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Organizational transformation, once seldom required, is now required frequently in many organizations. This places increased emphasis on the importance of leaders with transformational skills. The other way in which globalization has impacted leadership is the increased need for "soft" skills. The human element of leadership was virtually irrelevant during the early 20th century, as labor was viewed as little more than a commodity. However -- and in particular in knowledge-based industries -- globalization has increased the relevance of human-centered leadership. Workforces have become multicultural, as have circles of influence. A manager today may need to not only cultivate power and influence with local politicians but with politicians on the other side of the world as well. The likelihood of culture clash increases with globalization, so leaders must become more flexible and adopt increasingly flexible attitudes.
Gender is another dimension where leadership study and practice has been influenced. The incorporation of females into management circles and workforces around the world, consideration must be given to the slightly different sets of motivations and methods used by the different genders.
Ethics in Leadership
The burgeoning influence of human elements in leadership has increased the importance of ethics in leadership. During Taylor's day, there were few ethical considerations to leadership -- outcomes to employees were only marginally relevant to the organization. Today, and in particular with the advent of the global society, ethics are highly relevant. Leaders must take into consideration the impacts of their decisions on all of the different stakeholder groups of the organization, and this includes non-human stakeholders such as the environment. Ethics is sometimes defined by the company or the country, but is often left to the individual leader. The increasing importance of ethical viewpoints is a strong influence on modern leadership, and ethics are often taken into account when leaders are being evaluated, in particular in light of ethics scandals such as those at Enron or WorldCom, where a lack of ethics at the leadership level had strong negative consequences for thousands of stakeholders, the leaders included.
Personal Leadership Perspective
As an army officer, my personal leadership perspective is based strongly on ideas of formal authority as a source of power, so this study of leadership has been a strong influence in terms of introducing new ideas that I can take into the remainder of my career and into civilian life. Understanding the notion of transformational leadership is important because so much of leadership in the coming years and decades will be of this type. The world is changing rapidly, and leaders will need to be able to implement rapid change in response. Understanding the different problems such as organizational structure and culture, and being able to address those obstacles, is critical to my development as a leader.
I also view that the ability to apply leadership theory globally is critical. The Army has females, and as America sees a greater ethnic makeup so too do our units. Our missions are to far-flung corners of the world, and we must use our leadership abilities in these missions to extend influence over local populations with radically different sets of objectives from our own. These are challenges faced not only by myself, but by corporate and political leaders as well. My leadership influences often faced a different environment altogether, so while I am able to draw inspiration from their leadership, I also understand that this inspiration must be blended with modern leadership concepts and theories.
Leadership has always been complex, but it has always been simple as well. Leadership is simply about marshaling resources to achieve a specific set of objectives. The methods by which this occurs are described in the different leadership theories. Contingency theory may at times be vague and subject to interpretation, but that is not a fault as much as it is a reflection of the world in which we exist. Understanding the changeable and imprecise nature of the challenges we face, but still finding specific visions of the future and solutions to problems is the task of leaders. Translating these ideas into policies and goals for followers and for other stakeholders to understand and work towards is the critical component of the leadership task. This study of leadership has given me a stronger sense of the issues in play and the different means of addressing those issues. This knowledge therefore gives me the tools I need to become a more effective leader both today and in the future.
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