Leadership: Contemporary Theories and Approaches Essay (Critical Writing)


All organizations and institutes constantly strive to raise their levels of performance and productivity. To reach the set goals of increased productivity in the organization, the contribution made by all members in the organization is crucial. Even so, these contributions can only achieve optimal impact if there is a strong leadership in place to guide both the individual and group efforts.

This being the case, the development of leadership traits and skills is indeed necessary for the survival and continued success of an organization. There are various factors which make leadership roles mandatory in the education industry. To begin with, the teachers act as role models to their students and as such, they must exhibit strong leadership.

Leadership by the school management is also necessary to ensure that the teachers are teaching in accordance to the set standards. There exist many leadership theories and their effectiveness is dependent on the particular environment. A leadership theory or approach that is both theoretical and practically adequate can be termed as the most efficient one for an individual to adopt.

With these considerations, this paper shall set out to develop systematically and defend with reasoned arguments my own approach concerning leadership. My approach will not only borrow from well established theories and leadership approaches but it shall also build on them so as to come up with an even more effective leadership approach.

A Brief Overview of Leadership

While leadership has varied definition depending on the context, it can be generically defined as the process through which an individual makes use of the support and assistance of others so as to achieve predetermined goals and objectives (Burns 23). It is only though strong leadership that organizational goals are achieved and as such, leadership is essential for the success of an organization.

Invariably, leadership involves working hand in hand with other organizational members since the leader has to elicit the support of relevant personnel in order to achieve the set goals. Various people favor different leadership styles and approaches and the success or relevance of each approach is dependent on the setting, the individual, and the cultural reality in which the approach is implemented.

My Leadership Approach

My leadership Approach would borrow from a number of contemporary theories and approaches that have proved to be successful in a wide range of settings. To begin with, my leadership would necessitate that the leader engagement his followers and this would result in satisfaction for both the leader and the followers.

This is in line with the influential leadership style in many Western nations, transformational leadership. Burns introduced transformational leadership in 1978 and according to him, a transformational leader is defined as a leader who “looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower” (Burns 173).

From this definition, it is evident that a transformational leader differs from other leaders as a result of the due consideration that he gives to his followers’ needs. As such, the leader is not only able to direct his followers to achieve organizational goals but he is also able to empathize with their needs and in actual sense demonstrate genuine concern over their affairs.

This brand of leader puts the needs of the followers over their own which results in increased admiration and respect by the followers’ of the leader (Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe 3). This increases the leader’s influence over the followers hence leading to greater leadership efficiency.

In the educational setting, once the administration shows concern for the teachers, the teachers can be expected to be even more effective in their work. Another appealing attribute of transformational leadership is that some of its aspects are universally endorsed as effective leadership behavior and can therefore be used in a wide range of settings (Den Hartog 225).

As has been articulated in this paper, a leader accomplishes his goals though his followers. As such, a leader is deemed worthless if he lacks the backing and support of a team. It is therefore important that all leaders work towards cultivating and generating an intellectual capital for their organizations.

This duly gives them a competitive advantage over other competitors in the market. In most organization, only a fraction of the capability of the work force is utilized. Leaders cannot gain much by coercing the employees to work harder.

Instead, an increase in productivity can be achieved if the leaders invest in motivational tactics for his followers. Kondalkar defines motivation as a process of inciting individuals to act in such a manner that they accomplish desired goals. Considering the fact that leadership entails the leader using his followers to fulfill set organizational goals, it would be right to state that a significant part of the leadership role involves motivating staff to achieve set goals.

In my leadership approach, the Expectancy Theory of motivation would be utilized. According to the expectancy theory as advanced by Vroom, people tend to choose actions, efforts and occupation that increase their pleasures while at the same time decreasing discomfort and pain (Chapman and Hopwood 120). According to this theory, a person’s motivation force is directly proportional to their envisioned gains.

Put in another way, the probability that a person’s will bring about particular desirable outcomes will cause the person to be motivated into acting in a certain way so as to achieve the outcomes. A leader can make use of this knowledge on motivation to come up with the most effective motivation for the followers.

Having goals is important for the success of any group effort. These goals represent the vision that the leader hopes to achieve though his followers. One of the roles of the leader is to come up with a vision and let the followers know what this vision is so as to give them a sense of purpose and direction.

