1 Defining Leadership: Leadership styles

What it means to be a successful leader in today’s complicated and ever-transforming world is not the same as it was decades ago. Success in leadership today has moved away from the authoritative and heroic styles of past years. In today’s environment, where the workforce is constructed of teams of diverse, multi-generational, and often global employees, leaders must understand how to influence, inspire, and coach their co-workers to push their potential, while meeting both the individual and the organization’s needs. Leaders must be authentic, compassionate, moral, and modest servants to their followers, who understand the benefits of mentoring their employees to become better selves.

Boy Scouts of America: Training leaders for tomorrow. By Bacastow, C. (2018) Content and user contributions on this site are licensed under : CC BY: Attribution with attribution required.


Leadership is used to establish direction and influencing others to follow.  Leadership is the process by which an individual mobilizes people and resources to achieve a goal. It requires a learned set of skills as well as attributes that can be nurtured. Leaders inspire, challenge, and encourage others. They may persuade and influence, and they show resilience and persistence. All aspects of society have leaders. The concept of leader may call to mind a CEO, a prime minister, a general, a sports team captain, or a school principal; examples of leadership exist across a variety of organizations.

Leaders motivate others to aspire to achieve and help them to do so. They focus on the big picture with a vision of what could be and help others to see that future and believe it is possible. In this way, leaders seek to bring substantive changes in their teams, organizations, and society.

Leadership is a relationship between followers and those who inspire them and provide direction for their efforts and commitments. Without followers, there can be no leaders and often good leaders demonstrate followership. Leadership affects how people think and feel about their work and how it contributes to a larger whole. Effective leaders often mean the difference between increasing a team’s ability to perform or diminishing its performance, between keeping efforts on track or encountering disaster, and even between success or failure.

In this book, we will discuss the concepts laid out above as well as other concepts.

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Leadership and Management

Leadership is one of the most important concepts in management and many researchers have proposed theories and frameworks for understanding it. Some have distinguished among types of leadership such as charismatic, heroic, and transformational leadership. Other experts discuss the distinctions between managers and leaders, while others address the personality and cognitive factors most likely to predict a successful leader. The many dimensions of leadership indicate how complex a notion it is and how difficult effective leadership can be.

There will be more discussion on leadership and management later in this book.

What is leadership? By Aaron Spenser. Lumens. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-principlesofmanagement/chapter/what-is-leadership/ Except where noted, content and user contributions on this site are licensed under : CC BY: Attribution with attribution required.

What Does Successful Leadership Look Like?

Success in leadership today has numerous gauges by which to measure against. While some may weigh heavily on profit margins, others may look to employee satisfaction and retention as a better metric for leadership proficiency. For success today and in coming years, leaders need to influence their organizations to be effective with an increasingly diverse workforce who operates in a complex global environment. Leading these boundaryless organizations requires leadership who recognize that people are not just a means to an organizational outcome, but are also an end in, and of, themselves (Latham, 2014). As Gordon and Yuki (as cited in Latham, 2014) attest to, “while there is no shortage of concepts comprising the many leadership theories, there is little consensus on what constitutes effective leadership” (p.12).

Boy Scouts of America: Training leaders for tomorrow. By Bacastow, C. (2018) Content and user contributions on this site are licensed under : CC BY: Attribution with attribution required.

Leadership Function and Styles

Leadership function refers to the main focus or goal of the leader.

An instrumental leader is one who is goal-oriented and largely concerned with accomplishing set tasks. We can imagine that an army general or a Fortune 500 CEO would be an instrumental leader.

Expressive leaders are more concerned with promoting emotional strength and health, and ensuring that people feel supported. Social and religious leaders—rabbis, priests, imams, directors of youth homes and social service programs—are often perceived as expressive leaders. There is a longstanding stereotype that men are more instrumental leaders, and women are more expressive leaders. And although gender roles have changed, even today many women and men who exhibit the opposite-gender manner can be seen as deviants and can encounter resistance. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s experiences provide an example of the way society reacts to a high-profile woman who is an instrumental leader. Despite the stereotype, Boatwright and Forrest (2000) have found that both men and women prefer leaders who use a combination of expressive and instrumental leadership.

Leadership styles.

Democratic leaders encourage group participation in all decision making. They work hard to build consensus before choosing a course of action and moving forward. This type of leader is particularly common, for example, in a club where the members vote on which activities or projects to pursue. Democratic leaders can be well liked, but there is often a danger that the danger will proceed slowly since consensus building is time-consuming. A further risk is that group members might pick sides and entrench themselves into opposing factions rather than reaching a solution.

Leadership Styles. OpenStax CNX. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/alamo-sociology/chapter/reading-leadership-styles/ License CC:BY: Attribution


As the name suggests, authoritarian leaders issue orders and assigns tasks. These leaders are clear instrumental leaders with a strong focus on meeting goals. Often, entrepreneurs fall into this mold, like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Not surprisingly, the authoritarian leader risks alienating the workers. There are times, however, when this style of leadership can be required. In different circumstances, each of these leadership styles can be effective and successful.

Directive Leadership

This type of leadership is defined as the type of leadership where leaders provide a direct and unambiguous approach to their followers. Since the subordinates will be provided with necessary direction, guidance, and support, they will be required to achieve expected results in exchange.

Laissez-Faire leadership

This type of leadership does not exercise strict control over their subordinates directly. Most of people in the team are supposed to be highly experienced individuals. Thus, most of them do not need strict control and supervision. Due to the certain disadvantages provided by the leadership, team members may suffer from lack of communication, feedback for improvement and at the end, they may fail to meet the deadline for project completion.

