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Many scholars have been interested in the subject of leadership and have come up with theories that guide leaders in their daily operations. Leadership is defined as a process of influencing the actions of a group with an aim of achieving a common goal (Parry & Bryman, n.d.). A leader is one who impacts others by making them behave in a certain manner. The influence is normally exerted on a group which may or may not have elected or chosen leader. The group, in many cases, is junior to the leader but it is not obligatory. All actions of the leaders and the group should be geared towards attainment of the organization’s goals.
Good leadership entails setting goals, developing organization strategy, formulating mission, building organization culture and working towards achieving those goals to produce better results.
Leadership qualities are derived from leadership trait approach. The trait approach explains qualities of leaders that lead to successful attainment of organization goals. It examines that leaders are born with certain characteristics that make them exercise power over their followers. This leads to the argument that leaders are born and not made; nature is greater than nurture. The main quality of a leader is intelligence. It makes leaders more effective in performing their duties. Besides intelligence, there must be an honesty, knowledge, confidence, integrity and hard work to increase chances of leadership success but they do not make it a guarantee to success (Robbins, 2003).
Other characteristics of a good leader include good judgment, desire to lead, leading by example, independence, achievement drive, sociability, emotional control and flexibility. Leaders should possess most of these qualities and know the most appropriate situations to apply them. Even though a leader may possess these characteristics, he or she may be forced to deviate in certain circumstances. During economic hardship, for example, leaders have to deviate from independence and depend on advice from different economic professionals.
The behavioral theory of leadership explains that the success of a leader depends on the way he or she adopts right behaviors. The behaviors can be learned. Scholars at Michigan University, for example, came up with two views of leadership behavior: employee-oriented and production-oriented. In employee-oriented leadership behavior, leaders focus on developing interpersonal relationships with the group they lead. They listen to the employees’ needs and differences. Production-oriented leadership behavior, on the other hand, focuses on the output of employees. It takes employees as tools to accomplish tasks or functions.
Leadership styles distinguish personal characteristics of leaders from their behaviors. They have a direct impact on the work environment and the overall success of an organization (Kritsonis, 2004). The four leadership styles that have an impact on an organization are autocratic, bureaucratic, democratic and free rein.
Autocratic leadership style follows a classical approach. Autocratic leaders apply as much power as possible and make almost all decisions of an organization. They do not allow the staff or subordinates to participate in the decision making process. Leaders practicing this style do not consult the staff in any decisions they make and are not allowed to provide any input in the decisions made. Employees or groups that perform as required are rewarded while those that do not perform are punished according to some laid down rules.
Autocratic leadership style is the most appropriate style to use when an organization employs new untrained staff who do not know the duties to do or procedures to follow, when duties to be performed require supervision through orders and instructions like in the military, when other styles have been applied but do not bare fruits, when there is very short time to make decisions, when leader’s powers and trust are threatened by the group he they lead, and when duties of one department are to be monitored by a different department.
Autocratic style, however, should not be used in cases when it instills fear to the followers, when staff expects their opinions to be heard, when staff relies on all decisions made by leaders, and when staff is demoralized, absent themselves from work, and even stop working. In these cases, when autocratic style is applied, an organization experiences low output and eventually low returns and losses.
Bureaucratic leadership style involves leading according to set laws and standards. A good example is seen in the police force. It is best applicable in cases where employees or groups perform a routine task repeatedly, when they need to understand certain rules, standards and procedures, and when training on critical areas such as safety, security and cash handling. The style is however ineffective when staff or group lose interest in their duties or their colleagues and when staff performs only what they are expected to do.
Democratic leadership style, also known as participative leadership, allows the staff to take part in the decision making process. It updates the staff on anything that takes place in the organization and accepts their input. It is characterized by high output and quality as staff feels a part of the organization and gain morale. It encourages cooperation between leaders and the group.
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Democratic leadership also allows the staff to grow by themselves by establishing their goals and working hard to attain them. It motivates staff since those who achieve are rewarded. It is most appropriate when dealing with skilled and experienced staff and when leaders want to provide the staff with opportunity to grow personally and experience job satisfaction.
Free rein leadership style provides the group or staff with a lot of freedom. Staff is given all authority and power to make decisions and set goals. It is most appropriate to use when leading the staff that are highly skilled, educated, experienced and proud of their work. It should not however be applied in cases when staff feel insecure, when the leader is absent, when leaders do not appreciate the work of subordinates, when leaders want all the tasks, including what they should do, to be done by subordinates.
Whereas all the leadership styles positively impact on an organization, they are best applied in different situations. Leaders should therefore be capable to study the environment and choose the best leadership style to apply.
Differences between a Manager and a Leader
Though the terms manager and leader may be used interchangeably, they are not the same. Not every manager can make a good leader and not all leaders can manage effectively. But in today’s fast-paced world it is good for people to be both good managers and good leaders to effectively drive an organization to success.
A person becomes a manager by “virtue of his position” while a person becomes a leader by the qualities he or she possesses (Management Study Guide, 2012). While a manager plans, organizes and coordinates resources, a leader motivates the group to accomplish plans developed by a manager. A manager puts most of his efforts towards developing structures and systems of an organization while a leader spends most of his efforts and time on the people he is leading. While a manager controls, a leader inspires. For successful leading of an organization, it is prudent to be both a manager and a leader.
Effective leading of an organization requires possession of qualities such as intelligence, honesty, knowledge, confidence, integrity and hard work. These should be coupled with autocratic, democratic, free rein and bureaucratic leadership styles. Whereas there may be differences in leadership and management, a combination of both leads to successful leading of an organization.