What managers need to do is to create a corporate culture that embraces change, and in embracing uncertainty embrace learning (self-efficacy) as well (Liu, Siu, Shi, 2010). For leaders in these uncertain times it is not enough to just provide a series of goals or objectives, there must be a dimensionality to leadership strategies. Starting first with the ability to read situations and assess them, then apply transactional vs. transformational leadership is key. Second, the consistency of being able to manage with authenticity, transparency and trust is even more critical today as situations change rapidly and so do market conditions; there is not the luxury of time anymore to be so static in responses to market conditions (Scott, 2010). An example of an organization exceptionally effective at this strategy is IBM. Under previous CEOs, IBM was complacent and willing to live off the maintenance revenues of their mainframe business and seek out partnerships that protected the status quo, not challenged it. With the launch of the PC, and later the Internet, IBM found themselves in a position of being nearly irrelevant to the enterprise buyer. Their re-invention of themselves is significant and one of the most remarkable turn-arounds in global business.
All of these factors point to the need for leaders and managers to be resolute in focusing on having situational leadership strategies that are effective in managing the teams they are responsible for (Hirunyawipada, Beyerlein, Blankson, 2010). As many organizations have drastically cut back on headcount during this recession, the ability of a leader to invoke trust and keep it over time is essential if an organization is to stay focused and galvanized in its commitments to its goals. This is much harder after any organization has gone through a lay-off and trust has been depleted due to restructurings. Yet transformational leaders have the ability to define a compelling enough vision, show significant sacrifice in belief of that vision, and motivate others through that initiative on their own to also sacrifice to attain the goals. In fact, surveys show that the most telling trait of a transformational leader is the ability to make personal sacrifices on behalf ot he vision they believe in while staying consistent and authentic in their direction and approach to managing (Mancheno-Smoak, Potak, Athanasaw, 2009). The most effective leaders in the 21st century will be able to balance these factors and tailor leadership programs that are highly relevant to the needs of their employees. By serving them, they will not necessarily shield them from the uncertainties or risks of a turbulent economy, but will instead seek to create willingness in subordinates to actively change, learn, grow and take on the responsibility for their own continual improvement. This is the essence of excellent transformational leadership (Liu, Siu, Shi, 2010).
Leadership in the 21st century needs to be more about an approach to leadership that is agile enough to anticipate and respond to risks yet stable enough to provide a consistent vision of where an organization needs to go. The concept of a hybrid model of leadership that combines transaction leadership to ensure short-term objectives are met while at the same time concentrating on the longer-term vision is critical. Blending transactional and transformational leadership is essential for any organization to stay focused. Most important of all however is the trait of trust in leaders, and that must be present if any organization is going to survive these turbulent times.
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