BEING AN EFFECTIVE LEADER

You've got to take them out of their comfort zone, but it's got to be driven by the individual; you can't make people do things they don't want to do.

Defining management and leadership 

Leadership and management are both important processes, but they are different. 

 

Leadership has been defined as “a process of motivating people to work together collaboratively to accomplish great things” [1]. It differs from management, which is “the process of reaching organizational goals by working with and through people and other organizational resources” [2]. Differences include:    

 

  • First, leaders inspire people to follow them, whereas managers have people work for them. This means leaders do not always have to hold an official management position; anyone can be a leader.  

  • Second, leaders drive people by inspiring and motivating them (such as through their vision) whereas managers allocate tasks and ensure performance (such as through feedback and role clarity).  

Click here to learn more about practical differences between managers and leaders.  

Types of leadership 

Every manager or leader has her/his own characteristic behaviours when directing and managing groups of people. This determines their management or leadership “style”. The most prominent management/ leadership styles that have been identified are:

Authoritarian[3]

Participative (democratic)[4]

Transformational

Transactional

Laissez-faire[4]

Situational

What is the most effective form of leadership?      

 

The best type of leadership often depends on the circumstance that a person finds themselves in. However, some forms of leadership are more effective than others.  

 

Participative leaders seek to include their followers in work and company decisions, such as goal setting, problem solving, and team building. This makes followers more engaged and motivated, fostering their commitment to group goals. Combining participative leadership with other types of leadership behaviours can be an effective leadership style; for example, combining the inspiring and supportive aspects of transformational leadership with coaching and group engagement in decision-making of participative leadership [9].  

 

Transformational leadership is similarly related to better organizational performance and leadership effectiveness [10][11]. Transactional leadership, which is sometimes referred to as traditional management, focuses on changing behaviours through rewards and punishments to motivate workers. This type of leadership is most effective in crisis situations, or situations where problems are simple and clearly defined [12][13]. For example, during a crisis using a transactional leadership style can help bring focus to short-term goals, potentially saving a sinking company through immediate benefits.  

 

Both authoritarian and laissez-faire leadership are, usually ineffective. A authoritarian style can, however, be effective in situations when there is little time for group decision-making or when the leader is the most knowledgeably in comparison to the other employees [14]. A laissez-fair style can be effective in situations when employees prefer to feel independent regarding how they fulfil their job. Such a leadership style enhances employees’ autonomy and empowerment as they can shape their own environment. This is related to greater job satisfaction [15]. 

What about team-based leadership?   

Distributed leadership [16] (DL) is a type of leadership that emphasizes collective collaboration, rather than individual power and control [17]. It consists of the following dimensions: 

  • a context of trust 

  • a culture of autonomy 

  • acceptance of change, collaborative relationships, and  

  • cycles of activity.  

 

Below you can view the conceptual model of distributed leadership.  

The conceptual model is based on the six E’s of distributed leadership [18]

  1. Engagement: Engage participants all relevant functions, disciplines, groups, and levels using activities. 

  2. Enabled: Create a context of trust, culture of respect with effecting change through collaborative relationship. 

  3. Enact: Use processes, support and systems that encourage involvement. 

  4. Encouraged: Requires a range of supportive actions (e.g., mentoring, facilitation of networks, communities of practice, time, space  

  5. Evaluated: Evidence should be provided of increased engagement in learning and teaching, collaboration, and growth in leadership capacity. 

  6. Emergent: Engage people through an ongoing, sustainable cycle of action based on participation.  

Distributed leadership (DL) can have a powerful impact in the higher education sector. A recent study [19] has shown that:  

  • A DL approach used in an Australian law faculty positively impacted the development of collaboration and growth in leadership capacity between academics and professional staff.  

  • A DL approach applied during the First Year Experience at University of Technology Sydney led to greater engagement of university and faculty leaders, academics and professional staff members. It also led to greater engagement of a broad community that improved standard metrics.  

  • The Sessional Academic Success (SAS) programme at Queensland University of Technology also implemented a DL approach which had a positive impact on sessional staff’s publications, nominations, and university awards.   

 

In conclusion, distributed leadership is an effective management style as it enhances collaboration, staff engagement, and improves institutional outcomes. 

Women and leadership  

 

Even though some people assume that men are better leaders than women [20], a 2014 meta-analysis [21] showed that men and women have similar perceived leadership effectiveness ratings [22]. In fact, female leaders were seen as significantly more effective than male leaders when using ratings of effectiveness from others (i.e., ratings from peers, subordinates).  

 

Although men and women’s leadership effectiveness may be similar, are there differences in the way they lead? Both academic research and anecdotal observations suggest that women might differ from men in their approach to leadership. 

First a meta-analytical review found that women consistently outscore men on some styles of leadership [25]: 

  • Women scored highest on individualized consideration (or supportive leadership), the domain of leadership related to the personal attention that leaders give to employees and the way they treat each employee individually. 

  • Women also scored higher on contingent reward behaviours, which are part of a transactional leadership style. These behaviours are motivation-based system in which leaders provide rewards for employees’ efforts and recognize their good performances.  

Both leadership behaviours listed above are predictive of higher ratings of leader effectiveness. As such, women demonstrate the skills required to perform highly in leadership positions.   

Another study by McKinsey focused on leadership behaviours that have a positive impact on organizational performance [25]. Of the nine behaviours listed, women were more likely than men to use five of them: people development, role modelling, inspiration, expectation and rewards, and participative decision-making (see Figure below). A survey of top management executives found that several of these behaviours – including inspiration, expectation and rewards, and participative decision making – were rated as the most important behaviours for organizational performance. More than 70% of study participants indicated that these behaviours, with the addition of intellectual stimulation, were underrepresented in their organization’s current leadership. This may be a reflection of the lower number of women in leadership roles. 

Image 2. Gender differences on nine leadership behaviours for organisational performance. [25]

Although female leaders are effective both in terms of perceived effectiveness and organizational performance, they continue to experience prejudice, inequality in pay and advancement, and difficulty in obtaining desired roles. Gender bias continues to hold women back in leadership positions, and women are still perceived to be most effective in gender-congruent industries such as child-care, social services, and counselling). In these roles, women do not violate prescriptive [27] and descriptive [27] aspects of gender stereotypes. In other words, although women possess skills that show they can handle leadership positions, unsupported stereotypes and expectations are holding them back.  

Strategies for becoming a more effective leader 
  • To assess your leadership skills, click here to go to the Learning/Performance Orientation scales [28]. You’ll also receive a free guidebook on how to develop your leadership skills. 

  • Click here to see various courses to develop your leadership and strategic management skills offered by Harvard University. 

  • Click here for an overview of free Management and Leadership online courses offered by top universities and colleges. 

 

The Center for Creative Leadership [29] has identified four learning tactics that can be employed to increase leadership versatility. Learning tactics are various behaviours employed when facing challenges. The more tactics leaders use, the more this contributes to individual leader development [30]

  1. Feeling tactics: acknowledging your own feelings with undertaking new challenges. 

  2. Action tactics: learning by doing. 

  3. Thinking tactics: imagining the future and play out “What if..” scenarios.  

  4. Assessing-others tactics: seeking advice, examples, support, or instruction from others.   

 

Research has shown the importance of learning orientation in leadership skill development [31]. Individuals with a strong learning orientation are highly motivated, strive to understand new things, and respond with adaptive mastery-oriented behaviours, These can result in improved importance [32].  

 

It can be concluded that leaders are not born but made, and that leadership skills and behaviours can be learned and improved.  

Suggested link

Suggested videos