Module 1: MGMT-0000104, Learning and Leading in a
Part 3: Leadership Critic
Submitted by: Dennet Woodland
Of the many leadership concepts that have been studied in the module so far, some stick out as having the most efficacy; situational and transformational/servant leadership. In the research done to date, some scholars have separated these three leadership approaches into distinct concepts but others have suggested that they should not necessarily be used exclusively. Indeed, McClesky argued that no one leadership approach should be practiced exclusively (2014).
The situational approach to leadership defined as “... effective leadership [that] requires a rational understanding of the situation and an appropriate response ...” (Graeff, 1997; Grint, 2011, as cited in
McClesky, 2014: 118). This over-arching approach focuses on clear and concise instructions, predetermined communication channels and organizational protocols (McClesky, 2014). The situational approach also consists of how much authority and discretion a leader has, the external pressures he or she might encounter, and how subordinates perform in differing situations (Yukl, 1989). Robbins and
Coulter argued the best approach is rooted in navigating a situation as it presents itself (2003). These checks and balances rely on a leader’s ability to act with discretion and to exhibit freedom of choice to determine outcomes based on situational variables (Yukl, 1989; 1999). Indeed, McClesky concluded,
“successful leadership includes both universally applicable elements (task-oriented) and contingency elements (relation and change-oriented)” (2014: 119). The situational leadership approach is essential in providing structure in the face of change. This approach on its own does have drawbacks, namely internal consistency, “conceptual ambiguity and incompleteness” in the model (Graeff, 1997: 1). My experience and that of subordinates is that we require a certain amount of structure in order to find our voice and to implement change and giving encouragement alone is sometimes not enough. Other tools can also be added to situational leadership so that when the situation changes, following a set of guidelines for facing adversity, can make the transition easier (Margolis and Stoltz, 2010).
In order to successfully navigate changing situations, followers must not only be given the tools, but also encouragement to use those tools. Transformational and servant leadership are complementary ideologies, and both emphasize values, empathy, awareness and stewardship, and are closely associated
with charismatic leadership (Yukl, 1999; Stone, 2003). Using these principles, leaders have a closer connection with subordinates, their grievances, needs and ambitions. This concept is in contrast with situational and transactional leadership theories in that transformational leaders tend to provide leadership through action, influence followers using outcomes rooted in strong and positive moral thinking (Brown and Mitchell, 2010), and intellectually stimulate and motivate followers (Bass and
Steidlmeier, 1999). Whereas those who practice a situational or transactional leadership approach, and in particular the Situational Leadership Theory (SLT), are more concerned with task behavior as it relates to the maturity of followers (McClesky, 2014). Transformational/servant leadership styles can also be manipulated to look authentic but possess an underlying personalized behavior of self-interest by the individual (Bass and Steidlemeier, 1999). These variables can lead followers astray and result in negative outcomes if not corrected.
Blending Leadership Concepts
The leadership concepts discussed above, can and should, in my view, occupy the same space and shouldn’t be viewed as mutually exclusive. Conventional wisdom dictates an employee works most efficiently when