ILeadership & New Leadership Styles



Leadership, more specifically, organisational leadership is one of the most talked about issues in the business world today. Bolden (2004) explains that the number of published academic leadership articles now available has seen an exponential increase from just 178 in the year 1970, to over 10,062 in 2002. Sorenson’s (2002) study results cited in Bolden (2004: 4) found that, “over 900 college or university leadership programmes now exist”. Further proof of the increasing interest being given towards the concept of leadership is given by Higgs (2003: 273) who expresses that, “In more recent times the area of leadership has been studied more extensively than almost any other aspect of human behaviour”. The increase in leadership courses and academic publications perhaps exhibits that the concept of leadership is something which businesses are becoming more reliant upon as each year passes.

The following sections of this page will initially provide an overview of leadership, including its definitions, what it entails and why the concept is important in the current business climate. Also provided is a section titled ‘New Leadership Styles’ which will discuss and evaluate the latest leadership styles being utilised in business environments. A summary is also provided which aims to discuss whether a single leadership style is best, or if a combination is more appropriate.

What is Leadership?

There are different terms and types of leaders when leadership status has been assigned to a employee, ‘There are many people in the UK who carry a job title containing the word ‘leader’, although what the term indicated can vary from one organisation to another’ (Gold & Thorpe,2010:3). As stated above the term Leader can be given to many employees with a status depending on their job role, for example people working in a bank could be given a team leader status while some employees working for a huge corporate firm could be given a status of department leader, which will carry more responsibilities and a different job role. Initially the term leader means to take charge and to motivate and encourage fellow employees to hit a certain target or goal.

In general ‘Leaders’ are normally assigned in large companies. It should be evident that much of the discussion about leaders most frequently refers to larger Organisations or corporations. (Gold & Thorpe,2010:12) The main reason for this is to give employees who have performed well for the company some power to influence other employees and to drive the organisations employees forward.

Many scholars have struggled to answer the simple question: 'What is Leadership?' This is clear throughout different literature on the subject of leadership, which display over 100 varied definitions (Rost, 1991). However Northouse, P.G (2009) was able to narrow these definitions down into five reflections of what the nature of leadership may be:
  1. 'Leadership as a Trait'- This argument suggests that each individual brings their own defining qualities or characteristics to the table, which influence the way they lead. By saying that leaders are best defined through their unique traits represents the argument that leaders are born and not made as we are born with many traits that we possess through hereditary transfer. But then again, it could argued that these traits that we all possess could have a positive impact on the way we lead through the building and modifying of these traits.
  2. 'Leadership as an Ability'- When it is said that an individual as an ability for leadership, it is referring to their natural capacity to lead others. For example, a natural leader may have the ability to give effective and motivational public speeches or may possess the ability to lead by example and offer inspirational support to their workforce. Going back to the argument of leaders being 'born or made'; these leadership abilities may either come naturally or they may be created or developed through experience and practice.
  3. 'Leadership as a Skill'- It can be argued that being an effective and successful leader may come down to a matter of skill or competence when carrying out a task. In order for a task or responsibility to be carried out effectively, the leader needs to have a high level of competency in order to fulfil their duties. As skills are something that individuals can develop over their lives, this approach to leadership suggests that everyone has leadership qualities inside of them but how well these are utilised depends on the individuals determination and character. This approach suggests that leaders are in fact made, as it ultimately relies on our motivation to develop these skills through our experiences and practice in the working environment.
  4. 'Leadership as Behaviour'- The behavioural approach to leadership concerns how leaders act around others in different situations. It is in these situations that leaders can be observed in order to determine what their behaviours are towards the leadership of a group. According to Northouse (2009) once again, the behaviours of leaders can be divided into two categories: task behaviours and process behaviours. Task behaviours are used by leaders to help complete a task with maximum efficiency; for example conducting a pre-shift meeting to relay specific instructions towards the workforce. Process behaviours are used by leaders to stabilise the relationships of the group's members so that they all feel comfortable working together in a situation or environment. It is argued that these two types of behaviours are needed by leaders so it is their responsibility to balance the two in order to complete a task with positive results. This is unlike the other reflections of leadership, as I believe the behaviour of a leader to be a significant factor in maintaining respect from a workforce. As behaviour is something which cannot be built upon or developed, I believe that this type of leadership stands out from the rest as these leadership behaviours need to be present in the workplace in order to maintain the key relationship between the leaders and their followers.
  5. 'Leadership as a Relationship'- The relationship between a leader and their followers are essential in maintaining collaboration and communication. This approach suggests that leadership is more of an 'interactive' partnership between the leaders and their followers, which goes against the contemporary leadership theories of authority being passed down the hierarchy. It also suggests that in order to maintain this level of influence, leaders must have knowledge of their follower's ideas and thoughts so that they can collaborate when performing tasks. By working together towards a mutual goal, it can be argued that leadership would be more effective in a working environment as it gives the followers a sense of significance in decisions and the tasks they carry out.

