The communities where we live and work are facing complex challenges such as climate change, economic uncertainty, income inequality, multicultural relations, geopolitical unrest and other seemingly uncontrollable forces.
People are stressed, confused, anxious, on edge. When we think of leadership in such times, we immediately look toward the dynamic individual leader who can guide us through the volatility.
Leadership Style and Performance
Decades back, when modern management practices were not established, people would talk about a direct leadership–performance link where leadership played a key role in improving a company’s performance. But, empirical studies establishing the links between leadership and performance were not available.
A detailed study conducted on Icelandic ships provided the much needed data to establish the link. The study closely examined the impact of leadership on performance in the context of Icelandic ships. Thorlindsson (1987) observed that different ships performed differently (their catch varied) under identical conditions, under the varied leadership skills of different captains. Today, there are several studies that suggest that leadership can make a positive difference to an organization’s performance.
Several studies have examined the relationship and found a positive correlation between leadership style and performance, often mediated by organizational culture. Emmanuel Ogbonna (2000) says organizational culture and leadership are intertwined. An engaged culture means employees are more involved; things are more transparent, which results in improved sales and customer satisfaction for the company.
Various Leadership styles and types include Autocratic Leadership, Democratic Leadership, Laissez-faire Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Charismatic Leadership, Bureaucratic Leadership, Transactional Leadership, Consultative Leadership, Paternalistic Leadership.
Related: Various Leadership Theories
Qualities of a Modern Leader
Every King, Queen, President, Director and Manager has or will face the difficult job of building trust in their leadership. And trust doesn’t come before honesty. Quality leaders make truthful, ethical behavior a priority and in turn, they do not only gain the respect of their team but their team follows in suit. The result is a healthy, co-operative work atmosphere with the leader and the team ‘on the same page.’
Delegation isn’t just about passing a job off to another. It’s about understanding the skills of each team member. When a leader delegates a task it should be to the right person and with full trust in the individual. Great leadership capitalizes on the strengths of the team to deliver strong results for the business.
Your goals may be clear in your mind but are they clear to your team? Strong leadership focuses on communicating clearly, consistently and effectively, gauging the responses of others and making improvements as a result. And what’s more, strong leadership goes hand-in-hand with passion. If you cannot relate your vision to your team then you’re risking ambiguity around the shared goal. It’s also vitally important that leaders express a ‘my door is always open’ attitude. Make yourself available to discuss issues with staff – if they can depend on you then they’ll be dependable.
Even if your latest marketing strategy has gone down the pan, your website has crashed or you’ve lost that major client, it’s important that you don’t leak a negative attitude to your team. In these circumstances, a strong leader will put the stress aside and build the morale of their team to maintain productivity. Positive energy and a sense of humor helps a team find their way through challenges. When great leadership is at work, the work environment won’t turn sour no matter what the circumstances.
A leader cannot possess leadership skills without confidence. And although there may be days where things aren’t going to plan and you aren’t feeling too bright about your latest ideas, your team shouldn’t be affected. A great leader knows how to keep a ‘cool-head’ in challenging situations and will keep firing out the team morale. Remember that setbacks are a natural cog in achieving the larger goal. If you’re calm and confident then your team will feel the same and will power-through with productivity.
Strong leaders lead by example. There’s no better motivation in a work environment than seeing a boss putting the hours in to show that hard work is being done on every level. Prove your commitment to your team and you will not only earn their respect but you will instill a positive work vibe at your business. Commitment is also important in other instances. If you have promised your team a party or a late finish, keep your word. Maintain your fair reputation for your team to treat you in fairness.
Keep up the positive vibes at your workplace by going the extra mile to make things happen. Boost energy levels with snacks, or coffee and introduce monthly events or chats to stay in touch with your team’s personalities. The mood in your office should take a fine balance between productivity and playfulness. If your team are happy and upbeat then they won’t mind staying the extra hour to finish that project.
The right decision won’t always stare leaders in the face. Indeed, leaders might often need to deviate from their plans to find a more suitable solution. In this case, your creativity is vital. If your team look to you for guidance then they’re expecting you to think outside the box. Turning back to your team for guidance might even be the best option. Remember, a problem shared is a problem halved. Involving your team in your decisions isn’t a sign of weakness but a sign of belief in your workforce.
There is no secret or roadmap to the future of your business or indeed, the future of your leadership. You must use your initiative to move your business forward through uncertain times. And when something unexpected happens, your team will rely on you to guide them through the scenario. The tough decisions are your responsibility – put on a brave face and follow your instincts.
A team cannot grow in strength without the inspiration of their leader. You should make your team feel successful no matter what challenges face them and ensure they feel invested in the accomplishments of the business. Acknowledge the work of each of your team members and keep their spirits up. Inspiration is at the core of excellent leadership.
