership theories.
Their relationship emanates from the fact that they build excitement and they both consider attitude and vision as core principles. The only contrast is that charismatic leadership has the capacity to inspire followers but this however is considered superficial and makes charismatic leadership a well thought-out trait of transformational leadership (Yukl, 2010).
The first contemporary kind of leadership is the servant leadership and it was developed by Robert Greenleaf in 1977. According to him, servant leadership is motivated to serve first as opposed to leading first, and they always strive to achieve meeting the priority needs of others.
Greenleaf distinguished this kind of leadership with the traditional model where leaders strive to lead others in realization of organizational objectives, whereas servant leadership is driven by the urge of a serve-leader who serves others to be what they are capable of becoming.
This kind of leadership subscribes to the notion that by serving others, leaders lead other people until the point of self actualization. Servant leadership emanates from a leader’s principles, values and beliefs and they place the interests of others before their own (Hannay, n.d.). Servant leadership has been criticized for paying too much attention to service as opposed to performance; it ignores performance standards (Hannay, n.d.).
When considering the challenges facing modern leadership, it is worth noting that leaders must be task-driven, result and solution oriented; they should also be able to influence followers. This makes situational leadership relevant in order to overcome this leadership challenges especially when different leadership skills are to be applied in different situations.
Transactional leadership may be more effective in some circumstances but charisma and transformational styles of leadership can also be appropriate and applicable at times. With the modern pressure on leaders to achieve, leaders must learn to practice and apply all the contemporary styles i.e. servant, transformational, charismatic and transactional depending on the situation as long as it will enable them to achieve the best results.
Servant leadership enables individuals to utilize their talents, skills and their experience in making decisions that will enable them to complete their assignment in time. This makes it easy for employees to make decisions concerning their work which was previously the responsibility of the management. Through this model, leaders leave their traditional roles of power and responsibilities and instead delegate their decision-making responsibilities to subordinates and employees. Empowerment is a critical quality of servant leadership.
This kind of leadership is considered the best and most effective in meeting the contemporary leadership challenges. Just like servant leadership, transformational leadership encourages creativity and seeks to nurture individuals through transforming them to create vision and enhance their confidence. The power of a leader is defined by how he can adapt to a particular mode of leadership during particular situations.
Transformational leadership can not be fully operational and effective on its own but it needs charisma as an ingredient to successful application of transformational approach. Transformational leadership is clouded with various behavioral elements like the modeling values and attitudes, communicating clearly and with high standards and to empower the staff with authority to be innovative as a route to realize their vision (Australian Leadership Development Centre, 2007).
In transformational leadership model, attitudes and values articulate communication and are identified as transactional leadership behaviors only that transformational leadership adds new and more future-oriented transactional behaviors.
The capacity of every leader to influence others depends on the degree of power that he has and without power a leader may not be able to fully exercise control over employees or subordinates. Power can be categorized into five different types, these are: potential, reward, coercive, expertise and interpersonal power.
Positional Power: a leader should well understand his positional authority in an organization. He should have knowledge of relevant laws, awards and all industrial agreements. A leader’s knowledge of these parameters will place him in a better position to exercise firm control over other employees and enable him/her to influence their decisions. Positional leadership addresses and commands staff compliance.
Reward Power: this power has the capacity to influence the attitudes and the behavior of employees. It involves the use of material rewards to influence the actions and behaviors of the staff.
Coercive Power: this is a negative consequence that is used as a measure to reprimand negative behavior or negative actions or attitudes and it can help to reduce the instances of occurrence of such behaviors.
Expertise Power: this is considered a source of power in the sense that the employees attach weight to the words of the leader. First level leaders are taken to have significant power emanating form their professions and experience. Examples of leaders with expertise power are accountants, engineers and leading teachers.
Interpersonal Power: this refers to the kind of power where an individual can influence the behavior of others just because of their association or relationship with them (Australian Leadership Development Center, 2007).
The role that is entrusted to the leadership enables them to initiate and manage change in an organization. Leaders are equipped with various skills including informational, interpersonal, technical, and conceptual skills.
These skills are instrumental for a leader to discharge his leadership responsibilities. Information roles enable the leader to keep abreast of the facts that are going on in the organization, technical skills involves an individual to have professional or technical skills that enable a leader to execute his tasks, interpersonal skills gives the leader an opportunity to represent an organization at carious social and official activities.
A leader with good interpersonal skills is in position to lead others in such a way as to achieve better results. With human skills, a leader can be able to communicate and to relate with employees intelligently (Australian Leadership Development Centre, 2007).
Behavioral approach to leadership is a pragmatic way of understanding leadership in an organization. It defines competency of a leader with links to contemporary roles of leadership like “strategic thinking, relationship builder and talent developer” (Australian Leadership Development Center, 2007, p. 5). Behavioral approach has enhanced focus on skills that can be learned and the effective execution of the skills which at times can be derived from the personal characteristics of the leader.
The efforts to initiate or to implement change in an organization can only be realized if the leader has insight information about the reasons why some people accept or resist change, the phases of change and the various types of change. It is a common rule that any change that is introduced should be accepted by the people (Yukl, 2010).
The type of power of a leader is instrumental in effecting change in an organization. People are only skeptical of change especially if an earlier change introduced failed. Initiating and managing change in an organization requires a lot of efforts due to the fear of failure.
A leader while initiating change in an organization must first endeavor to change the attitudes and the values of the employees. This can be achieved through persuasive appeals, introduction of training programs and team-building activities. Any effective behavior can be introduced only by an effective leadership.
Some changes in an organization can fail if a leader is ineffective. Since majority of the changes can be economic or human, a leader needs to navigate carefully. Changes like downsizing or that which involve adjustments in incentives or compensation requires a leader with good interpersonal skills who will quell the resistance that comes with the implementation of this changes.
A significant leader should not introduce changes and expect immediate results since he/she will be tempted into introducing inappropriate and short term remedies. They achieve change through communicating their priorities and show their concerns on how things should be done.
Leaders introduce change through their designing of organizational structure and facilities. This will reflect the values and the beliefs of the people. In a centralized organizational structure it is believed that it is the leader who can make the best decision (Yukl, 2010).
In their efforts to initiate change, leadership behavior is critical especially in communicating their values and in articulating the vision of the organization. Leaders also initiate change through the formulation of their long-term objectives. The design of facilities in an organization like offices is considered the role of a leader (Yukl, 2010).
It should be acknowledged that in leadership, change is inevitable and hence leaders must be willing to adapt to the changes in order to achieve the most effective results. Leaders should understand that what was relevant in the past may be irrelevant in the future and thus they should demonstrate ability to grow and to respond to these changes based on the change in situation.
Australian Leadership Development Centre. (2007). The ABC of leadership. Retrieved on 12/09/2011 from: http://www.leadershipdevelopment.edu.au/SiteMedia/w3svc674/Uploads/Documents/Effective%20Leadership%20An%20Overview%20of%20Leadership%20Theory.pdf
Hannay, M. (n.d.). The cross-cultural leader: the application of servant leadership theory in the international context. Journal of international business and cultural studies. The cross-cultural leader. Retrieved on 12/09/2011 from: http://www.aabri.com/manuscripts/08108.pdf
Mills, D. (2005). Leadership: how to lead, How to Live. Retrieved on 12/09/2011 from: http://www.mindedgepress.com/PDFs/htlhtl.pdf
Yukl, G. (2010). Leadership in organizations (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.