It is difficult to determine which of the five reflections of leadership is most important as, in my opinion; a leader needs every one of these points. A leader needs the ability and skill in their personal performance to carry out their responsibilities, but they also need to keep a good relationship with followers through adopting behaviour which is expected of leadership. Zaleznik, A. (1998) suggests that more businesses are beginning to develop what he calls a 'power ethic' which seeks a collective leadership between workers and management, instead of implementing a 'one-man dominance' over the rest of the organisation. The most popular example of collective leadership outside of business would be the ideal of 'Communism'; still a popular philosophy to many countries around the world such as China, North Korea and Cuba. Regarding contemporary organisations, many have begun to adopt a collective leadership approach such as many innovative companies such as 'Google' and workers cooperatives such as 'National Express'.

Roles of a Leader

A leader would be expected to have a variety of skills from team management to driving a team to success, as well as having the ability to drive and motivate a team a leader has many other roles, as shown on the table below:

Interpersonal Roles
Informational Roles
Decisional Roles
Resource Allocator

(Gold & Thorpe, 2010:6)

Depending on the company and the job role a leader should be able to have the ability to monitor employees, create and think of new innovating ideas as well as allocating work for the other employees, at times a leader will take the credit or be given criticism if the team is not performing well therefore it is vital that a leader manages their allocated team well.

Leading a team

Another factor leaders have to consider when managing a team is employee emotions and the ways to encourage and drive their employees.

‘The ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth.’ (Gold & Thorpe,2010:72)

As stated above a leader should be able to identify any team morale or personal issues and help employees overcome these problems to help them focus on the job required, this is when leadership skills count, as a true leader would be able to get the best out all employees and help employees to have good focus and determination on the task ahead which will drive forward success of the team and results.

Leadership: Overview

Defining Leadership

A vast range of ideas and beliefs which attempt to define leadership exist within the academic literature surrounding the concept. Proof of the difficulty in pinpointing exactly what constitutes effective leadership is given by Boden (2004: 4) who states, “There remains a certain mystery as to what leadership actually is, or how to define it”. Clearly there is at present, still great difficulty in finding a suitable definition that academics on the subject can all agree with. Reasoning for this is primarily due to the differing theoretical stances which writers on the subject take. Consequently, an on-going debate as to whether leaders are born or made surrounds the concept of leadership. Evidence that this is happening is provided by Boden (2004: 4) who states,

“The way in which leadership is defined or understood is strongly influenced by ones theoretical stance. There are those who view leadership as the consequence of a set of traits or characteristics possessed by leaders, whilst others view leadership as a social process that emerges from group relationships”.
Nonetheless, leaderships most cited definitions must be discussed in an effort to explain the concept of leadership. Classical definitions of leadership express that the concept is transactional, in that leaders and followers will offer valued things to each other. Proof of this is provided by Burns (1978) cited in Burns (1996: 150) who states, “Transactional leadership occurs when one person takes the initiative in making contact with others for the purpose of an exchange of valued things”. A business related example might be that an organisational leader offers a monetary bonus to their followers in exchange for them meeting a goal set by the leader. Consequently, Burns (1978) cited in Burns (1996: 150) defined leadership as, “The reciprocal process of mobilising by persons with certain motives and values, various economic, political and other resources in a context of competition and conflict, in order to realise goals”.