Laissez-faire leaders provide a good environment to subordinates as well as empower them to take decisions themselves. As the subordinates have full authority on making decisions, laissez-faire leaders do not usually give feedback on the accomplished tasks.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is defined as the style where the leader either rewards or punishes the employee for the task accomplished. Several studies on leadership found that when the transactional leadership is employed in the organization, the mutual trust between the leader and the task-holder develops. If there is a mistake in the work of subordinates, employees are going to be punished. Thus, employees may perform not at their best, and they may be afraid of making a mistake. As a result, they are less likely to work on new projects and learn new skills and knowledge. In contrast, employees who perform at their best are given good motivation in terms of rewards making them more motivated to work harder.

Transactional leadership, the system based on rewards is used to motivate the followers. Though, the motivation given through such approach does not last long.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders are reported to work based on the balanced approach. This can be explained by the fact that they help their subordinates to solve some of the challenging issues at the same time they teach their subordinates about the ways of tackling the problems in the similar context. Therefore, researchers believe that role of the transformational leaders can be observed regarding bringing the motivational level of their employees to the stage of self-actualization. Moreover, most common qualities that are used to describe the personality of transformational leaders include charisma, intellectual stimulation. Another name for transformational leadership is a facilitator, in other words, in this case, team members and leaders motivate each other in order to achieve high levels of performance and motivations. Thus, it is considered as one of the most commonly adopted types of leadership where team members encourage each other by different means in order to achieve organizational goals and long-term plans. Unlike other types of leadership, this type of leadership has a high level of communication between the team members. Therefore, the case of transformational leadership was related to the increased levels of motivation, higher job satisfaction, commitment, productivity, and performance. Thus, transformational leader’s control, vision, and enthusiasm inspiring its followers lead to higher results in the management. In this context, the four essential components of the transformational leaders need to be reviewed.

First is the individual consideration (Mumford et al 2000). The second one is intellectual stimulation, which means encouraging the followers to try seeing the issue from the other side and broaden the outlook on specific matters. Third, the inspirational motivation, where the leader stresses on the particular importance of an employee in the team which helps the organization to reach the goal and successful cooperation and accomplishment of the project (Chen et al. 2005).

Transformational leadership, this style serves to improve the collaboration among organization members (Keegan et al., 2004; Bass and Avolio J., 1990; Pearce, 1981). Transformational leaders let their followers feel as the part of the organization. Such leaders have a strong inspirational vision to encourage the employees of the organization care about the company goals than their own goals and interests. Such leaders are believed to be enthusiastic and energetic.


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Leadership Styles and Job Performance: A Literature Review. By Mohammed Al-Malki,  Wang Juan. https://researchleap.com/leadership-styles-job-performance-literature-review/Licensed under Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Formal vs. Informal Leadership

Generally speaking, individuals who are assigned titles and positions of authority are expected to provide leadership. Because that leadership role is officially recognized, this is known as formal leadership. However, there are plenty of individuals who have formal leadership positions but do not actually provide strong leadership. This is often problematic and can leave the organization lacking direction and purpose.

There are also individuals who do not have official positions of leadership but who do exhibit leadership qualities and practices. They help create the company vision with innovative ideas, and they inspire and motivate their coworkers. When leadership is exhibited without an official position, it is known as informal leadership. This is a valuable trait for an employee to have

Aaron Spenser and Lumens. What is leadership? https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-principlesofmanagement/chapter/what-is-leadership/Except where noted, content and user contributions on this site are licensed under : CC BY: Attribution with attribution required.

When asked the question, “What do leaders do?”, many professionals will respond that the leader’s singular job is to “get results”. Daniel Goleman (2000), in his article “Leadership That Gets Results”, expresses that virtually no quantitative research has demonstrated which precise leadership behaviors yield positive results. He continues that literally thousands of “leadership experts” have made careers of evaluating and coaching executives, all in pursuit of producing business people who can transform and turn bold objectives into reality – be they strategic, financial, or organizational.

Several common threads emerge from the core literature which can be drawn upon to define successful leadership. While Latham’s (2014) work, similar to the research of Palmer, Walls, Burgess, and Stough (2001), admit to the benefits of transformational leadership, as does the research of Bottomley, Burgess, and Fox (2014); Latham (2014) concedes transformational leadership does not completely meet the needs of today’s complex environment and workforce. Instead, Latham (2014) supports the concept of servant leadership, much as Rohm and Osula’s (2013) research concludes, stating that servant leadership appeals to the needs of a multi-generation labor force. The research findings of multiple works agree that there is no singular answer to a leadership approach, but instead settle on the realization that multiple approaches, used at the appropriate times, are more apt to render positive outcomes.

Boy Scouts of America: Training leaders for tomorrow. Bacastow, C. (2018) Content and user contributions on this site are licensed under : CC BY: Attribution with attribution required.

  • Bottomley, K., Burgess, S., & Fox III, M. (2014). Are the Behaviors of Transformational Leaders Impacting Organizations? A Study of Transformational Leadership. International Management Review, 10(1), 5–9.
  • Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that Gets Results. Harvard business review, 78(2), 4-17.
  • Latham, J. R. (2014). Leadership for Quality and Innovation: Challenges, Theories, and a Framework for Future Research. Quality Management Journal, 21(1), 11-15.
  • Rohm Jr., F. W., & Osula, B. (2013). Scouting and Servant Leadership in Cross-Cultural Perspective: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Virtues & Leadership, 3(1), 26.


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