Common contemporary leadership challenges (with examples)

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Common contemporary leadership challenges (with examples)


1.1    Leadership definition and concept of effective leadership


Vroom and Jago (2007, p.18) define the term leadership as “a process of motivating people to work together collaboratively to accomplish great things”. It could also be referred as an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes (Rost 1993, p.102). Both of the leadership definitions mention the fundamental target of the effective leadership which is the goal fulfillment in term of “accomplish great things” and “mutual purposes” by leading the followers and it is common sense to most of us that an effective leader will be able to achieve the business goals under various conditions. But one basic question regarding the topic of effective leadership here is that what a leadership should focus in order to be an effective leader. According to Sims and Quatro (2005, p.263), the job content of leaders has changed compared to that in the past and at the same time organizations and the society alike has raised the bar regarding their expectations of the leaders.


Figure 1 Engaging people’s passion effective leadership model

Source: Bilimoria and Godwin 2005, p.264

In the same book, Bilimoria and Godwin (2005) proposed a “Engaging people’s passion” model which they claimed is applicable in the postindustrial age to look at the factors necessary for effective leadership, the model suggests that an effective leader should encompass a balance among five elements: a positive vision of the future, an engaging and inclusive leadership style, leadership courage, emotional intelligence competencies and inspiring core values as illustrated in the figure above. Below we will discuss some common contemporary leadership challenges faced by the leaders due to the lack of the effective leadership elements within the model framework.


1.2    Common contemporary leadership challenges


1.2.1            Lack of a positive vision of the future


Bibb and Kourdi (2004, p.155) suggested that one of the key reasons why people would need a leader is because they need to be inspired towards a positive vision of the future. And according to Kotter (1996), there are six elements of a successful vision: realism, power, communicability, desirability, focus and adaptability. And lacking of these elements could make the effort of creating a positive vision of the future become obsolete. For example, the element of focus requests the vision to be specific enough to provide guidance to the decision making and business planning, but there are many leaders who only provide a positive vision of the future in a broad sense making the vision of little influence when it comes to the business practices.


1.2.2            Lack of an engaging and inclusive leadership


The inclusive leadership is the acknowledgement of differences in term of culture, education background, gender, ethnic groups and other differences (Visser 2011, p.91). And engaging and inclusive leadership could act as a connection between different groups lacking which disputes and problems could be resulted. For example, when the decisions are made only by the male managers while the female managers’ view of points are largely ignored, then leadership effectiveness could be largely reduced because female managers like the male counterparts could also offer very smart and sometimes the best solutions to the company and bypassing the women managers’ idea would cause ineffectiveness in leadership. And the fail to embrace other differences could result in similar consequences.


1.2.3            Lack of leadership courage


Courage is not about the absence of fear but rather it is to see oneself in a realistic perspective, considering options, and choosing to function in spite of risks (Carter 2007, p.102). There have been too many business failures caused by the lack of leadership courage as many leaders are not determined and decisive enough faced by difficulties and fear of changes.


1.2.4            Lack of emotional intelligence competencies


Emotional intelligence could be referred as a set of abilities to know and understand emotions and emotional processes in oneself and others (Salovey & Mayer 1990). Emotional intelligence could be described by some key words such as self-control, capacity to communicate and co-operate (Jasper & Jumaa 2005, p.164) and the lacking of emotional intelligence competencies also would bring impact to the leadership effectiveness. For example, Steve Jobs, the cofounder of Apple Inc, was known for his extreme personalities, when Jobs was focusing on the key projects, je tended to be using an autocratic leadership style to fulfill his personal interest though it is also the interest of the company, but when the employees’ requests were ignored for many times, the success that Jobs had achieved in developing the new products had been brought down by his lack of emotional intelligence to deal with the interpersonal interactions.


1.2.5            Lack of inspiring core values


When many leaders will focus on making a vision of bright future to the followers and make them believe that they could achieve the vision, there are a smaller number of them who can inspire the core values along with the creation of the vision and insist on the core values persistently. For example, Toyota had been famous for producing quality cars but in 2009 according to a outside safety consulting firm, there had been about 2,000 documented accidents of unintended acceleration happened to the Toyota drivers of which 16 deaths and 243 injuries were involved (Maciariello & Linkletter 2011, p.12) resulting in a lot of complaints and inquires from the customers. But Toyota’s very fist response to the complaints regarding the sudden acceleration problem was to advise them to remove the floor mats from the cars before the later large scale of recall, and such reaction had made the customers very angry when the “National Highway Traffic Safety Administration” (NHTSA) later found out that Toyota was aware of the problems before the issue of the recall (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2010). The mishandling of the accelerator problem shows the fact that the Toyota management failed to exhibit the leadership effectiveness and integrity on many levels. And many other companies also fail to insist on their core value which they had tried to inspire and have posted in the official websites, especially when it comes to the case of crisis.

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