In contrast to classical authors, many contemporary authors disagree with the definition provided by Burns. Contemporary theories focus on leadership as being transformational, in that both leaders and followers have shared goals and values. Rost (1991) cited in Burns (1996: 152) defines leadership as, “An influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes to reflect their mutual purposes”. Thus, leadership is now looked at as an activity generated when leaders and followers pursue a common set of values as oppose to a goal set by the leader.

In summary, the contrasting definitions demonstrate a noticeable trend. This is that leaders must now engage and influence their followers to believe in, and achieve a shared set of goals or values. As oppose to classical theories which suggest that the leader simply gave something of value to their followers, in exchange for them completing the goals which the leader set. Perhaps this is the reason why many 21st century organisational strategies now include mission statements which have values that both the business owners and the employees are meant to share and achieve.

What does leadership entail

An interesting quote which expresses to a degree what leadership entails is given by Bass (2008: 1) who states, “Leaders help us understand our current reality and forge a brighter future from it. They see new opportunities, and manage a complex interactive process that supports individual and collective growth”. If a leader is to do as Bass states then there are many different skills which they leader must encompass. The most frequently discussed skills from leadership literature have been brought together and can be seen below.


The list of skills above is however not exhaustive, and many other academics discuss various other competencies which leaders can possess. What’s interesting is that the competences said to be essential for effective leadership, share a close bond with the ones possessed by entrepreneurs. Proof of this connection is given by Chell et al (1991) who explains that entrepreneurs have been found to possess the traits of self motivation and clear yet futuristic vision. These relate closely to the ones listed above and reasoning for this could be that entrepreneurs have to lead the organisations which they create. More information on entrepreneurs and the competencies they possess can be seen on a seperate page of this wiki titled Entrepreneurship'.

Leadership's Importance in the Current Business Climate

Discussing leadership’s importance in the current business climate is essential; as this is after all, a new trends in management wiki. Heifetz et al (2009) explains that due to the current economic crisis employees feel effects such as distress, confusion, and uncertainty about their job role. Also suggested by Heifetz (2009) is that employee’s rebel against their employers, and often feel incompetent in their role if they are moved to a new department due to employee cut backs. The Leadership skills already discussed in the previous section are important in changing the problems Heifetz discusses. Leaders can utilise the skill of helping others to cope with organisational change, so employees feel more competent in their job role. This may be in the form of training employees, or just providing a positive influence to keep employee spirits up. Envisioning future possibilities is another leadership skill, and the use of it can allow an organisation in trouble to find new ways of efficiency, or new markets to enter and trade in. Also, a workforce in distress and uncertainty is likely to be poorly motivated. Yet one of the leadership skills already discussed is being able to motivate employees to prevent this occurring. All of these skills demonstrate why effective organisational leadership is as important as it’s ever been in the current business climate.

New Leadership Styles

A search of 21st century leadership literature establishes that many of the leadership styles authors class as new, are in fact, not. The styles are simply an adapted version of a previous approach. Nonetheless, there are some new approaches to leadership in the 21st century which are distinct from old styles. These new approaches to leadership have been listed below in separate headings.

Spiritual Leadership

Giacalone and Jurkiewicz (2003) cited in Fry and Matherly (2006: 3) state, “Spiritual Leadership and its practice in the workplace has recently become a fast growing area of research”. Spiritual leadership works by, “motivating and inspiring workers through a translucent vision and a culture based in altruistic values” (Fry and Matherly, 2006). In other words, spiritual leadership focuses on creating an ethical workplace, with shared values in which employees and leaders have engaged relationships. Spiritual leadership is defined by Fry and Matherly (2006: 4) as, “Creating the values, attitudes, and behaviours that are necessary to intrinsically motivate one’s self and others so they have a sense of spiritual survival/well being through calling and membership”.

