Leadership styles effects on employees

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Leadership is art that can create miracles and that has plenty of secrets which many people have been trying to reveal. Researchers have looked deeper and deeper inside this phenomenon that affects so many people and creates visions to them. Previous theories have indicated various styles of leadership that can have enormously different effects on the employees' performance (Berkowitz, 1954; McGregor, 1966; Fiedler, 1974; Hansey and Blanchard, 1996; House and Michell, 1974).

In this essay, the author is going to discuss the impact of autocratic, democratic, lassez-fair, human relations styles of leadership on subordinates. Moreover, different behaviors and approaches of leaders will be analysed as well as the importance of ethical leadership will be taken into consideration.

On the other hand, from the paper can be seen that the performance does not depend on leader's style to full extend. Other interrelated factors, such as the followers' behavior and the nature of the situation, should be taken into the account.

Therefore, at the end of the paper readers can understand the importance of the three variables that produce more or less perfect model of successful leadership, creating higher employees' performance and increased contribution in achieving the goal.

Leadership and its nature

What is leadership? There are many definitions of this term (Kotler, 1990; Bannis and Nanus, 1985; Packard, 1962). In author's opinion Bannis and Nanus (1985) definition is the most relevant and precise. It says that leadership is the process of providing the direction to others, energizing them and obtaining their voluntary commitment to the leader's vision. Another interesting approach to this term showed Harry Truman, defining a leader as "a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they do not want to do, and like it".

Are people born to be leaders or are they gaining certain qualities throughout their lives and become successful? According to Stoghill (1948, 1974) and Kirpatrick and Locke (1991) successful leaders can be seen from the crowd, they have the "right" qualities which are not equally present in all people. The author's view suggests that there some characteristics that are given to people with birth, however, a true leader is the one who improves himself all the time, learns from others, attends different training programs and has an enormous experience. Every leader has its own pack of useful qualities that helps him to ensure successful development of an organization and its workers. Nevertheless, there are some common traits which inherent most effective leaders. These are intelligence, charisma, confidence, determination, sociability, integrity, self-assurance, responsibility and others (Stogdill, 1948, 1974; Mann, 1959 and Ghiselli, 1971). A follower looks most for creditability in a leader which includes honesty, forward looking and inspiration (Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1991 and Schmidt and Posner, 1982).Sufficient leadership ensures higher probability of success in most cases, without sufficient leadership there might be an increased degree of mistakes and failures.

Many people can develop qualities to become a leader. However, a successful leader always has a vision and he can form the aim accurately and precisely. When the goal is achieved, this person should go further and put himself into bigger and bigger challenges. For this to work, leaders should not be afraid of making changes that result in higher efficiency of workers. Emotions need to be managed appropriately all the time. In most companies conflict is inevitable, therefore there is always a need for change which may help to enhance the chance of becoming a more successful company with highly performing individuals in it. The problem of many leaders is that they are afraid of making changes and restructuring the company. Kottler (1991) identified four main reasons for that fear:

A desire not to lose something of value

A misunderstanding of the change and its implications

A belief that the change does not make sense for the organization

A low tolerance for change

It is essential that leaders understand the nature of such resistance and try to solve the problem using the most appropriate way. These methods should positively influence the workers. Nevertheless, if the leader has no previous experience in making a change to a company, he may face some difficulties and it might be not that easy to adopt the methods and to change the structure. There are five main methods of dealing with change (Kottler, 1991): education and communication, participation and involvement, facilitation and support, negotiation and agreement, manipulation and co-operation.

Leadership styles

In the first section of the essay, the importance of strong leadership qualities and the inevitability of providing changes in order to increase efficiency were discussed. We should now look at how leaders use their skills in order to achieve satisfying results.

Avoio, Bass and Jung thought that the biggest impact on the effectiveness of an individual employee has the style of leadership. The studies have shown some of leadership strategies that can lead to higher performance of each member of an organization. However, all different approaches have their positive and negative aspects.

The researches and past studies have identified different leadership styles and effects of leaders' behaviors on employees' performance (Berkowitz, 1954; McGregor, 1966; Fiedler, 1974; Hansey and Blanchard, 1996; House and Michell, 1974).

Four main leadership decision styles were allocated by Berkowitz (1954): autocratic (giving assignments to others), democratic (including group discussions and taking into consideration views of all employees), laissez-faire (passive leadership, employees make their own decisions), human relations (consulting with others). Moreover, in 1974 Fiedler proposed critical contingency factors: task structure, position power, leader-member relation, - that helped deciding on favorable and unfavorable leaders. A leader, who has good relationships with his subordinates, has strong position power and knows how to put forward structured tasks, is considered to be a successful one. To compare, poor relations with workers, unstructured tasks and wear position power are characteristics of an unfavorable leader. As a result, the performance of companies with different leadership approaches will be substatially different. This proves again that the style of leadership is essential in achieving goals through the workers.

