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Current issues in leadership development
1.1 Situational leadership in disruptive business environments
1.1.1 Literature review of the situational leadership
Herbert Spencer (1884) suggested that time produced the leader and not the other way around. His theory, known as the situational leadership claimed that different situation call for different leadership characteristics which means that there is no single optimal psychographic profile of a leader (Mehta 2009, p.161). And this means that leaders need to change their leadership features and styles accordingly to the changed conditions, and such adaptation seems to be of great importance especially in the more and more disruptive business environment that it is today.
One of the best-known theories of leadership in the organizational psychology is Hersey and Blanchard (1982) Situational Leadership Theory which rests on two fundamental concepts: leadership style and the individual or group’s maturity level and the theory suggested that different leadership styles should be used according to the followers’ maturity level. There are four types of leaderships identified in Hersey and Blanchard (1982) Situational Leadership Theory based on the distinction of two kinds of leadership behaviors: relationship behavior and task leadership. The relationship behavior which refers to satisfying the followers’ personal needs, handling with the interpersonal conflict and increasing the team cohesiveness while the task leadership majorly deals with tasks to be finished by the team as a whole in term of forming solutions, eliminating difficulties and allocating resources.
Figure 2 Hersey and Blanchard (1982) Situational Leadership Theory
Source: Mackay 2007, p.65
At the initial stage the group members are low in maturity, and they tend to be unwilling and also unable (probably because of the lack the necessary skills and knowledge) to do the job, and with the low maturity level in the employees, according to Situational Leadership model leaders are encouraged to use a telling leadership style which involves high task leadership and low relationship behaviors. After the team members achieve the second level of maturity and are able to work smoothly, the model suggested that leaders should increase the relationship behavior to provide support to them which is a high relationship and high task leadership style, or selling leadership style and this selling leadership style will work the best under the second maturity level. As the employee maturity continues to grow to reach the third level, a high relationship but low task orientation leadership, or participating leadership is recommended to better motivate the team members who are able to do the job with the necessary skills. And in the last stage with a fully mature team, a delegating leadership with the features of low relationship and low task orientation will be the most effective as the team members are capable to do the job on their own (Dörnyei & Murphey 2004, p.98).
1.1.2 Constrains of situational leadership
Luthans (2002) suggested that the Hersey and Blanchard (1982) Situational Leadership model was far from perfect because there were actually 12 situations that should represent the level of subordinate maturity which were identified in a survey done in the practical work environment but according to the model there are only four leadership styles available for the managers to select. And even Hersey and Blanchard admitted that their model is over simplified. Now now with the fast changing and disruptive environment, it is for sure that the application of the situational leadership model will encounter more difficulties which may request for a more complicated model to embrace various environmental factors in the new business conditions.
1.2 Major issues in leadership development
Leadership development is a strategic endeavor for leaders’ personal and professional growth so they can reach higher levels of effectiveness for the organization (Bowerman & Wart 2011, p.320). It is of great importance for leaders to develop themselves to better understand the disruptive environments and also better lead the followers to achieve continues improvements in the changing conditions. It is believed the success of leadership development efforts has close relationship with three variables: the individual learner characteristics, the quality and nature of the leadership development program and the support for the leadership development. Below are some major issues in the leadership development in these three variables.
1.2.1 Candidates with low potential to lead
Leadership development does not begin with a formal leadership development program but it starts with identifying the candidates that are to be trained. The biggest problem could happen in this step make all the following leadership development effort of little use which is to pick up some candidates with low potential to lead though they are in the management positions. For example, in many large companies especially those in a hierarchical structure and those in the monopoly industries, seniority has been used as an important factor when determining whom to be promoted to the management positions. Under such circumstances, candidates who are higher in seniority but lower in potential to lead could be identified to become leaders and participate in the leadership development programs.
1.2.2 Diversity issues in formal training and education
Achieving a more diverse workforce to keep a global leadership capacity is one of the key changes and also challenges when large multinational companies shift to a global marketplace presence (Morse 2008, p.169). But when all these candidates are from different background with different values and beliefs come together, it brings challenges to management to design a formal training program and education system to develop the leadership among the candidates with a wide range of diversities.
1.2.3 The raise of the informal sources of support
Leaders need support in the process of leadership development which helps increase the effectiveness of leadership development in the context of social identity (Velsor, McCauley & Ruderman 2010, p.166). The source of support could be formal and informal, as the social media and social activities become more and more popular in the modern society friends, colleagues, family members and other social networks could play an increasingly important role in providing unofficial sources of support to leaders. But together with this trend, another major problem could happen. Because the informal support will be differentially available to members of dominant and non-dominant group, many leaders from the non-dominant group could be to some extent isolated from the social networks and so they can not get access to such support.