‘A good leader knows the way, shows the way and goes the way’ – Anonymous

Introduction

Leadership is one most critical and important factor which has its roots grown deep under every successful organization and its impact, over each and every corner (Vito, Higgins and Denney 2014).Over the years, the discipline of leadership has been enriched with different definitions provided by different scholars in different contexts. According to Maxwell (2011), leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts but is about one life influencing another. As Rost (1991) proposes, leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes (Cardona 2000).

Behind every well-established organization, there is a ‘from zero to hero’ story which has the sweat, sleep and the dedication of its past employees blended together and behind every such blend, there is a sound and inspirational leadership which has profoundly driven in to the minds of the employees, through its impressive ‘knowing, showing and going the way’ strategy.

What sets apart a leader from those of other his peers is the certain set of distinguishing characteristics he possesses and displays. Despite many debates have being carried out to distinguish what those specific characteristic are no consensus has been reached in this regard as all the leadership characteristics cannot be defined and documented accurately, nor can one person possess all those characteristics. The required characteristics may differ from one situation to another and one desired characteristic may not be much required in another context. But there still exists the theorem that the leaders are born with certain qualities and are not and cannot be made.

A leader is remembered and perceived in the mind mostly in the way which he behaved and guided his followers. From the days unknown, much has been said, proved and rebutted time and again about the leaders and their different leadership styles. This is mainly as the different successful leaders have been successful in their context through different styles. Despite different leaders had different styles, every leader had a certain distinguishable leadership style. From the humanitarian leaders like Mahathma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela to the tyrants like Adolf Hitler and Beneto Musolini, the impact the leadership styles they followed have redefined history into different extents.

There exist many leadership styles in the scope of leadership; some are widely practiced and some very rarely. Some instances for the leadership styles can be given as Transactional style, Transformational style, Situational style, Democratic style, Autocratic style, charismatic style etc. In this study, my favourite yet two different leadership styles have been discussed with their sound appeal to the real world experiences I have encountered in my work and personal life contexts.

Different Leadership Styles

Not all leaders are the same nor their leadership styles. As per Shamir and Eliam (2005), cultures, past experiences as well as convicts can play a significant role in deciding the style a leader follows. Since different people hail from different backgrounds and different cultures, so vary the style of leadership they are familiar with and prefer.

During the span of my life, I have learnt many leadership styles that are existent in the world and I have encountered many of them for real in my both personal and professional contexts. Despite many leadership theories are existent are met for real in the different situations in life, the following are, the Transactional style of leadership and transformational style of leadership, my favourite. As Cardona (2000) describes, both these theories fall under the same category of relational leadership styles where the existing relationship between the leader and the subordinates is brought to the light.

Transactional Leadership Style

Carter and Greer (2013) describe that under the transactional leadership style, the leader uses a reward-based transaction process to motivate his subordinates to achieve what the organization needs. Or the motivating factor for the subordinates to perform well is the potential reward they would be getting from the leader if what he expects from them is done to match his aspirations. If the task is not completed, the performance is corrected with negative feedback and / or disciplinary actions in return (Bass &Steidlmeier1999). A transaction takes place as the reward is exchanged to the performance.

As Burns (1978) explains, transactional leadership style has its roots in social psychological
social exchange theory where a reciprocal and deterministic relationship is shared between the leader and the subordinates.Further according to Burns (1978), Bass (1981) and Judge and Piccolo (2004), in the transactional leadership style, the leaders use a bargaining process with subordinates to motivate behavior where, through the relative personal power of the leader, the benefits received by the followers are controlled in order to ensure that the positive and valued behaviour of the employees continues (Cited in Vito, Higgins and Denney 2014). Therefore this leadership style takes place as a mutually beneficial ‘transaction’, where the employees are rewarded and allowed to achieve their objectives while the organization is enabled to achieve its own through the positive behaviour of employees (Bass 1981 and Judge and Piccolo 2004). As Vito, Higgins and Denney (2014) further state, the transactional leadership seems to be a short term focused style where the employees (subordinates) are rewarded only when they have something to offer for the organization.

This style of leadership seems very appealing to me as I have undergone certain occasions in my work life where the leaders (the superior level managers) managed to offer certain financial benefits (and even the non-financial benefits at the times) to utilize their subordinates’ capabilities; sometimes for the betterment of the organization and sometimes for the personal.

Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational Leadership Style is the most supported leadership in the recent leadership style discipline (Cardona 2000). This style was initiated by James MacGregor Burns (1978) and developed and interpreted by other interested scholars in the field subsequentlyand Yuki (1998) being one, explainedthat,in essence, transformational leadership is a process of building commitment to organizational objectives and then empoweringfollowers to accomplish those objectives (Cited in Stone, Russell and Patterson 2003). In other words, these types of leaders inspire and motivate in a way that his subordinates are aligned with the vision of the leaders.

As Bass (1990) suggests, transformational leadership occurs when the leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group. He further describes thatunder this leadership style, an emotional relationship is shared between the leader and the subordinate where the leader makes use of the trust and confidence of the subordinates have in him to motivate them. Transformational leaders, relying on four characteristics; charisma, inspiration, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation, tend to guide, support and motivate their subordinates where charisma makes the subordinates follow and not criticize the leader and emotional bonding eases the inspiration. Also the individual consideration given by the leader to identify and address the issues of every subordinate, acts as a mentoring force for them and the conduct and the manner the leader treats the subordinates impact their intellectual stimulation (Cited in Vito, Higgins and Denney 2014).