The spiritual leadership approach entails the following,

  • · Creating a social organisational culture in which leaders and employees values are aligned

  • · The leader must make employees feel as though they are valued members of the organisation

  • · Leaders must make employees feel a sense of well being through a range of ethical measures, such as showing genuine care, concern and appreciation to employees

Proof that this leadership style can be utilised effectively in the current business environment is seen in a recent case study. The example is given in a case study by Daft (2008) which discusses an entrepreneur named Bill Greehey who utilises spiritual leadership. The case study explains that Greehey bought old and unprofitable oil refineries at low prices. Daft (2008: 441) explains that the first thing Greehey does after purchasing is to, “Assure people their jobs are secure, bring in new safety equipment and promise employees that if they work hard, he would put them first at all times”. These actions clearly demonstrate that Greehey utilised spiritual leadership since he showed the employees that they are valued by treating them ethically and showing genuine care and concern. Daft (2008: 441) explains that Greehey said, “Right now morale is so high in this refinery, you can’t get at it with a space shuttle”. This is sound evidence that spiritual leadership can be effective in the current business climate.

However, to understand and cater for employees needs costs money. Even in the case of the oil refinery entrepreneur, money had to be spent to perform spiritual leadership. Given the current business climate; many businesses may not have the money to cater for employees needs. Therefore perhaps this type of leadership is only suitable for a business with money to spare for other activities.

Servant Leadership

The leadership approach titled ‘servant leadership’ was first created by Robert GreenLeaf in 1970. However, Sendjaya and Sarros (2002: 57) express that, “although the notion of servant leadership has been previously recognised in the leadership literature, the approach has only recently gained momentum”. This is evidence that servant leadership is technically a new leadership style. Greenleaf’s institute for servant leadership can be found by visiting the following link:

Dennis and Bocarnea (2005: 601) define servant leaders as, “Those who serve with a focus on the followers, whereby the followers are the primary concern and the organisational concerns are peripheral”. In simpler terms, servant leadership involves the leader acting in a ‘servant-first’ approach, whereby the leader wants to serve employees needs before that of their own. This means that the leader puts the workforces needs, aspirations, and interests above their own (Sendjaya and Sarros, 2002).

There are ten characteristics which a servant leader must possess if they are to be effective in leading their workforce.
  1. Listening – The leader must make a deep commitment to listen to employees
  2. Empathy – The leader has to emphasize with others and accept them for who they are
  3. Healing – the leader must heal any employees who suffer hurt or emotional pain at work
  4. Awareness – The leader must be aware of employees thoughts in order to act ethically at all times
  5. Persuasion – the leader seeks to convince employees, as oppose to using their authority in order to get employees to accept organisational change
  6. Conceptualization – the leader must encompass broader conceptual thinking as oppose to thinking strictly about the day to day activities
  7. Foresight – the leader should always attempt to forsee the possible outcome of a situation through the use of remembering previous situations and their outcomes
  8. Stewardship – the leader will always devote trust to their employees and should receive it in return
  9. Commitment for the growth of other people – The leader will remain committed to the personal, spiritual and professional growth of all employees
  10. Building community – The servant leader will seek to build a community in which their employees can interact sociably

(Spears, 2004).

Despite servant leadership being a relatively new leadership approach; there is evidence that it is in use effectively in the current business climate. Spears and Lawrence (2002) explain the case of a plumbing company named ‘TD Industries’ who’s owner Jack Lawrence first heard about servant leadership in one of Greenleafs books. Spears and Lawrence (2002: 9) state, “Since then, the belief that leaders should serve their employees has become an important value for TD Industries”. Proof that servant leadership is occurring at TD Industries is given by Spears and Lawrence (2002: 10) who state, “TD Industries has developed elaborate training modules designed to encourage the understanding and practice of servant leadership”. The effectiveness of this leadership approach for a business is given when Spears and Lawrence (2002: 10) state, “TD Industries now consistently ranks in the top 10 of Fortune Magazine’s, Top 100 best companies to work for in America”.