The typical leader is required to come up with a set of goals that the followers are expected to achieve. The typical leader may come up with goals that are not properly articulated, are unchallenging or even unattainable by the workforce. My approach emphasizes on the importance of a leader to come up with clear and achievable goals in line with the Goal-setting theory advanced by Locke.

Pynes asserts that according to the Goal Setting Theory, clear expectations result in high performance from the followers (155). With this in mind, a leader should be keen to give a coherent vision and set specific, challenging and attainable goals for the followers. Also, the leader must have in mind that he may be required to adjust goals as time progresses since goals that were achievable and challenging at the onset may become unchallenging and unachievable goals over time.

Creativity is cited as one of this traits that is desirable of a leader. As a matter of fact, creativity has become the defining attribute of successful business organizations over the last two decades. Huge and small organizations alike are constantly in search of new ideas to help them stay ahead of their competitors or provide even better services to their customers.

Shavinina asserts that creativity assists organizations to enhance their productivity therefore giving them a means to remain competitive in an increasingly aggressive market environment (607). While innovation may come from group efforts, in most occasions it is initiated by one individual who mostly happens to be the leader.

My approach would therefore require that the leader exhibit creativity and innovation which should be used to positively impact the organization. This creativity may be projected through acts such as the proposal of novel ideas or by coming up with even more efficient ways for the followers to run their operations in the organization.

My leadership approach would place emphasis on conflict resolution by the leader. Contentious issues arise in all aspects of life and the organizational context is not exempted from this. These issues normally involve people holding different views or opinions and the manner in which contention is dealt with bears directly on the future wellbeing of the organization.

The leader plays a big role in ensuring that contentious issues are dealt with in an amicable manner. This is normally through the use of diplomatic means. Diplomacy entails using power and authority to reach desirable outcomes that are accepted by all or coming to a consensus (London 259).

The leader should possess diplomatic skills which will enable him to handle disputes and arrive at solutions that are not only feasible but also acceptable by all parties involved in the dispute. In most situations, conflicts are most effectively resolved through negotiation which is defined as communication for the purpose of persuasion.

Negotiation is typically based on concession trading where the parties involved reduce their demands in order to accommodate the opposing party. My approach will require that leaders be equipped with negotiation skills which will be essential in conflict resolution.

An important leadership factor is the showing of genuine concern for followers. In a survey by Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe in which over 4,000 managers were interviewed, it was discovered that the single most important leadership factor was showing genuine concern to staff (27).

The reason for this is because every employee incurs some stress and demotivation as they undertake their work duties if they have a negative relationship with their leader. Engaging in a leadership style that demonstrates genuine concern will lead to a increased productivity and performance in the organization.

My approach would require that the leader demonstrate concern for the followers at all times and be sympathetic to their needs. This may mean that the leader would at times have to defend his followers from attacks by superior members of the organization.

My leadership approach will also work with the understanding that some people possess inherent traits which make them better suited as leaders. This is in line with the Trait Approach which places emphasis on the inborn character traits of a leader. According to the trait theory, individuals are born with some innate qualities which set them apart as leaders.

This theory proposes that critical leadership traits can be identified in people and the people with these desirable traits could then be given leadership positions. The Trait theory has been utilized in military leadership for centuries. By using this theory, my approach would take care to identify certain desirable traits in the choosing of leaders.

Studies indicate that some of the most frequently occurring traits include technical skills, friendliness, assertiveness, emotional intelligence and charisma (Den Hartog 229). A leadership style that would be included in my approach is assertiveness. Assertiveness is defined as the degree to which a person is “assertive, tough, dominant, and aggressive” in their relationships with others (Dickson, Hartog and Mitchelson 746).

Application of assertiveness in leadership springs from the assumption that each person has a right to make known their needs. Assertiveness assists in this since it promotes interpersonal behavior which is desirable in the organization. By being assertive, a person can maximize their satisfaction while at the same time considering the needs of other people.

Assertion is characterized by being direct and honest while communicating with others. This attributes assist in promoting positive interpersonal relationship since they act as a platform for constructive dispute resolution. My approach would require that the leader have the ability to inspire the followers by giving them a sense of purpose and ensuring that they are working towards the achievement of set goals.