Furthermore, the attention to transactional and transformational leaders should also be paid. The first type of leaders influences people to achieve goals through applying tasks and providing appropriate relationship between all members of the organization. Whereas, transformational leadership includes the creation of vision and strategies, leaders "mobilise commitment and institutionalise change"

Effective leaders should be able to challenge the process, inspire a vision, enable others to act, model the way and encourage the heart (Kauzes and Posner, 1995)

In addition, the behavior of leaders may be divided into task-orientated and employee-orientated (Blanchard and Hersey, 1996). The first one concentrates on setting the workers particular tasks and focuses on supervision of the completion of those tasks. On the other hand, employee-orientated leaders pay significant attention to their subordinates, trying to achieve social and emotional balance between the members of the company. These different approaches influence the level of employees' performance. Depending on the behavior, worker may be either motivated to contribute to the common goal and increase the efficiency or he can feel uncomfortable inside the company struggling to achieve better performance. In this situation, the characteristics of followers should be considered which will be discussed in next chapters.

Interrelated factors influencing the performance

It has been mentioned earlier that good characteristics of a leader do not necessarily mean efficiency and effectiveness. Leadership style and good performance of the workers are the interaction between three variables:

The characteristics of the leader

The characteristics of the followers

The nature of the situation

That is why when looking at the level of employees' contribution in achieving common goals and their individual performance, followers and situation should be also taken into consideration. That means that leader is not the only one who affects the efficiency, it is the interaction of different factors that are valuable.

The characteristics of the followers were studied by McGregor, who was trying to understand in what ways leaders motivate workers to increase efficiency. He suggested two theories: Theory X and Theory Y. Theory X assumes that people do not like to work, they need to be directed and controlled and they want security, not responsibility. As a result directive, controlling and autocratic leaders are the most useful in this situation. Leaders tend to think about subordinates as lazy people that have little self-motivation. On the other hand, Theory Y assumes that people like work, they are self-motivated and have responsibilities. Therefore, this shows that people do not need to be controlled, they are interested in achieving their goals and completing the tasks and they do not require pay-motivation. Leaders are more democratic, they allow workers to have their own responsibilities, and contribute in decision-making. McGregor's findings prove that in every situation and with every type of followers, different leadership styles are more efficient. Therefore, it is essential to choose the most appropriate style fitting to a particular situation.

The culture of the followers may also influence the nature of leadership style (Bass, 1990). Employees from more economically and less economically developed countries, for instance France and Ukraine, have different ambitions and aims. Therefore, for every culture there is an individual successful leadership style.

Does leadership always influences the performance of employees? Some researchers have confirmed that in few situations leadership is not necessary. Kerr and Jermier (1978) found three substitutes for leadership: individual job expertise, intrinsic task satisfaction and formalized rules and procedures. The studies showed that people who are highly experienced, well-trained and know when and how to perform the task, as well as people who receive satisfaction from doing the job do not need a leader to achieve their tasks. Moreover, managers can structure tasks in a tight way so that workers do not highly depend on the leader and can perform well without him.

To conclude, leaders should be aware of a group's situational needs, because in some cases the leader's influence can be minimised.

Ethical leadership

According to Watson Wyatt survey, nearly two in five employees have confidence in leaders. In this survey almost 1300 people from different industries were interviewed, and the result was the luck of trust in leaders. Therefore, the level of ethical leadership is low today which may lead to breakdown of relationships between leaders and their subordinates, resulting in lower performance and less achievements.

Additionally, there had been lots of accounting and financial scandals in the public and private (Enron, WorldCom) sectors. These examples had shown that effective leadership and ethical leadership should be synonyms in order to achieve goals and create trust between leaders and employees (P.Northouse, 2009).

"Ethical leadership can be defined as the influence of a moral person who moves others to do the right thing in the right way for the right reasons" (Ciullia, 2003).

P. Northouse (2009) considered six factors related to ethical leadership: character, actions, goals, honesty, power and values of the leader. In 2008 the Josephson Institute of Ethic in California identified six pillars of character as an essential component of ethical leadership. These include trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

Ciullia (2003) and Kanungo (2001) described many principles of ethical leadership and showed three main components relating to leaders' actions. These are showing respect, serving others and showing justice. It is thought that effective leaders should respect employees to create better confidence in each individual worker. Equal treatment of all subordinates is not easy to achieve but it is an essential tool of promoting good relationships and therefore high achievements. Moreover, dishonesty may create tension between the leader and followers which may also demotivate workers from achieving the goals that the leader is setting.


In this essay, the author was debating on whether leadership style is the only factor that affects the performance of workers.

Leaders should always look forward making changes and setting difficult tasks, as well as create ethical relationships with subordinates. "A leader with a vision has to "walk the walk" not just "talk the talk"" (Northouse, 2009).

Yet many argue that the style which the leader uses plays the most important role. Most leaders may be divided into autocratic, democratic, laissez-fair and human relations. Nevertheless, they may act differently in various cases considering followers' characteristics and the nature of the situation. Cultural aspects are also important in choosing the right style. Those ensure higher efficiency and better performance of an organization as a whole and each individual worker.

Leadership is yet to be discovered more and more, but its main principles always stays the same.