Leadership in the Contemporary World

Introduction

Leadership is both an art and a science. For actualizing effective and efficacious leadership, leaders must first articulate a vision, lay down a mission, communicate the vision and the mission to all the relevant stakeholders, implement the same, and ensure that feedback is sought and incorporated for the next iteration. Further, leadership is situational which means that more often than not, leaders are made according to the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Leadership during Tumultuous Times

During tumultuous times, there is a scope for change as well as the possibility of disasters happening that result in chaotic conditions prevailing during these times. Hence, the leadership of a nation or an organization must ensure that change is “managed” in an orderly and structured manner to avoid the disasters from happening.

For instance, the carnage that happened in post-Invasion Iraq is an example of disasters happening by intention or by accident when the residents of a nation or the employees of a company are faced with the prospect of rapid and discontinuous change.

The key terms here are “rapid” and “discontinuous” as the rapidity of change and the non-linear way in which it happens leads to the “law of unintended consequences” becoming operational and hence the change must be managed in such a way that it is glacial and controlled.

Leadership Styles

Telling Style of Leadership

The telling style of leadership is characterized by a one-way communication between the leader and the followers wherein the former sets the context and the expectations from the group. Some leaders in family owned businesses have to deal with the legacy left behind by their forbearers as well as leave behind their distinctive style of leadership. Towards this end, some family business leaders such as Ratan Tata of the TATA group have ensured that they articulated their vision for their companies that had huge ambitions and plans for global expansion.

Selling or Coaching Style

The literature on leadership and situational leadership in particular is clear that it is not enough to have a vision without translating it into actionable strategies. Research has shown that this style is characterized by a two-way communication between the leaders and the followers wherein both are influenced by each other and buy-into each others’ strategies.

Further, this style also corresponds to the leader being comfortable in his or her role. In this respect, business leaders such as Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic have ensured that the adoption of technology was done in a big way to further their vision of their companies needing to build internal capabilities which are aligned to the external drivers such as the imperative to expand globally.

Participating or Supporting Style

The situational leadership is evolutionary in nature meaning that it is based on the progression of the leader through successive phases in his or her leadership. Having said that, the theory also states that some leaders tend to conform to one or more styles better than the other style(s). This is applicable in the case of the late Steve Jobs of Apple who is known more for his transitional, transformative, and trailblazing leadership rather than his participation in day to day running of the company.

The Delegating Style

The fourth style of leadership according to the model is that of a leader who does not direct and monitor the day to day running of the company and is instead, engaged in higher value adding processes. For instance, Bull Gates who delegated much of the work that he was initially engaged in now began to focus on global plans for the company especially at a time when the global macroeconomic environment was unfavourable.

Four Competencies of a Leader

The four competencies of leadership as described by Warren Bennis are:

  1. forming a vision which provides people with a bridge to the future;

  2. giving meaning to that vision through communication;

  3. building trust, “the lubrication that makes it possible for organizations to work”;

  4. searching for self-knowledge and self-regard

In our personal experience, we have seen these competencies in dealing with groups by utilizing the collective energies of the group to articulate a vision as well as ensure that the objectives set forth for the group has meaning.

More importantly, building trust is essential to the success of the group and hence many leaders make efforts to build the team in a combat situation. Finally, unless the team members have a healthy dose of self-esteem by way of pep talks and leading by example, the efficacy of the team in crisis situations becomes corroded.

Examples of Presidential Leadership

The two presidents that we have selected for comparison are President Bush Jr. and President Obama. These two presidents are so “unlike” each other in their leadership styles. For instance, President Bush was more of a “gut feel” player who instinctively could sense the other person’s character and nature whereas President Obama is more of a leader who relies on rational analysis and careful consideration of the merits and demerits of proceeding on a particular course of action.

Further, President Obama relies more on rhetorical skills and oratory to lead compared with President Bush who was more evangelical in his approach.

Conclusion

To reduce the commitment gap in the organization, the team members in the military must be properly trained and motivated. Since the job of the military is to defend one’s country and participate in highly stressful combat operations, it is necessary for the members of the military to be highly motivated and focused on the job at hand. This requires consistent effort by the top leadership in leading by example as well as increased rewards for those whose job entails taking significant risks. Finally, commitment from the military is also increased by making them involved in the entire process and ensuring that they get to see the big picture as opposed to tunnel vision

References

Bennis, W. (2003). On Becoming a Leader. New York: Basic Books.


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Leadership