Strategic leadership. This assignment critically evaluates leadership theories within a strategic framework by drawing upon literature sources and contrasting different academic perspectives. It will explore the relevance of strategic leadership within a small organization , as it appears that, from an initial review of the literature, that strategic leadership theories are aimed at large, complex, corporate organisations.
Recommendations will be made as to whether or not the strategic leadership theories are of relevance to a small organisation and which theories have more relevance than others in this pecific organizational context. Leadership The concept of leadership is not new and it has been suggested that it was philosophers from ancient civilisations who first started to examine the definition of leadership (Grint 2001). The oldest known military text The Art of War (circa 400 BC) states: the leader of armies is the arbiter of the people’s fate, the man on whom it depends whether the nation shall be in peace or in peril’ (Sun (undated)).
As early as the fourth century BC Plato believed leadership and the development of leaders to be of fundamental importance (Bass 1990). However, over the last few decades the oncept of leadership has been heavily studied and debated; so much so that, for the first-time reader on the subject matter, the definition leadership appears, at first sight, to be intangible. It would appear that every layperson, when asked, instinctively knows what a leader is, but when asked to describe this in detail they falter.
Fielder (1987) states that there have been at least 65 definitions of leadership put forward, and Stogdill (1974) argues that there are almost as many definitions as there are commentators. Leadership has been defined by Bennis (1998) as ‘a function of knowing yourself, aving a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential’. However, Heifetz argues that there is little chance of ever resolving an all-embracing definition of leadership.
This view is supported by Drucker (1996) who argues that the only definition of a leader is someone who has followers’ and Nanus (1997) who states that ‘leadership is like the Abominable Snowman, whose footprints are everywhere but who is nowhere to be seen’. Recent research carried out by the South West Regional Development Agency concludes that ‘Despite recognition of the importance of eadership, there remains a certain mystery as to what leadership actually is or how to define it (Bolden 2004).
Everyone has their own intuitive understanding of what leadership is, based on a mixture of experience and learning, which is difficult to capture in a succinct definition. The situation appears to be far more complex than less’ would have us believe. There does however appear to be some consensus that leadership is not management, and Zaleznik (1977) was one of the first to delineate the differences between leadership and management. He saw a leader as an artist, who uses reativity and intuition to navigate his way through chaos, whilst the manager is seen as a problem solver dependent on rationality and control.
The dichotomy between leaders and managers was forcefully established by Bennis and Nanus (1985) who suggest that managers ‘do things right’ whilst leaders do the right thing. Bennis (1989) went on to draw twelve distinctions between the two groups: Managers Leaders Managers administer Leaders innovate Managers ask how and when Leaders ask what and why Managers focus on systems Leaders focus on people Managers do things right Leaders do the right things
Managers maintain Leaders develop Managers rely on control Leaders inspire trust Managers have a short-term perspective Leaders have a longer-term perspective Managers accept the status-quo Leaders challenge the status-quo Managers have an eye on the bottom line Leaders have an eye on the horizon Managers imitate Leaders originate Managers emulate the classic good soldier Leaders are their own person Managers copy Leaders show originality Source: Bennis (1989) Northouse (2004) also saw a distinction between leadership and management and observed that in general terms managers concerned themselves with tasks while eaders concerned themselves with people. Central to most of these distinctions is an orientation towards change.
This concept is well represented in the work of Kotter (1990) who concluded that ‘management is about coping with complexity whilst ‘leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change’. He proposed that good management brings about a degree of order and consistency to organisational processes and goals, whilst leadership is required for dynamic change. Strategic Leadership As with the definition of leadership, there is a similar problem when attempting to tie down precisely what strategy is. There are strongly differing opinions on most of the key issues of strategy and the disagreement runs so deep that a common definition of the term ‘strategy is illusive (De Wit 2004). This leads to their being little hope of ever being able to define ‘strategic leadership’.