The leader should be able to generate and sustain trust and goodwill among all the parties in the organization. By doing this, the leader can promote confidence amongst the followers and hence heighten optimism within the organization. This will greatly boost employee morale therefore guaranteeing the future success of the organization since objectives will be met.

These qualities are of great significance at the present time when optimism is low due to the halted economic growth in most countries. A leader who is able to inspire and raise the confidence of the followers will make a positive difference to the organization.

In the educational industry, the preserving of the corporate culture of the organization can make the difference in the organization. This is because in most educational institutes, the culture responsible for the successful execution of tasks in the organization over a long period of time.

This being the case, it is obvious that the success of an organization can be jeopardized by any move that threatens to weaken the corporate culture of the organization. Morgan states that corporate cultures develop “as an ethos created and sustained by social processes so as to bury out differences” (128). This means that the culture is a means by which the various disparate members of the organization can forge some form of alliance and thus work towards.

Jenster and Hussey assert that a strong culture may be further reinforced in an organization by a strong charismatic figure (231). My leadership approach would therefore demand that the leader demonstrate some charismatic attributes. Sahskin suggests that actions that result in feelings of charisma towards a leader figure will increase the likelihood of the followers copying the leader’s actions (178). This is because charisma enables the leader to ensure that everyone involved buys into the ideas and concepts that they are trying to advance.

Cultural Considerations

The concept of leadership is universal and leaders are deemed as necessary for effective running of all organizations. Even so, differing cultural groups may have varied perceptions of what leadership entails (Koopman 132). Culture is defined as “a system of values and norms that are shared among a group of people and that, taken together, constitute a design for living” (Vance and Paik 39).

This definition underscores the fact that culture has a huge impact on the lives of both the individual and the community. This huge influence of culture means that it impacts directly on all human activities. Inter cultural interactions involves people from different cultural backgrounds converging.

These interactions have a significant implication on leadership. Therefore, an adequate approach on leadership must take cultural interactions into considerations. While intercultural interactions have been caused by a myriad of reasons, globalization is viewed as the single biggest contributing factor.

Globalization is a process characterized by large scale integration of both economies and cultures and this process is quickly becoming extensive and with it, there have been profound changes in the running of society and organizations.

With cultural considerations in mind, a concept that my leadership style would take into consideration is power distance as advanced by Hofstede. This concept provides some insight into the leadership behavior that would be most applicable in particular cultures. As is it, different cultures have different power distances and this influences the style that is most relevant.

Power distance is defined by Vance and Paik as “the extents that people have an equal distribution of power” (41). High power distance implies a concentration of power at the top while small power distance implies a wider distribution of power among a higher number of people. In high power distance societies, power is possessed by few individuals while in small power distance power is distributed among a wider ranger of people.

The Western society, which is characterized by high social mobility and low authoritarianism, favors low power distance. In high power distance cultures, an autocratic and controlling leadership style is most applicable and the followers will expect the leader to give specific instructions.

Followers are expected to respect authority and not engage their own creativity. Contrary to this, small power distance cultures require the leader to be more participative and the followers are encouraged to engage their creativity since a more democratic approach is used in leadership (Vance and Paik 41). Culture dictates the power distance that is acceptable in a particular social environment and therefore, a leadership approach that considers this is most effective.

Hofstede goes on to group cultural dimensions into two: masculinity vs. Femininity. The Masculine dimension places emphasis on achievements and rewards for exemplary performcace are the fundamental motivational means. Vance and Paik assert that in this culture the major driving force is outcomes of financial gain and recognition among peers for the individual (42).

The feminine culture in contrast has as its driving force concern for other members. In this culrure, financial gains and prestige are secondary to the welfare of each member in the organization. Hofstede goes on to state that “high masculinity may give rise to a fairly macro type of leadership, where high femininity may lead to a more empathetic consideration type of leadership” (34).

My approach will underscore the fact that dealing with people in the two different cultural backgrounds will be profoundly different. In the masculinity culture, my approach will recommend competition which is the best way to achieve maximum benefits. In the femininity culture, fostering of cooperation is paramount for the achievement of productivity in the.

Contexts for Application

I would wish to apply my leadership approach in the education industry and in particular, in the administrative aspect of education. The Educational system of any society is fundamental to the development and as such the general well being of the entire community.

