Contemporary Views of Leadership

8 August 2016

In evaluating the various contemporary leadership models, I will start with a definition of leadership within the contemporary context. There have been several definitions, research studies commonalities and disparities about leadership and leadership theories. According to Burns (1978), the father of contemporary leadership thinking, leadership is the leader encouraging the follower to act for the goals that characterize their common beliefs and for the benefit of both follower and leader.

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According to Wren (1995), the complexity and variation of leadership definition stems from all the variables involved including the leader, the followers and the circumstances. Bass (1985) defines leadership along the lines of transforming followers, by creating visions, goals and the path for followers to the achieving the goals. The brilliance of leadership lies in the ability of the leader to transform him and to act on behalf of the interest of both himself and the follower.

Fiedler (1967), simplifies leadership as the direction and coordination of the work of group members. The ways in which a collective group of people are motivated towards achieving their objective (Roach & Behling, 1984). However, Burn’s work on transactional and transforming leadership is the Holy Grail from where other contemporary leadership thoughts have evolved. Every definition, acknowledges the relationship, of the three ingredients in the leadership mix; the leader, the follower and the purpose.

Other contemporary models have evolved since, including spiritual leadership, situational leadership, contingency leadership, charismatic leadership and eastern leadership. In evaluating contemporary leadership models, I have chosen to explore the commonalities and differences of writings of three views involving spiritual leadership, transforming leadership and contingency models. I will analyze each model within the context of a developing country; particularly Nigeria, where corruption, education and governance are major handicap to development. Spiritual Leadership

Spiritual leadership according to “Spiritual Leadership As Intrinsic Motivation” (2013), is “intrinsically motivating and inspiring workers through hope/faith in a vision of service to key stakeholders and a corporate culture based on the values of altruistic love to produce a highly motivated, committed and productive workforce” (para. 1). The word spirituality quickly brings religion and its tenets to mind. Crossman (2003), differentiates spirituality from religion as a private experience, and religion as an organized process involving the public, using sacred writings and ceremonials (Crossman, 2003).

Within the context of this paper, spirituality transcends religion and any particular religious beliefs and bias, because in general, spirituality is seen by many writers as an intimate and private relationship and experience (Houston & Sokolow, 2006, Speck, 2005). According to Speck (2005) it is “a matter of one’s own heart” (pp. 8-12). The law also protects and provides for individuals to practice and define their personal spirituality (Lowery, 2005). There are divergent views for the resurgence of spiritual leadership.

Crossman (2003) attributes the resurgence to recent interest to find answers to social ills, the influence of all-inclusive ideas and change in scientific ideas that have influenced society. Cavanagh and Bandsuch (2002), have attributed the resurgence to disclosures by notable public figures about the positive influence of spirituality on their careers. These ideas have motivated other leadership scholars to revisit the subject. Others have found increasing annoyance and displeasure with greediness as the reason for the reemergence of spiritual leadership (Hoppe, 2005).

All of the above reasons, point to one singular fact, a displeasure with the leadership status quo and need for new way of thinking about the leadership phenomenon. There appears to be more commonalities in the spiritual leadership discourse than there are disparities. A leadership style aligned with faith and hope draws many sympathizing views. Benefits of spiritual leadership such as improved self-confidence and stress management have been identified by both Crossman (2010) and Fairholm (2003).

Every profession, organization and society will benefit from a leadership style that will improve the morale of staff, improve shareholder value and help staff reduce stress. This is of particular benefit to developing countries like Nigeria, where spiritualism is highly revered. Having a system of leadership that the people already believe in, will significantly improve employee morale and productivity for organizations. Other areas where spiritual leadership scholars share identical views, is in the area of the relationship of spiritualism and business.

Both Sumner (1959), and Durkheim (1915/1968) share similar view. Sumner states, that because of the difference in purposes between spirituality and business, they have never been successfully associated. Durkheim (1968) stated, “the sacred and the profane cannot co-exist in the same place” (pp. 344-349). A more graphic representation was by Metcalfe (2008), referring to the relationship as a fearful prospect if spirituality sets up tent with businesses; which he terms as irrational, manipulative and insane.

Drawing from their discomfort with the integration of spirituality with business, one is left to question, in which environment and organization, is the leader with spiritual attributes most suited and in what context could it be implemented. Crossman (2003), answers this question by citing several organizations that have incorporated spiritual perspectives into their corporate proclamations. Example include Amway, Pratt, Tom’s of Maine, Tickler and Ford. Within the context of a developing country such as Nigeria, the spiritual leadership model will be well received.

