What are some leadership challenges today?

Question1 What are some leadership challenges today? (For example, economic policy, climate change, world hunger, diversity). Which of the leadership traits or skills are most relevant to address that challenges?

According to Daft (2008), there are so many challenges faced by today’s leadership in the organization, in this essay we will make a discussion on the two major challenges faced by leadership in the world including the diversity management challenge and business ethics challenge.

Diversity management

i) Challenge from diversity workforce

As Daft (2008) pointed out, diversity refers to all of the aspects staff differs from each other in an organization. And for leadership in an organization, there is seemed an inevitable trend to manage the diversity workforce for organizations in the world. In the following, we’ll summarize these causes and factors contributing to the challenge for leaders to manage the diversity workforce.

To begin with, there is a rising rate in the service industry to enforce a more thorough and deeper communication and interaction with customers in the global market in the business fields such as banking, financing, healthy related issues, tourism, retailing and so on. And at the same, the differences from culture, religion, education, gender, nationality, sexual orientation so on and so forth result in the needs of customers differing from each other a lot in different market region (McQueen 2007). For example, according to Cascio (2010), the purchasing power from customers such as these disabled ones, gay people as well as African Americans reaches nearly $1.5 trillion every year, which is a big attract for any business organization in the world. In another word, the leadership in any organization may have no choice but to face the issue of differences namely the diversity.

And then, under the trend of globalization, organizations especially these multinational one faced with a wider market. And the globalization also provides a broader range of choices for customers in the global regions in good purchasing. In short, it is necessary for leaders in any organization to lead their companies to make every effort to meet the requirements from customer in different regions and places. (Guest 2001)

In terms of the important role played by organizational teams, we can summarize the perspective. The differences occurring from diversity workforces for an organization should be regarded as treasures which contribute to a better, more innovative and creative, much more qualified learning organization with the assistance of different personal views, competitiveness, experiences in working and education, different but the same creative and innovative thoughts and so on (Guest 2001).

At last, when referring to diversity, we can often find that many companies have developed a cooperation partnership with some international companies to share resources with each other to gain more profit. Because of the cooperation with these international firms, it is important for leaders in companies to take the cultural diversity into consideration so as to avoid and remove these barriers and conflicts rousing from differences in culture. And a proper management of the diversity cultural issues by leaders in an organization may enable the organization to act more flexible and comfortable with its foreign partners and save more unnecessary costs as well. (Guest 2001)

In short, these diversity issues in the global market offer organizational leaders a tough task to well manage the diversity in the period of globalization.

ii) Necessary leadership traits and skills

In the above, we have discussed the challenges offered by diversity for organizational leaders to deal with and then let’s have a discussion on the necessary traits and skills required diversity management for leaders.

Leadership traits

In figure 1.0, we can see these summarized leadership traits for organizational leaders to deal with different issues and situation. And considering the diversity issue, we regard these traits of leaders in physical, personality, work related, intelligence and ability may be all necessary.

Physical Characteristics

Energy

Physical stamina

Personality

Self-confidence

Honesty and integrity

Enthusiasm

Desire to lead

Independence

Work-Related Characteristics

Achievement drive, desire to excel

Conscientiousness in pursuit of goals

Persistence against obstacles, tenacity

Intelligence and ability

Intelligence, cognitive ability

Knowledge

Judgment, decisiveness

Social Characteristics

Sociability, interpersonal skills

Cooperativeness

Ability to enlist cooperation

Tact, diplomacy

Social Background

Education

Mobility

Source: Bass, B. M 1990, Handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications, 3rd edn, The Free Press, New York,

In the first place, to manage the diversity workforce, it is important for leaders to have a good physical stamina which enable leaders to have no worry about their own healthy when there is a need for them to stay up late and working in some tough environment. Secondly, the necessary education background can give leaders a relatively clear understanding on the differences existing in diversity workforce and some knowledge on how to manage them. Thirdly, these social characteristics for leaders including the good interpersonal skills, cooperativeness, diplomacy and so on may also enable leaders to have a good as well as effective communication with this diversity workforce and develop thorough negotiation with their partners as well in the foreign market. By and large, these traits are also necessary for leaders to deal with the diversity issues and make them more flexible as well. (Ridley 2003; Daft 2008)

Leadership skills

These skills needed by leaders referring to managing diversity are considered by us as conceptual skills and technical skills (Mumford et al. 2007). In the first place, the conceptual skills required by leaders to deal with diversity refer to the cognitive ability to see the organization as a whole system and the relationships among its parts. Let’s take the Lenovo Company for example, as an international computer maker, its leader Liu Chuanzhi owns a good conceptual skill which enables him to have entire overviews on where these people with diversified background fit into the total organization in Lenovo and how to manage Lenovo to fit into the industry in the global market and so on (Hu 2007).

