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What Are Leadership Theories Saying These Days?

Education 09 Dec, 2020 Follow News

Dr. Livingston Smith is a Professor at the University College of the Cayman Islands. He is also Director of the CXC Education Volunteer programme

Leadership theories abound and each has something important and profitable to contribute. Team management encourages participation and interpersonal relationship among other priorities. Situational leadership insists that different situations require unique kinds of leadership- directive, coaching, etcetera. Contingency theory is also concerned with styles and situations. The path goal theory encourages the motivation of subordinates to accomplish designated goals.

Transformational leadership tries to appeal to higher human motivations to not only better the organization but to simultaneously add to the quality of life of its followers. Transformational leadership generates significant paradigm change through energy-producing actions (empowering the followers). The transformational leader inspires a shared vision, facilitates the achievement of that vision, and obtains commitment from the followers, while also making their pursuit of the common vision a fulfilling venture.

There is enormous capacity and potential for a transformational leader to ignite the young and inspire new zeal in the old and tested. These leaders can realign organizations and community that rejuvenates and make the more relevant to an ever changing and increasingly suspicious world.

Exemplary Leadership lays out five ‘irreducible’ principles of leadership. These are the ability to model the way- that is to establish principles about the way people should be treated; inspire a vision, that is being able to motivate and breathe life into a vision; change the process which speaks to being innovative; being able to collaborate and build spirited teams and create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity and being able to encourage the heart by making people feel like heroes.

Trait theories consider personality, social, physical, or intellectual traits to differentiate leaders from non-leaders. Leadership traits identified include ambition and energy, the desire to lead, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, intelligence, high-self monitoring, job-relevant knowledge, etcetera.

Servant leadership it is grounded in the Christian philosophy of ‘servantness’ and servanthood practiced by Christ. For the Servant Leader, leadership is an opportunity to serve others. Power is shared and success is measured through growth and development. This leader listens and thrives on membership care to drive commitment. It is the very antithesis of self-centeredness. Christ is quoted as saying ‘I came not to serve, but to serve.’ Immersed in this reality, the Servant Leader engenders trust, collaboration, and care.


Summary of Main Points Abstracted from Current Leadership Literature

1. The probability of good leadership is enhanced through limiting tenure, sharing of power, leaders being real and staying real, when they compensate for weaknesses with having competent people around them, when they lead healthy personal lives and when they engage in reflection which deepens self-knowledge, self-control and good habits.

2. To reduce the possibility of the stench of unethical leadership, followers should be empowered. They must be encouraged to be skeptical and insist on transparency in all aspects of the organization.

3. A distinction can be made between leadership and management. While leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals, management is mostly limited to the use of authority inherent in designated formal rank to obtain compliance from members of the church. Leaders have a vision, they inspire others, communicate values, initiate new ideas, catalyze change, use influence, they experiment, are flexible, they seek and sense opportunity, they motivate, lead the way and think ‘outside of the box.’ Managers, on the other hand, plan, organize, control, direct, adjust to change, are structured, monitor and are concerned with efficiently, they use power, manage, and follow. Clearly, the dichotomy is not a rigid one.

4. Integrity and trust are the foundations of leadership. The trust factor is enhanced when there is an expectation that the leader will not, through words, actions or decisions, act opportunistically. The dimensions of trust include integrity, honesty and truthfulness, competence, that is an individual’s reliability, predictability, and good judgement in handling situations. Also important are openness and a sense of vulnerability. Trust disappears when a leader abuses power or uses improper means to attain goals.

5. Emotional intelligence enhances a leader’s effectiveness. Elements of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, self-motivation, empathy, and social skills.

6. Contemporary leadership speaks to team leadership roles including coaching to improve member performance and the management of conflict. It also includes mentoring. The mentor listens, empathizes, shares experience, acts as a role model, shares contacts and provides positive guidance.

7. Contemporary leadership literature stresses self-leadership, which is a set of processes through which individuals control their own behaviours.

8. In an age where authoritarian power is being questioned from the classroom to the boardroom, the emerging research is conclusive — humility is a dramatically more powerful and effective way of leading. Our study suggests that a ‘quieter’ leadership approach — listening, being transparent, aware of your limitations and appreciating co-workers’ strengths and contributions, is an effective way to engage employees. Humility is demonstrated when the leader shares the credit with the full consciousness of the full range of elements and individuals that have caused the success. This leader also asks for and learns from feedback.

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