In this chapter, the key academic concepts surrounding leadership are outlined. An operating definition of leadership is proposed, suggesting that it is a process whereby an individual is able to influence a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. From this baseline, the importance of leadership context is examined to review these theories and consider the essential differences between leadership and management.
Ultimately, leadership is about exercising power, which can be rooted in the attributes of the individual, the culture of the organisation and the role required. How that power is exercised can shape the effectiveness of a leader as it can be coercive, rewards based, built around personal connections and/or the possession of knowledge. For more benign and engaged leadership approaches the importance of trust is examined, as this is seen to be critical in generating confidence and respect in the leader.
A range of leadership concepts are discussed, including traits theory (who or what the leader is), behavioural theories (leaders can be trained and developed), contingency theory (finding the best leader for the situation presented), situational theory (adapting and blending leadership styles to match the operating environment and needs of subordinates). Situational theory also examined the relevance of Adair’s Action Centred Leadership model in balancing the demands of the task, the team and individuals.
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Examining these theories subsequently informs a consideration of the differences between transformational and transactional leadership. This highlights the importance of articulating a vision to transform an organisation for transformational leaders and the need to develop shared values. A transactional leader is more likely to focus on (more traditional) linkages between performance and reward.
The Chapter also considers the importance and relevance of leadership styles, discussing the nature of authentic leadership which focusses on building trust relationships, moral character and strong values. Authentic leadership has distinct parallels with ethical leadership (being ‘good’ and doing ‘right’), servant leadership (empowering/developing others) and spiritual leadership (generating meaning and engagement). This then allows a comparison to be drawn between autocratic leadership (the more dictatorial approach) and charismatic leadership (using inter-personal skills, confidence and the power of personality to set and achieve a vision). More collaborative leadership approaches are also considered in an examination of democratic leadership and how collective/distributed approaches can be used to gain the best corporate and individual return from structures such as cross-functional teams.
In expanding on transformational theory, the key practices of a transformational leader are also outlined. These are to model the way, inspire and generate a shared vision, challenging established processes, empowering others and considering their feelings. This supports the proposition that leadership requires people to be able to understand the emotional and human aspects of an organisation if they are to inspire and motivate their subordinates. In contrast, management is focussed on more tangible aspects, resolving complexity to achieve results. Leadership can therefore be seen as an ‘art’, applying cognitive, spiritual, moral and emotional intelligence. The Chapter then concludes with a consideration of how this is reflected in strategic leadership.
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