Leadership Theory in a Changing and Globalizing Essay

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Leadership Theory in a Changing and Globalizing Marketplace

Modern business practice is permeated by the complexities of a changing world. The impact of globalization on the cultural makeup of companies, the effects of the global recession on the conventions of daily business and the evolutionary shifts brought on by emergent technology all call for an orientation toward simultaneous stability and adaptability. Only under the stewardship of a qualified, communicative, flexible and respected leader can an organization hope to establish these capabilities. However, exactly what constitutes such a leader is subject to a great deal of variation, elaboration and even some disagreement. With the interest of ultimately designing a personal plan for leadership development in my own career, there is a need to evaluate existing literature on the subject of modern business leadership with a focus on the theoretical constructs promoting best practices. These best practices will be evaluated relative the challenges of the modern organization as touched upon loosely here above. Consequently, this evaluation will be applied to a discussion emergent from personal field experience and, thereafter, will be employed in the articulation of a Personal Leadership Development Plan.

Scene Setting:

The setting for the present research endeavor is the modern business realm. This may refer to any of a variety of company types, including small business, family owned business, privately owned corporations, publicly traded companies and multinational conglomerates. While these companies run a gamut of incarnations, face a broad spectrum of differing challenges and possess highly distinct needs, one characteristic which all share is the need for strong, effective and suitable leadership. Here, we refer to the text by Bass & Bass (2008), which reports that there is an increasingly universal sense of acceptance for the notion that organizational conditions are impacted positively by the presence of meaningful leadership with the qualities distinct to service in this role. Bass & Bass note that "leadership is not a 'mystical or ethereal concept.' Rather, leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices. Certainly leaders make a difference. There is not question about it. But as noted by Henry Mintzberg, leaders often make a difference because they stimulate others." (Bass & Bass, p. 1)

How exactly that leaders stimulate those around them remains subject to the examination to be conducted hereafter. In particular, the research takes an interest in determining how others are stimulated by effective leadership in the face of those challenges distinct to a business environment that is undergoing massive changes today. Therefore, such factors as globalization, multiculturalism, technological innovation, communication accessibility and recession are essential to laying out the landscape upon which leadership is to be evaluated.

Overview of Topic:

There is no one right formula for leadership qualifications. In fact, while some traits are inherently preferable such as decisiveness, diligence and the ability to inspire respect and commitment in others, the shifts in business identified directly here above have created a context where one is best served by balancing a multitude of theoretical approaches. This is the rationale for the topic explored hereafter, which seeks to present a sweeping introductory discussion on various leading theoretical constructs, strategies for leadership and templates for leadership development. The assessment of a wide range of scholarly literary sources is intended to serve as the basis for adapting practical skills and knowledge to be used in the mode of developing and serving in a leadership role. The sources selected for inclusion detail a number of commonly accepted and newly emergent perspectives in the field today.

Review of Literature:

The text by Bass & Bass (2008) provides an exhaustive 'handbook' to be used in the service of a leadership role. In doing so, it adheres to the premise stated at the outset here, that one is best served with access to a broad spectrum of theories. These can inform the practice of leadership with the discretion needed to navigate the challenges and changes that are part and parcel to survival in the business world. And from the perspective of the authors here as well as a host of other modern business theorists, the abilities represented in leadership are tantamount to an organization's overall success. Accordingly, Bass & Bass remark that "leadership is often regarded as the single most critical factor in the success or failure of institutions. For instance, T.H. Allen (1981) argued that the principal's leadership is the most important factor in determining a school's climate and student's success. . . And Smith, Carson, and Alexander (1984) found that among the 50 Methodist ministers they studied, some were more effective leaders than others. The effectiveness of these ministers was evidenced by the differential impact that their ministries had on church attendance, membership, property values, and contributions to the church." (Bass & Bass, p. 11)

Here, the text points to a number of contexts in which the quality and qualifications of leadership have been shown to positively effect all other dimensions of the organization. This helps to provide a basic foundation for the assertion that will gird the findings throughout this review and the subsequent analysis, that leadership is, if not the core determinant, at least a core determinant of organizational performance and outcomes. Moreover, as is contributed to the discussion by the Cartwright (1965) article, the notion of leadership must be seen as transcending the matter of position or title. As this source -- the only one included in the review from prior to the last 5 years -- demonstrates, the characteristics and qualities that comprise effective leadership will have less to do with job title than with social and professional performance in coordination with personnel. The leader, this formative historical source asserts, will be fundamentally effective in facilitating the cooperative interaction of otherwise individual employees. According to Cartwright, "social influence emanates from individuals with leadership, and not necessarily because of the position they occupy. According to Dahl (1957), agents exert social influence through the manipulation of a base of resources, and resources like recognition, appreciation, and friendliness as well as economic rewards are used. However, the relationship between power and determinative action is complex, and depends on the agent using power as a means or an end. The agent must calculate the cost of exerting influence, which hinges upon the outcome of the influence." (Cartwright, p. 1)

In a sense, the text by Cartwright reveals, leadership effectiveness is a self-fulfilling process. The ability of one in a position of leadership to influence action in his or her employees is predictive of the credibility of his or her claim to leadership. There is, therefore, a great danger to one's leadership stability in attempting to over-reach with one's authority. By creating a scenario in which one's leadership is likely to be challenged, the leader must be prepared to demonstrate the potency of his or her authority. Ideally, then, decisions and demands impacting personnel should be made only with careful calculation and the likelihood of reducing prospects for resistance. One important way to work to reduce this type of resistance is to establish a strong grounding in the ethical practice of leadership. This is a particular challenge in an atmosphere which calls for increasingly cutthroat tactics in contending with competition that outsources labor to countries without strong labor laws, that transgresses basic principles of sound environmental practice and that engages otherwise in illicit practices aimed at shaving costs. Globalization and the inception of free trade have made these irresistible forces and, moreover, the recession has magnified the pressure imposed by these forces. So denotes that compilation text by Sergiovanni (2006), which collects a number of essays on leadership practice, and which pays focus to the importance of ethicality there within.

According to Sergiovanni, ethicality can be an important and common compass for navigating the challenges connected to leadership in varying contexts. Accordingly, Sergiovanni asserts that "context plays a key role in deciding whether certain approaches to leadership will be effective or not. Thus what a leaders says and does to be effective in one kind of enterprise may not lead to effectiveness in another kind of enterprise. Susan Moore Johnson puts it this way: 'Leadership looks different -- and is different -- depending on whether it is experienced in legislature, on a battlefield, at a rally, on a factory floor, or in a school district." (Sergiovanni, p. 1) Here, Sergiovanii reiterates a core assertion of the research thus far, which is the critical importance of achieving a stable set of values that can function as a centering point across a divergent offering of organizational contexts.

Sergiovanni goes on to apply this notion to the public school context, suggesting that this is a working environment where the need for morally informed leadership is well-demonstrated. And moreover, Sergiovanni finds, it is incumbent upon leadership in schools to generally mold the type of atmosphere where teachers and students alike can thrive. According to the Sergiovanni text, the educational context carries its own particular demands for moral orientation while simultaneously imposing many of the traditional expectations of leadership that…[continue]

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