I have encountered this style of leadership as well in myorganization. I prefer this leadership style as it appeals to the professionalism and the ethical conduct expected from a leader in an organization. Albeit all the leadership theories, to a certain extent support the professionalism and ethical conduct, the certain inherent traits that are visible under this leadership style are more likely to influence the subordinate’s life positively, where the subordinates are not ignored or ill-treated merely to achieve the organizational goals. As my life was once turned bottom up by a transformational leadership style practitioner, I would cherish this style above all the other.

My Personal Perspectives on the Two Leadership Styles

Every leadership style, to a certain extent, has its own strengths and benefits. The same leadership style, when followed by two or three different people, would appeal in three different extents to the subordinates. Therefore, leadership is highly subjective and cannot be given definite boundaries.

However, as Kouzes and Posner (2007) state, leaders are the people who are capable of taking their followers to the places they’ve never been before. Two different leaders who followed two different leadership styles; transactional and transformational, in reality took me to two different dimensions that I had never experienced before.

Transactional Leadership Style

Once when I was working for an organization where I got my first appointment in my career life, I encountered a manager with the transactional leadership style. The organizational environment itself was a rather a manipulated environment where the rewards (annual bonus and salary increments) are bound to the performance appraisal results. One thing that I noticed since the very first day I went there is that the employees seemed to be working under certain kind of implicit pressure. Only few months later I managed to know that the reason behind the tensioned nature of the employees was the up came performance appraisal on which their entitlement to the annual bonus as well as the salary increment of the following year had been based. For any reason if they had failed to impress the evaluator, their entire year end holidaying plans would have been destroyed as they become entitled not to any reward.

One severe mistake in this system was that one single manager had been appointed to both conduct and govern the entire performance appraisal procedure. The manager who was in charge of these performance appraisal procedure used his powers to reprimand his bad bloods within the organization, with the manipulated and biased performance appraisal results, upon which, he clearly knew, the rewards would be given at the year end.

There were three employee groups within the organization; the group which was loyal to that manager, the group which went against the manager and the group which stayed mum and neutral, whatever the things he did. For the ones who were loyal to him, the performance results were impressive. And for the neutral group as well. But the group which went against him was reprimanded badly. What I later got to know is that the certain manager had been in the panel of managers who designed the performance based reward system to encourage the work performance of the employees. Therefore, they had clearly been following a transactional leadership style where, the leaders provide the followers with reward-based transactions that motivate them to achieve (Carter and Greer 2013).

But this leadership style conflicts with my personal values and perceptions as the leader can use his own powers to manipulate the followers in an unethical manner.

Transformational Leadership Style

This leadership style involves supporting the followers by sharing an emotional relationship. The leader and follower relationship is reaching a mutually understanding and supportive level rather than merely being limited to a certain transactional process. This leadership style was also encountered by me within the organization.

After joining my second organization, I was kind of struggling to adopt myself to the organizational surrounding. There was a senior manager who always wanted to see all his subordinates succeed both in professional and personal terms. Instead of merely sharing a transactional relationship with them, he often opted for sharing a rather emotional and friendly nature where he always wanted to make his subordinates feel belonged to and safe within the organization. Despite being a person who had already started to ‘go grey’, his persona was quite charismatic to inspire his subordinates to work towards achieving organizational goals and objectives while intriguing their career development.

I remember me finding it extremely difficult to cope up with one certain situation where I was scolded up for something that did of worthy of that much of severe punishment. I was scolded up by the management in front of all the members in the office and being a newly appointed one to the office, I felt quite ashamed and moreover, very much disturbed and was considering whether to leave the job immediately. I informed about that dilemma to two of my colleagues in the office that I was feeling handing over my resignation very soon. Suddenly, may be two or three days later, I was called to the Group Finance Controller’s office. Being a finance executive and had already been scolded up by the Finance Manager, the very first feeling I got in my mind my after being called to his office was that I was on the verge of a ‘blast’.

Albeit being one most respected personality in the company and also a member of the Senior Management Team of the entire Group of companies where I worked, the humbleness and politeness he showed towards a newly recruited employee like me, even today, continues to confound me. Instead of asking me what happened with the Finance Manager, what he did was just initiating a friendly conversation with me, where in the middle he got to know that I was in my early twenties. Once he started to understand that I am comfortable with him, he, just in a very concise way, started sharing with me the experiences he had in his early career life and gradually he ended up with where he is now in the same company where he had to struggle in the beginning. To be honest, he had faced much more severe conditions than me and I suddenly felt that I should also follow his way. He neither asked whether I was going to resign nor I was feeling good after the conversation yet when I was about to leave his room he said that he always believes in ‘second chances’. Might be he had understood through my expressions and conduct.’

Following the conversation, he always stayed very supportive and inspirational for me and became my role in my both professional and personal lives. Apart from concerning merely for the achievement of organizational goals, he inspired all of us to enhance our careers and moreover, to outperform each other with mutual respect and kindness and to offer ‘second chances’ to others whenever possible. According Livingston (2011),the first manager of a young person is likely to be the most influential in that person’s career. That statement was less likely to be true in my circumstances where my second manager had the greatest influence my career.

Conclusion

After all, leadership is mostly about influencing the people. Almost every success story of an organization or a country has been the ultimate result of a devoted dedication of its members or people, backed up with solid and precise leadership. As a ‘good leader would always know the way, show the way and go the way, (anonymous), the concept of leadership is always important and credible. Most importantly, the leader’s ability to change the destinies of his subordinates is never to be underestimated.

Since the cultures, past experiences as well as convicts can play a significant role in deciding the style a leader follows (Shamir and Eliam2005), there should be different theories to explain the different leadership styles. But, as I feel, what is more important is,whatever the style a leader follows, above all, it should have humanity, integrity and trustworthiness embedded to it as those qualities can attract even the distracted hearts. And thereby the organization can achieve its objectives successfully as the satisfied and inspired work force contributes their maximum towards what is expected from them.

 

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