Despite the positive example provided above; their remains some downsides to the approach. Washington et al (2006) posits that there are many characteristics which a servant leader is meant to possess. These have already been listed above and it is thought that this list is excessive. Consequently, it is presumed that not many leaders will be able to fulfill this list of skills. It also seems that servant leadership is a process that cannot be adopted in a short space of time, since there is an extensive list of attributes to learn. As a result, organisations looking to adopt the approach will have to be patient, and the problems which servant leadership intends to solve may build up in that time.

Transformational Leadership

Burns (1978) first posited a distinction between traditional and newly developing styles of leadership, otherwise considered as ‘transactional’ and ‘transformational’ leadership styles. Transactional leadership (TL) is generally considered as a traditional leadership approach, premised largely on the conventions of scientific management. According to Burns (ibid.), transactional leadership is based on an exchange relationship between leaders and followers whereby followers receive rewards contingent on their compliance to a leader’s wishes. TL on the other hand is a type of leadership that motivates followers to achieve performance beyond expectations, by transforming the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the followers (Bass, 1985). TL occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group (Bass, 1990).
According to Bass (1985) and Avolio et al. (1991), there are four primary behaviours of TL:
  • Idealised influence;
  • Inspirational motivation;
  • Intellectual stimulation;
  • Individualised consideration.

Idealised influence is the charismatic element of TL in which leaders become role models who are admired, respected, and emulated by followers (Stone, Russell and Patterson, 2004). According to Jung and Avolio (2000), creating a ‘shared vision’ is an integral part of idealised influence. Transformational leaders provide ‘inspirational motivation’ for their followers, encouraging them to share the same beliefs through the development of a relationship based on reciprocity (Stone, Russell and Patterson, 2004). Transformational leaders intellectually stimulate followers by increasing their involvement in problem solving activities, regularly consulting them for their ideas and insights (ibid.). Finally, although a ‘shared vision’ is created, transformational leaders account for the individual needs of followers, especially in terms of achievement and growth (Avolio and Bass, 2002).
The benefits of adopting a TL style are becoming ever more salient given the current business climate. Firms are facing an increasing struggle to gain competitive advantage in a much larger and more demanding marketplace (Gollan, 2005: 18). The recent economic upset has forced organisations to identify with more sustainable management practices. Consequentially, more emphasis is being given to the strategic organisation of HR practices (Boxall and Purcell, 2011: 64). The essence of a strategic approach to HRM is that HR practices are ‘aligned’ with organisational goals to improve performance (Huselid, 1995; Shih, Chiang and Hsu; 2006). It might be assumed that without effective leadership, such intentions will be ill fated; therefore a TL style would seem most appropriate for a strategic approach to management.
So why then is TL an appropriate leadership style for the contemporary business environment? Consistent with the views of Bass (1990), Lowe, Kroeck and Sivasubramaniam (1996) describe how transformational leaders have the ability to articulate a shared vision of the future among their followers. Similar to this, transformational leaders are suggested to transform the personal values of followers to support the vision and goals of the organisation (Bass, 1985; Stone, Russell and Patterson, 2004). This would incline the belief that TL aligns employee and organisational goals, thus fitting with the need for an increased strategic bearing of management. As considered earlier on, TL inspirationally motivates followers. Basset al.(1987) observe how the key embodiments of TL tend to be seen at lower levels of management as well. This serves as evidence that the characteristics of TL are transferrable, instead of a strictly dispositional outlook. Most importantly however, testing for TL has become widely operationalised using the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (Rafferty and Griffin, 2004).

Stone, Russell and Patterson (2004) are keen to welcome similarities between TL and servant leadership. Firstly, they propose how TL and servant leadership share many of the same characteristics, for example, influence, vision, and trust (cf. Russell and Stone, 2002). Secondly, they suggest how both leadership styles emphasise the importance of valuing employees and empowering them. Stone, Russell and Patterson (2004) do however stress a key difference between TL and servant leadership: TL tends to be partial towards the needs of the organisation, while servant leadership places greater primacy on serving individual needs. This dividing factor is extended on as a possible shortcoming of TL. Stone, Russell and Patterson (ibid.) put forward the potential for TL to be used in a manipulative or corruptive manner. According to them, personal power in the form of charisma can be very influential upon followers. It is assumed then, when coupled with a lack of ethical standards, this opens the possibility for misuse.

