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Effective leadership is necessary for achieving outstanding organizational performance. Effective leaders have the ability to inspire confidence in and nurture support among people who are needed to achieve organizational goals. While leaders may differ in their approaches of running their organizations; some are task oriented while other are relationship oriented all of them share the same vision of maintaining equilibrium in the organization, removing status quo and enhancing organizational productivity. In the ensuing paragraphs a detailed discussion on two great leaders Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates will be carried in the light of Fiedler's model of leadership effectiveness followed by a discussion on the similarities and differences in their leadership styles.
Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates examined in light of LPC and Situation Control
Mary Kay Ash the CEO of Mary Kay cosmetics maintained friendly and cordial relations with all her employees, she was readily accessible to listen to employee problems and provided support to employees during times of crisis. Mary Kay Ash cared for her people and proudly admitted that it is the support of people working with her that made her what she is today. These characteristics of Mary Kay Ash clearly show that she is a high LPC leader. Fred Fiedler in his contingency model of leadership effectiveness presented in 1967 clearly outlined that if the leader perceives his/her least preferred co-worker in positive terms the leader is a high LPC leader, such leader is primarily concerned with building good relationship with followers (Mukherjee, 2009). On the situational control front Mary Kay Ash being a high LPC leader performs better under moderate situational control. A highly nurturing leader like Mary Kay Ash who is considerate of the feelings of others is effective when situations offer leader only moderate control (Mukherjee, 2009).
Bill Gates the CEO of Microsoft Corporation is clearly defined in the case as an acerbic, task oriented leader who is an ambitious hard worker who is often labeled rude and arrogant by his employees. Bill Gates strongly stresses and expects employees to perform exceedingly high on their jobs with little or no regard for employee work-life balance. These characteristics of Bill Gates clearly show that he falls in category of leaders who see their least preferred co-worker in negative light. Bill Gates is clearly a low LPC leader and is primarily concerned with achieving task performance (Mukherjee, 2009). According to Fred Fiedler when the situation is very favorable i.e. when leader member relations are excellent, task is structured and the leader has strong position power or when the situation is very unfavorable i.e. when poor relationship exists between leader and his or her followers, the task is unstructured, and the leader has weak position power in such times a task oriented leader with low LPC score with a directive, controlling style like that of Bill Gates is most effective (Mukherjee, 2009).
Similarities between Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates
Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates both are great visionaries, it is their unique combination of extraordinary intuition and ingenious practicality that made turned their respective organizations into multi billion dollar enterprises (Millett, 2011). Both these leaders were gifted with the ability to forecast upcoming trends and they acted in affective ways to achieve their dreams (Millett, 2011).
Enthusiastic and hard workers
It was the enthusiasm and hard work of Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates that helped them transform small companies into some of the best managed companies in the world (Weihrich & Cannice, 2010). The enthusiasm and hard work of these leaders was the driving force behind the growth of their respective organizations (Weihrich & Cannice, 2010).
Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates, both leaders strongly believed in empowering their fellow workers. Bill Gates famously said that, "As we look ahead to the next century, leaders will be those who empower others" (Hunter, 2012). Bill Gates strongly advocated the concept of employee empowerment believing that in the new organizational framework worker is an intelligent part of the overall organizational process (Neck, 2006). Just like Bill Gates, Mary Kay Ash also strongly advocated the concept of employee empowerment, it was the goal of her life to empower women around her both financially and personally (Hitt, 2005). Mary Kay Ash always believed in the unlimited potential of women and the wonders women are capable of doing once they are truly empowered.
Differences between Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates
Mary Kay Ash's leadership style: Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates both have distinct leadership styles. Mary Kay Ash had a paternalistic, benevolent leadership style (F. Pauley & A. Pauley, 2009). Her principles of work force management were simple and were focused on using the revolutionary tactics of care, consideration and kindness for building a motivated workforce (F. Pauley & A. Pauley, 2009). Her guiding philosophy was to create a personal relationship with each one of her followers. Mary Kay Ash had a great sense of empathy, she famously stated that before taking any decision on employee action she first puts herself in employees' position and then evaluate the situation (F. Pauley & A. Pauley, 2009).
Bill Gates leadership style: Bill Gates had a highly autocratic leadership style. He involved himself in almost all of major organizational decisions (Wagner, 2009). Unlike Mary Kay Ash's style of building relationship with employees was more task-oriented where he alone took almost all decision on setting organizational goals and insisted total obedience from his followers (Wagner, 2009). The success of Microsoft Corporation shows that the autocratic leadership style of Bill Gates was effective for the organization.
Effectiveness of Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates as Organizational Leaders
Mary Kay Ash and Bill Gates both had all the characteristics of highly effective leaders. Both of them effectively adapted themselves to the individual circumstances of their organizations (Gaspar, 2005). Mary Kay Ash demonstrated a positive self image backed up by their genuine abilities to perform their task to the best of their capacities (Hall, Jones, & Raffo, 2004). The fact that both these leaders were experts in their respective fields contributes a great deal to their effectiveness as leaders (Hall, Jones, & Raffo, 2004). In addition to this both the leaders were comfortable with their respective leadership styles and successfully created an environment where their employees were comfortable working with them (Hall, Jones, & Raffo, 2004). While Mary Kay Ash's affectionate and caring relationship with her employees helped her to transform a $5000 startup business into a billion dollar operation, the highly autocratic leadership style of Bill Gates worked extremely well for Microsoft as it grew from a small business to becoming a household name the world over (Hall, Jones, & Raffo, 2004).
The leader I wish to work for: Mary Kay Ash.
I will prefer to work for Mary Kay Ash because of her relationship oriented leadership. I will be comfortable working under Mary Kay Ash's benevolent style of leadership and her empathic approach towards employees' problems. I am an individual that places great amount of importance on building effective human relations; to me working with low pay under a leader who is relationship oriented would be more comfortable than working with high pay under a task oriented leader whose only stress is on achieving superior task performance.
Leaders across the globe vary in their leadership approach. There is no benchmark for efficient leaders, while paternalistic, benevolent leadership style (Mary Kay Ash) may be successful for one type of organization; autocratic leadership style is suitable for other types of organizations (Bill Gates). Some leaders are task oriented like Bill Gates and some are relationship oriented like Mary Kay Ash yet both can be equally successful. Thus, the conclusion that emerges is that enthusiasm, hard work and vision are the most important characteristics necessary for all great leaders while the rest of leadership characteristics vary according to different organizational contexts.