Nigerians perceive everything spiritual with holism and sacredness. It follows therefore, in a country where corruption and governance is rife, a leadership model that is akin to values of faith and hope will attract the followers to the leadership for a common goal. According to Sendjaya, Sarros, and Santora (2008) “serving others in organizations and the wider society as an act of obedience and gratitude to a higher power” (pp. 404-408). This quality of service, beyond self, is a necessary ingredient for elevating the morale of followers; which

is a desperately needed remedy in the Nigerian context. Transformational Leadership Burns, the father of contemporary leadership thinking, as part his seminal work on leadership, also propagated the now popular transformation and transaction leadership theories. As expected, his work has generated plenty interest and variation. The most popular variation of the transformation leadership theory, is the work by Bass. Burns (1978) and Bass (1985) are different sides of the same coin.

Bass (1985) transformational theory was an offshoot of Burns (1978) initial transformation concept. Beyond the initial idea and the similarity in name, little more related the works of both men. Bass’s work was changed from transformation leadership to transformational leadership. To Burns, the difference between transformational and transactional leadership is about what they offer each other. Transformational leaders, he argues, provide a solution that transcends immediate satisfaction, but instead focuses on higher order fundamental needs (Judge & Piccolo, 2004).

Bass transformational leadership is about the transformation of the follower, in a one-way directional influence, dissimilar to Burns, where through the interaction of leader and follower, the leader also gets transformed (Cuoto, (1993). In the area of usage, Bass’s work was focused in formal organizations i. e. schools, military, businesses whilst Burns leadership research is within politics and social sectors (Cuoto, 1993). In contrast, Burns (1978), researched on the relationship between leaders and followers, within a political environment.

Bass’s focus on traditional organizations is an indication that his work is most applicable to corporate organizations, whose objective is profit maximization and value creation for shareholders. According to Cuoto (1993), Bass’s focus was in formal 20th century organizational setting, where profit maximization, management and strategies blend. Both Burns (1978) and Bass (1985), transformational theories could easily be applicable in the context of a developing nation such as Nigeria.

Burn’s model will suit a political setting to groom leaders with character and empathy and Bass’s proposal will help transform leadership in a corporate environment, for the maximization of profit and growth. Contemporary Leadership There are two popular contemporary models of leadership that will be analyzed; Fiedler’s contingency theory and Vroom and Yetton’s normative approach. Feiedler’s work is centered around task motivated and relationship motivated leadership styles, while Vroom and Yetton’s work is focused on three decision making styles of leadership; autocratic, consultative and group (Chemers, 1984).

However, they both agree that, there is no one best way for leaders to make decisions, rather the characteristics of the situation determines the best approach. This approach is reminiscent of flexibility in the decision making process and the ability to respond to change effectively. Other similarities between Fieldler and Vroom and Yetton, is their identical predictions concerning the effectiveness and efficiency of autocratic and participative decision styles (Chemers, 1984). Interestingly, Bass also contributes to the conversation, regarding decision-making styles in leadership.

He identified five decision-making styles called directive, negotiative, consultative, participative, and delegative (Chemers, 1984). Their most notable disparity between these two models of contemporary leadership scholars, is in the area of leadership ability to quickly change their decision styles. The normative model argues, that leaders can quickly change their style to adapt to situational circumstance, whilst Fielder argues that leaders are of a certain type, with well-formed attributes that are difficult to reshape (Chermers, 1984).

Conclusion In conclusion, all the contemporary leadership models we have analyzed, bear their roots from the great work by Burns (1978), giving recognition to the follower and exalting the sacrosanct role of the leadership function. The leader he argues, provides a need beyond material and tangible satisfaction which uplifts the follower. In return, the follower responses to every suggestion and direction given by the leader. This dynamics of this leader, follower relationship set the ball rolling for other seminal work in

leadership, including Bass (1985), Chermers (1984) and (Avolio & Bass, 1995). African countries, such as Nigeria and other third world countries, seriously lack effective leadership, which is effecting economic development (Guest, 2013). A testament to the fact is, the Mo Ibrahim Leadership Award, has only been won three times since its inception seven years ago. We have here, a blue print for tackling most kinds of leadership challenges. Our leaders should lend their ears and eyes to the transformational change and wise counsel of leadership scholars.

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