With this realization, educators throughout the world have acknowledged that the educational structures and practices that are adopted have a profound impact on the population’s education. This directly impacts on the economic and social outcomes of the members of the community. An educational system which yields high results is therefore seen as being essential for the well being of the entire community.

The leadership styles adopted by educational institutes have huge significances on the success of the educational institute. My approach purports to be all encompassing, since it recognizes that different people favor different leadership styles and that culture plays a huge role in determining the most effective leadership style.

My approach demonstrates that application of motivational theory can result in better leadership. This is because ignorance of motivational theories hampers leadership effectiveness since the leader is unable to incite the workers into producing the best performances.

Without a profound knowhow of motivational theories, the leader is bound to use the basic rewards and punishment mode in his bid to achieve desired goals. While this method may work in some instances, Frey and Jegen warn that “monetary incentives and punishment may have the undesirable effect of crowding-out intrinsic motivation under some conditions” (591).

A leader who has a proper understanding of motivation as has been articulated in this paper adopts a wider encompassing system of motivating his followers. My leadership approach also gives due consideration to cultural since culture shapes the world view of a person. Culture dictates the individual’s perception of what is good or bad leadership style.

Culture shapes individuals’ attitudes, and values and this profoundly influences a person’s actions and their relationship with others (Singelis and Brown 355). My approach which places emphasis on the culture specific view of leadership is therefore most applicable in a world that becoming increasingly globalized with intercultural interactions becoming more prevalent.


In this paper, I set out to develop systematically and defend with reasoned arguments my own approach concerning leadership. The paper began by defining leadership and proceeded to highlight my approach. My approach has taken into considerations the qualities and characteristics of good leadership and subsequently articulated how the qualities of an effective leader impact on the organization.

The impacts of culture on leadership have also been taken into consideration since culture greatly affects leadership effectiveness. This paper had demonstrated that a lack of leadership qualities can result in lost focus and even the presence of unmotivated workers hence lowering productivity for the entire organization. By making use of the leadership approach articulated in this paper, one can become an effective leader therefore bringing about positive results to the organization.

Works Cited

Alimo-Metcalfe, Beverly, and Alban-Metcalfe Robert. “The Development of a New Transformational Leadership Questionnaire”. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74, 1-27, 2001

Burns, JM. Leadership. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1978. Print.

Chapman, SC, and Hopwood GA. Handbook of Management Accounting Research. Elsevier, 2007. Print.

Den Hartog, DN, et al. “Culture Specific and Cross-Culturally Generalizable Implicit Leadership Theories: Are Attributes of Charismatic/Transformational Leadership Universally Endorsed?” Leadership Quarterly, 10, 219-256, 1999.

Dickson, WM, Hartog DN., and Mitchelson, K. J. “Research on Leadership in a Cross-Cultural Context: Making Progress, and Raising New Questions”. The Leadership Quarterly 14 (2003) 729–768

Frey, BS, and Jegen R. “Motivation Crowding Theory”, Journal of Economic Surveys vol. 15, no.5, 2001.

Jenster, PV, and Hussey Daniel. Company Analysis: Determining Strategic Capability. Wiley, 2001. Print.

Kondalkar, PF. Organization Effectiveness and Change Management. PHI learning Pvt. Ltd. 2002, Print.

Koopman, P, et al. “National Culture and Leadership Profiles in Europe: Some Results from The GLOBE Study”. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 2009.

London, Manuel. Leadership Development: Paths to Self-Insight and Professional Growth. Routledge, 2002.

Morgan, Gareth. Images of Organization. USA: Sage, 2006. Print.

Pynes, Joan. Human Resources Management for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Strategic Approach. John Wiley and Sons, 2008. Print.

Shavinina, Larisa. The International Handbook on Innovation, Elsevier, 2003. Print.

Singelis, Theodore, and Brown William. “Culture, Self, and Collectivist Communication: Linking Culture to Individual Behavior”. Human Communication Research, 21, 354-389, 1995.

Vance, Charles, and Paik Yongsun. Managing a Global Workforce: Challenges and Opportunities in International Human Resource Management. Armonk: M.E.Sharpe, 2006. Print.

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