In the next place, the human skills are also necessary for leaders to cope with diversity in the global market, which is the leader’s ability to work with and through other people and to work effectively as a group member (Longenecker et al. 2007). The leader of Lenovo told us the importance of this kind of skills to manage diversity workforce in the business global expansion as well. In the Thailand market of Lenovo, to well fulfill the different requirements of customers in this place, Lenovo’s leader has build up a marketing team made up of both local staff and foreign staff to combining both of their contribution and excellent points to successfully attract a large member of local customers and help Lenovo maintain a good market share in that region (Hu 2007).

By and large, both the conceptual and human skills are proved so important for leaders to own in dealing with the diversity issue.

Ethics

i) Challenges and importance

According to Christmann and Taylor (2002), under the globalization and changeable business environment, organizations, working individuals as well as entrepreneurs myriad are offered with new opportunities to explore new market regions, expand the products lines, as well as lower the production cost. Although the new products and new means o operating business introduced to a business may bring new life to the lives of many poor people and business suffering from tough period, globalization also comes up with new challenges for business including the requirement on defining proper and effective ethical standards and some responsible social manners to operate business in the world market and countries. As the leaders in an organization, another challenge faced by them is to deal with these ethical related issues in the development process of the organization to withstand the trial of the society and customers on the business ethical aspects. (Christmann and Taylor 2002)

To have a better understanding of the importance of business ethics, let’s develop a further investigation on the importance of the business ethics for the leaderships and the business success.

At first, it is essential for companies to have a positive public image which is received more and more awareness by the public. In the recently, more and more customers tend to purchase products from these organizations with good public image. Wal-mart for example, has a relative negative public image because some of its business behaviors are unethical such as making ordinary products as green food scandal, sex discrimination and so related behaviors. Although it makes and offers products with a relatively decent quality and affordable prices, its negative public image results in a decline of its sale revenue (Featherstone 2005; Wooten, L. P. & James, E.H. 2008). Besides the story of Wal-Mart, many other evidences also told us it is important for the leader to lead the organization perform ethically to achieve success.

Secondly, the second reason for leaders to well manage the business ethics is because the relationship between business ethics and the investors. According to Jennings, (2005) one of the factors for people to invest an organization or a business is whether this organization behaves ethically, which is partly because if the business or organization has a good reputation in business ethics, it is seemed to be more trustworthy than those unethical ones. So to attract more investment, it is important for leaders to lead the organization act in an ethical direction.

Moreover, it is common for companies to have joint ventures, which may help companies to have a better future development. But it is also easy to break a business by only one of the joint venture due to the ignorance on some ethical issues such as the care for environment and so on. So for company leaders, whether they want to find a healthy and successful relationship with business partners or to be the good partner choice for other company to gain greater profits, it is important for the company leaders to manage the ethical issues well and wisely. (Frey & Wellman 2003)

ii) Traits and skills

As the ethical issues give leaderships such a big challenge in the business world, let’s discussion about these important traits and skills for leadership to meet this challenge.

This first necessary leadership trait for leaders is regarded as the work related characteristics, which is defined by Daft (2008) as the conscientiousness in pursuit of goals. If the leader wants to lead his or her organization to behave ethically, he or she should have the sense of conscientiousness and obligation so that he or she can tell right from wrong and stand the big attraction from some unethical behaviors.

The second necessary traits for leader to well meet the diversity challenge is the intelligence and ability as well as good education and working background enable leaders have a good judgment ability and decisiveness (Daft 2008). Being conscientious and responsible may means leaders can really distinguish what is the ethical behavior and what is the unethical behaviors, the good education and working experiences endow the leader with good knowledge to judge these behaviors and the decisiveness may assist leaders to have a firm willingness to lead the organization way from these unethical behaviors (Daft 2008).

iii) Skills

Besides the above necessary traits for leader to meet the challenges, the conceptual skills and human skills are also important. Because, as we have mentioned above, conceptual skills enable organizational leaders to monitor and evaluate the business behaviors and its direction at the height of the entire company, it makes the judgment and evaluation of leaders on the organization more equal and trustworthy (Daft 2008).

And with the assistance of an overall evaluation on the performance of the organization, leaders may resort to the good human skills such as the interpersonal skills to communicate and deliver the importance of ethics for employees and persuade them behave ethically (Daft 2008).

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