Identifying the Qualities of Successful Leadership


Leadership has been described as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Machiavelli (1532) famously asked the question, should a leader strive to be loved or feared? He further declared, although it is desirable to be both loved and feared by one's subjects, it is difficult to achieve both; It is far safer for a ruler to be feared.

What qualities distinguish an individual as a good leader? Researchers have examined leadership skills from a variety or perspectives, finding that no single trait fully explains a leader's abilities (this is known as the trait theory). The trait theory has been explored at length by Thomas Carlyle who extensively identified the talents, skills, and physical characteristics of men who rose to power and Francis Galton who examined leadership qualities in the families of powerful men. Galton's works concluded that leadership was inherited, leaders were born not developed. The studies investigated traits such as intelligence, birth order, socioeconomic status and child rearing practices of different families.

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There have since been many reviews of these studies, many of whom have taken a different view of the driving forces behind leadership. For example researchers have begun to examine the influence of a situation on a leader's skills and behaviours. This situational approach to leadership asserted that individuals can be effective in certain situations, but not others. This research focuses on the fact that an individual can be both a follower and a leader, depending on the situation they are faced with.

Leadership Theories such as the Autocratic to Democratic Model, the X and Y theory, The Ohio State Leadership Model, the Managerial Grid, Task Team Individual Theory and Situational Leadership are among the most well known theories to date.


Supply Chain Management is the management of a network of interconnected businesses involved in the ultimate provision of product and service packages required by end customers. Supply Chain Management can also be defined as the design, planning, execution, control and monitoring of supply chain activities with the objective of creating net value, building competitive infrastructure, leveraging worldwide logistics, synchronizing supply with demand and measuring performance globally.

Wincanton's business is delivering supply chain solutions across Europe. The company is customer focused and its aim is to help its customers become more efficient. Wincanton has built a specialized team of experts within its organization from Operations, Technology, Finance and Human Resource personnel to assist with achieving the company's overall goal of maximizing its service to its customers.

John Adair is one of the world's leading authorities on leadership and leadership development. John Adair's Action Centered Mode l (ACL) illustrates Adair's three core management responsibilities:

Achieving the task

Building the team



TeamDeveloping the individual

To effectively manage their supply chain Wincanton should adhere to the ACL Model as it outlines the responsibilities of a manager to:

Achieving the task - At Wincanton once Senior Management has accepted a project it must be made to happen. Therefore Senior Management must:

identify aims and vision for the group - define the activity (the project)

identify resources, people and systems (inc. financials, communications, IT). Wincanton's Human Resource Department is responsible for setting out the resource requirements for a particular project

create the plan to achieve the task . Wincanton's Operations team is responsible for the entire project from planning, analysis, implementing and ongoing support

establish responsibilities, objectives, accountabilities and measures, by agreement and delegation - Senior Management sets out the goals and objectives of the company and delegates to the respective teams.

set standards and maintain control

monitor and maintain overall performance

report on progress towards the group's aim

review, re-assess and adjust plan as necessary

Building the team - Senior Management at Wincanton knows that successful projects require co-operation between teams (HR Ops IT Finance)

establish, agree and communicate standards of performance and behaviour

monitor and maintain discipline, ethics, integrity and focus on objectives

anticipate and resolve group conflict, struggles or disagreements

develop team-working, cooperation, morale and team-spirit

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encourage the team towards objectives and aims - motivate the group and provide a collective sense of purpose

identify and meet group training needs

give feedback to the group on overall progress; consult with, and seek feedback and input from the group

For each individual - Wincanton offers training programs and other employee incentives

understand the team members as individuals - personality, skills, strengths, needs, aims and fears

identify and agree appropriate individual responsibilities and objectives

give recognition and praise to individuals - acknowledge effort and good work

where appropriate reward individuals with extra responsibility, advancement and status

identify, develop and utilize each individual's capabilities and strengths

train and develop individual team members

Team and group dynamics are influenced by many factors such as the environment in which the team operates and the mix of individuals within the team. Wincanton influences the way in which the team operates as it fosters a high energy, low tolerance for failure, team building environment. The company's performance is directly related to the fact that Wincanton is made up of a group of highly effective individuals, and their ability to identify and develop the talent within the group.

Motivation has been defined as: the psychological process that gives behavior purpose and direction (Kreitner, 1995). For this paper, we will define motivation as the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals. Understanding what motivates employees and how they were motivated was the focus of many researchers following the publication of the Hawthorne Study. Five major approaches that have led to our understanding of motivation are Maslow's need-hierarchy theory, Herzberg's two- factor theory, Vroom's expectancy theory, Adams' equity theory, and Skinner's reinforcement theory.

According to Maslow, employees have five levels of needs (Maslow, 1943): physiological, safety, social, ego, and self- actualizing. Maslow argued that lower level needs had to be satisfied before the next higher level need would motivate employees. Herzberg's work categorized motivation into two factors: motivators and hygienes (Herzberg, Mausner, & Snyderman, 1959). Motivator or intrinsic factors, such as achievement and recognition, produce job satisfaction. Hygiene or extrinsic factors, such as pay and job security, produce job dissatisfaction.

Vroom's theory is based on the belief that employee effort will lead to performance and performance will lead to rewards (Vroom, 1964). Rewards may be either positive or negative. The more positive the reward the more likely the employee will be highly motivated. Conversely, the more negative the reward the less likely the employee will be motivated.

Adams' theory states that employees strive for equity between themselves and other workers. Equity is achieved when the ratio of employee outcomes over inputs is equal to other employee outcomes over inputs (Adams, 1965).