Charismatic leadership is leading by dint of personality and charm, instead of relying on any external power or authority. Charismatic leaders seek to fulfill organizational goals by instilling devotion. They scan and read the environment in which they operate to pick up the moods and concerns of individuals and larger audiences, and then hone their actions and words to suit the situation.
A leader should be visionary. Meaning, he should be able to dream about the future and translate such dreams into specific, achievable goals. He should be able to articulate them with great inspiration to instill the commitment of others. They should back up their words with action. They adopt a partnership approach to create a shared sense of vision with the followers. They focus on opportunities rather than problems and emphasize Win-Win approach rather than the adversarial Win-Lose approach.
Modern leadership v/s Traditional leadership
Traditional Leaders: The traditional corporate approach to power is one of singular authority. Traditional leaders in the corporate world believe that their power derives from their position of authority. Old school corporate hierarchy often bestows power based on longevity with a secondary look at prior results. The longer you stay with your firm, the farther up the ladder you progress, the greater your power.
Collaborative Leaders: The new approach of collaborative leadership recognizes that power is greatest in a collective team. By encouraging equal participation across all levels, collaborative leaders allow solutions to develop from the best ideas of the group and take a team approach to problem solving.
Traditional: Maintaining ownership of information is the hallmark of traditional leaders. From a power perspective, information is power. Releasing information on a “need to know” basis allows traditional leaders to maintain authority and control.
Collaborative: Open information sharing is the cornerstone of collaborative leadership. Getting everyone on the same page in a project requires information sharing. Education also plays a role. The more cross training available, the more creative approaches to problem solving can develop and be implemented.
Traditional: Traditional managers will occasionally entertain suggestions or be open to ideas from their team. In a top down hierarchy, the decisions generally come from the executives at the top of the food chain. Because information is closely held, management may know of circumstances that drive the decision making process that may be withheld from team members.
Collaborative: The art of collaboration gives everyone on the team a voice. Leaders are generally open to suggestions and ideas from their team and recognize that brainstorming and different perspectives can bring unique insights.
Traditional: In a traditional corporate culture, solutions are generally delivered to team members. These decisions are made in the boardroom or the executive suite, approved and passed on.
Collaborative: In a collaborative environment, solutions are brainstormed among team members and facilitated by management. Collaborative leaders recognize the power of a group approach to problem solving.
Traditional: The traditional approach to resource allocation is generally reactive. Resources are provided only when deemed necessary by upper management and often brought to a committee for approval prior to deployment. This process takes time and focus away from a project and can result in stress being placed on the team by forcing them to deal with issues or challenges without the necessary resources.
Collaborative: A collaborative environment is based on trust and resources may be delivered proactively. Team leaders will enable their teams to flourish by providing resources and allocating time, quickly. This allows projects to develop more rapidly, as employees have access to the corporate resources (time, money, materials) necessary to do their jobs efficiently.
Rules and Responsibilities
Traditional: Traditional corporate culture relies on a series of rules, regulations and a hierarchy that force managers and team leaders to adhere to specific roles and responsibilities for both them and their teams. This can stifle the creative process and result in team members working in relative isolation as information and resources are shared and provided on a “needs” basis.
Collaborative: In a collaborative environment teams are encouraged to work together. Information, resources, knowledge, time and effort are shared. This allows roles and responsibilities to evolve and fluctuate based on the greater good.
Traditional: In a traditional culture issues are often dealt with on an individual basis with no regard to the root cause of the problem. This keeps managers fighting fires instead of instituting beneficial change that could prevent issues from arising.
Collaborative: The basis of collaborative leadership is trust. Because team members are given more responsibility for their work, leaders are often more involved in the process. This means that as issues arise they are often dealt with swiftly. Collaborative leaders look for the root cause of conflict as it arises, and address solutions promptly to keep work moving forward.
Performance and Feedback
Traditional: Most traditional corporations practice a semi-annual or annual review process based on corporate policy. This can be detrimental to employee morale. If an employee has had a banner year, but in the last month missed a deadline or a project they were managing ran over budget, it can result in a negative performance review. This can damage morale and increase turnover as employees who feel they were unfairly judged may seek greener pastures elsewhere.
Collaborative: The nature of a collaborative environment means that leaders and team members are equally valued and work closely together on a daily basis. This gives the opportunity for immediate feedback, praise and constructive criticism. A collaborative environment is nurturing and offers the opportunity to share knowledge and educate members on an ongoing basis. Collaborative leaders often share their knowledge and experience by offering ongoing personalized coaching to other team members.
Missing Links in Understanding the Relationship between Leadership and Organizational Performance in International Business & Economics Research Journal (IBER)
Leadership Style, organizational culture and performance: empirical evidence from UK companies, in international Journal of Human Resource Management. Article – by Ogbonna, Emmanuel – 2000
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