Understanding the key aspects of leadership


Refer Book for definition: Leadership is the process that influences people to achieve an objective and make the organisation more cohesive and coherent.

Leadership is sometimes confused with management and is used interchangeably; the difference lays in the fact that management is designed to promote stability or the enable the organisation to run smoothly. Whereas role of leadership to promote adaptive or useful changes.

Over the time many researchers have evolved different theories regarding leadership which helps us to understand leadership better.

TRAIT THEORY- People who believes that leaders are born is likely to buy into this theory. One of the oldest theory and dominant for many decades focusing on leaders such as Gandhi, Winston Churchill, Howard F Ahmanson etc. The locus of the theory is on the study of trait and characteristic of leaders which differentiates a leader from non-leader. It emphasises that people having characteristic traits like leaders and "great men" are likely to become a leader or simply, "have it in them."

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Fig1.0-Traits associated with individual effectiveness.

Source: John & Saks (2008).

The shortcomings of this theory were inadequate measurement of traits that separates leaders from the masses and failure to recognise organisational and situational aspects.

2) Behavioural Theory - In 1940's focus changed to analysing behaviour or the style of the leaders. Researchers studied "What leaders actually do" and "How they do it."

Given the broader scope of this approach and the fact that behaviour could be emulated by different people in different areas and acted upon, it implies that leadership can be taught.

Researches conducted at university of Ohio on "consideration" and "initiating structures" and similarly at University of Michigan on "employee centric" and "production centric" states that helping subordinates and taking good care of the people of the organisation will increase productivity of an organisation. This leads to the fact that leaders can be trained on the basis of the studies.

Further the Leadership Grid developed by Blake & Mouton represented in fig.2.0 measures the managers on a nine point grid with respect to their workplace behaviour and the resulting relationship. The grid creates 81 different possibilities of management style with score 1,1 being the least hence requiring training and attention and 9,9 being the ideal.

Fig 2.0-The Leadership Grid

Source: Blake and Mouton.

Like trait approach it assumes that leadership is central to performance and human resource management but fails to take into account the situational contingencies.

3) Context fitting or Situational theory- it states that there is "no one best way to lead." The leadership must be tailor made according to the demand of the task and readiness of the followers to perform a task. Number of theories has been developed by Fiedler, Vroom-Yetton-Jago, House, Hersey and Blanchard, and others. However, we will be looking at the Hersey and Blanchard theory to explain the situational theory.

This theory takes into account the readiness of workers to do a particular job. This model shows the level of participation from the subordinate and the level of control and support they need. It enables in finding subordinate who can be groomed to be a leader by gauging their action as they change job description and attain more maturity.

Fig.3.0-Hersey and Blanchard model of Situational Leadership.

Source - www.enviedentreprendre.com/images/motivation1.jpg

Fig.3.0 graphically shows how a leader can direct a subordinate by straight forward "telling" and "delegating" in case of S1 & R1 and S4 & R4 respectively. However the moderately ready subordinate will need a mix of either "selling" or "participating" approach as per the situation

4) New leadership in 21st century- Transformational theory- The contemporary business scenario attributes transformational theory most effective way of leading.

Transactional leadership involves the day to day reward/punishment based styles to dispense command or responsibility. Whereas transformational leadership is associated with high employee participation, higher satisfaction and higher productivity in a workplace, it produces a fundamental change in the follower's belief and attitude about the organisation. It focuses in creating excitement, empowering and inspiring followers to give more than mere compliance to improve organisational performance.Fig.4.0 differentiates Transactional and Transformational leadership styles.

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Fig 4.0 - Transactional leaders and Transformational leaders.

Case study - Steven Paul Jobs. (AKA Steve Jobs)

Steven Paul Jobs

Born February 24, 1955 Jobs was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Santa Clara.

In 1972, he briefly attended Reed College but dropped out after a semester.

In 1976 Steve jobs and his friend Stephen Wozniak founded Apple computer co. in Jobs family garage. By 1980 apple already launches three improved version of personal computers and with a successful IPO. A tiff with apple board and John Scully made Steve resign (1985).

Steve ventured into founding companies like Nextstep and PIXAR Inc. post apple. Pixar Inc produce animated movies such as Toy Story (1995); A Bug's Life and The Incredibles (2004). This venture has made him one of the most sought after men in Hollywood.

In 1996, in an effort to bring back Steve Jobs Apple Inc. bought next computers for $402 million. In July 1997 Steve became the interim CEO of apple inc. and eventually CEO of apple Inc and started to revive Apple. Apple grew from revenue of $7 billion and losses accumulating to $ 1 billion in 1997 to an unimaginable growth having a market value of about $ 170 billion.(Fortune magazine nov.2009)

Application of leadership

Is Steve jobs success due to his inborn abilities or is a result of learning over a period of time. To start with we can say that Steve was a college dropout and even without a formal training he managed to create technologically genius products. If we analyse Steve's personality we can find all the five attributes of the trait theory in him. Hence we can say he is an inborn leader.

Steve's leadership style can be summarised by this quotation "innovation distinguishes between the leader and the follower," (Deutshman, 2001) his speciality lies in making products very innovative yet so simple that it attracts customers to flock for it. "We can do things that other can't do" (Steve Jobs)

Another leadership quality of Steve is that he sees Core Company's activity through marketing prism. Apple is committed to bring the best personal computing experience to its customers around the world through its innovative software, hardware and internet offering. (Young, 2005). To create technologically superior products one has to continuously learn the needs of his customers and it comes with experience and innovative thinking.

As a transitional leader Steve has the ability to combine zeal and fear in his employees which directs them to do that they have never done before, but these things are necessary for the realisation of job's vision and plans. Steve says that when he hires an employee he wants them to fall in love with Apple because if they fall in love everything else will take care of itself.


Addressing situational leadership.

In an interview Steve told that when he hires the best form the market they need to be given a piece of business to run. He wants them to make decision as good as or better than him. "The Monday meetings" are called to review the whole business and to make his employees aware of the whole business as a strategy to train them to take over the reign in future.

The organisation has been thoroughly trained to think like Steve. This is proved by smooth working of apple for six months in the absence of Steve jobs for his liver transplant operation.

"Perfectionist" is a tag given to Steve as he is only convinced with products that are perfect. He is demanding both towards himself and towards his employees-his deadlines often seems impossible but is constantly moving towards improvement in all spheres.

From the first apple computer to the breakthrough innovative devices - the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and apple stores Steve has always chased new possibilities, undeterred by any obstacles always creating a new offering to the world. His obsession with "What Next" and "Think Different" speaks of his harsh but somehow still-inspiring management style.

The rare pairing of micromanagement with the big picture vision is a jobs hallmark. He recognised that gorgeous design was the differentiator for apple gripped by successful the successful baldness of dell, Microsoft and Intel.

Apple a team sport.

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Making a presentation in Macintosh trade show in San Francisco when applauded by the audience Steve accepted the thanks on behalf of all the people of Apple. This was a new Steve, humble by failure, elated by birth of his children, mellowed with age, yet still headstrong and perhaps even more certain of his own decision making than ever

before. (Young, 2005 p.3)

This remarks Steve jobs as a leader who has learned his way up the ladder of success. With inborn talent he became successful but due to the learning and continuously evolving with the changing environment Steve jobs survived the downturn when he was ousted from apple, cheated death and changed our world with gadgets which made our life simpler yet stylish.

With the case study presented on the debate over "Are Leaders Born or Made", we can say that the leaders could be born with certain leadership traits but these skills needs to be continuously developed through learning and utilised effectively. Hence, in conclusion we can say that leaders are born with certain qualities but developed through continuous learning.