Skinner's theory simply states those employees' behaviors that lead to positive outcomes will be repeated and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes will not be repeated (Skinner, 1953).

Wincanton ensures that products are delivered appropriately labeled and in suitable condition. It can track and trace where orders are at any time and can also integrate its warehousing systems with its customers' systems to improve efficiency of stock ordering and delivery, and a host of ad hoc services.

Though this may be a customer's idea of an ideal situation to help improve the company's efficiency, it would have an adverse effect on the motivation of employees. Generally employees need to feel secure in their jobs; so many jobs today are being made redundant as computers and other technological advancements have replaced the need for the human element. The ad hoc services provided by Wincanton makes the company a one stop shop for supply chain management. Hiring a company like Wincanton would reduce staffing requirements therefore eroding an employee's sense of job security.

However one can also look at this in a positive light; If Wincanton is able to provide these services to its customers, then their employees can focus on less remedial tasks and use their initiatives to assist in the development of other areas of the company. Thereby demonstrating to management that the skills acquired can be used in other areas. Employees will now have an opportunity for advancement and to learn new skills and develop competences.

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A team comprises two or more individuals working together to achieve a common goal. There are a many different types of teams that can be found within each organization, examples of which are hierarchical teams, project teams, work teams, cross-functional and self directed teams.

Teams are expected to make a genuine commitment to the team's needs, goals and objectives, to take an interest in everything that affects the team, communicate openly by sharing ideas, opinions, skills and knowledge. Teams are sometimes very difficult to manage as they consist of individuals from different backgrounds, cultures and areas of expertise; each of them with their own ideas, beliefs, opinions and expertise. In addition to this each team member is motivated by different things. Some team members will be motivated by monetary compensation while others need a promotion or public recognition to motivate them to perform. Each of these however can bring about conflict within a team.

Wincanton comprises mainly of cross-functional teams. These teams are made up of individuals from Finance, Human Resource, Operations and Technology; each with their own tasks but ultimately working together to achieve the company's goals and objectives.

The Operations Team is responsible for understanding the customer's needs, planning the project and putting the plan into action. However none of this would be possible without the Finance and Human Resource team. Wincanton uses only the best human resource to ensure that the product and services that they offer meet not only their standards but the standards of the customer.

But what if this team of experts did not function as they should? What if the Technology team was in conflict with the Operations team and did not agree with the IT solution being offered to the customer. Or what if finance did not feel that the project being put forth by the Operations team was viable? These differences in opinion are a source of conflict within the team and would affect the quality of service being delivered to the customer.

Communication or the lack there of is also a potential source of conflict at Wincanton, the Operations team and finance team could be at odds about a purchase order that did not go out to a vendor on time thus resulting in a time delay.


Leadership is one of the most researched topics in history and yet there are still so many unanswered questions. At the core of it all is what makes a person a great leader? Historians have told many stories of great men and woman that have impacted the lives of many through their leadership styles.

Dr. Martin Luther King has been hailed as one of the greatest leaders of our time. A Baptist Minster turn civil rights leader he became the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial discrimination. He led many demonstrations, preached sermons and gave speeches that affected the lives of many. It was his tenacity, belief in his cause and his love for his fellow men that made him a great leader. Had he not been born in that era, in that situation would he have been as great a leader as he was?

Internationally famed as a humanitarian, Mother Theresa advocated for the poor and under privileged. A Catholic Nun she spent most of her time operating her Missionary of Charity in more that 123 countries around the world. It was through her ministry to the poor and sick that she touched and saved lives. Born in Calcutta India a poverty stricken country with over 81% illiteracy, Mother Theresa was propelled to leadership to help her country men and the world. What if she was born into a wealthy family unaware of the poverty that exists around her, would she have had such an impact on the world?

These are but a few examples of Leaders in our time both propelled to leadership as a result of their situations and their traits. Dr. Martin Luther King was a young black man living in America during a time when racism was rampant, but yet he felt it was his duty to fight for a better tomorrow. Not just for the Blacks but for the equality of all man kind. Why him you may ask, as there are certainly other blacks that experienced racism in American at that time. It was his character the traits instilled in him by family, close friends and mentors that separated him from the rest.

Leadership by its very definition is complex, no one thing, trait, characteristic or situation can define a Leader. It is the individual's ability to use that which is instilled within them to rise above their personal situation and still lead that makes, that make them great.


Leadership teams are the most important asset in the workplace, as it can set your organization apart from the competition. Effective management brings about effective employees and poor management leads to chaos.

The leadership style and abilities of the Management team at Wincanton can be credited with their success and its shows in their revenues, customer base, employee satisfaction, and their latest share prices.

A strategic alliance must be formed between leadership teams and employees in order to sustain high business performance. As with the teams at Wincanton, teams across the organization must communicate and work in tandem in order to foster an environment of high efficiency, effectives and moral.

Additionally good teams have to be maintained. Management must motivate their teams for achieving success, in order to develop a positive relationship. Compensation can be given by way monetary rewards (bonuses, stock options, salary increments etc), or via recognition (promotions, gifts and awards). Mangers must get to know their staff and what motivates them as no two persons are alike.

Leadership must provide feedback to their employees through quarterly or bi-annually performance reviews. It is ineffective to wait until the end of the year to provide feedback to an employee especially if there are issues that need to be addressed. Communication is the key to building positive relationships between employees and managers.

My recommendations don't over manage, study your employees, set attainable goals for your department, focus on team building and develop the talent of your employees. Celebrate achievements and show appreciation for those employees that go above and beyond.