Adaptive Leadership

Ronald Heifetz has carried out much work regarding leadership and has proposed a new approach known as ‘Adaptive Leadership’. Ronald Heifetz also created the ‘Center for Public Leadership’ which can be found here: The website features many videos associated with leadership as well as discussions associated with new and old leadership styles which are available to view.

Adaptive leadership is a very recent leadership style which results in a small amount of academic literature on the approach. Consequently, there is at present, no suitable definition for the approach. The idea of the approach is that the current economic business climate presents new challenges for leaders every day. As a result, supporters of the adaptive leadership approach express that leaders need to constantly adapt to the ever changing business environment around them. Torres and Reeves (2011: 8) state that, “adaptive leadership differs from traditional approaches in four dimensions”. These four dimensions are listed below,
  1. Navigating the environment – Adaptive leaders embrace uncertainty and adopt new approaches to find sustainable success in turbulent times
  2. Leading with empathy – Adaptive leaders always manage through influence to their employees yet still create a sense of shared purpose
  3. Learning through self correction – Adaptive Leaders encourage experimentation. Some of these experiments fail, but this is how they learn for the future
  4. Creating win-win solutions – Adaptive leaders always focus on sustainable success for their employees and the company

It is these attributes that an adaptive leader must encompass if they are to be successful in the current business climate. Proof of this is provided by Heifetz et al (2009) who states we need adaptive leadership because, “It would be profoundly reassuring to view the current economic crisis as simply yet another rough spell. Unfortunately though, today’s mix of urgency, high stakes, and uncertainty will continue as the norm even after the recession ends”. Hence an adaptive leader will always be needed to keep up with the ever changing economic climate.

Despite only recently emerging as a new leadership approach; literature which discusses the positive use of adaptive leadership in a business context is available. A journal article by Heifetz et al (2009) discusses how Julie Gilbert who is the vice president of Best Buy utilised the approach. The journal article explains that Best Buy was experiencing a failure to increase profits from the greater involvement of women in sales of electrical products. As an adaptive leader Gilbert proposed that all of the sales areas should feature boutiques, which sold home theatre systems alongside coordinated furniture and other home accessories. Heifetz et al (2009) states, “Championing this approach subjected her to some nasty criticism from managers who viewed Best Buy as a retailer of only technology products. This displays that despite other employee’s criticisms, Gilbert utilised the attribute of facing uncertainty, discussed previously, and went ahead with the decision. The decision proposed by Gilbert was then implemented and proof of its success is given by Heifetz et al (2009: 2) who states, “With the rethinking of traditional practices, Best Buys home theatre business flourished, growing from two pilot in-store boutiques in 2004, to more than 350 five years later”. This is fundamental evidence that Adaptive Leadership can be utilised successfully.

On reflection of the case study, there are some negative points that can be seen. Firstly, the case study expresses that Gilbert went ahead with her plans despite criticism. This displays that the approach in this case did not take in to account an employee view. This could cause considerable problems if the approach was utilised in organisations where employees have previously had a say in the majority of decision making processes. Secondly, the list of skills provided further up the page states that adaptive leadership differs from other approaches in that the leader learns by self correction. This requires implementing experiments and if they produce a failure, the leader is expected to learn from it. Given today’s current business climate; failure is not something that most businesses can afford to go through.

Women Vs Men and Leadership.

“...pointed out in a review of leadership research, there are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are people who have tried to define it. It is much like the words democracy, love, and peace. Although each of us intuitively knows what we mean by such words, the words can have different meanings for different people. As soon as we try to define leadership, we discover that leadership has many different meanings,” (Stogdill in Northouse 2011:2).
There has been significant interest and a popular topic when questioning the subject of leadership, the differences between men and women. “When you meet a human being, the first distinction you make is “male or female?” and you are accustomed to make the distinction with unhesitating certainty,” (Freud in Northouse 2011:301). Until the late 1970’s male researchers for a variety of reasons, found this topic uninteresting and ignored the assumptions of gender related to that of leadership.
As more women are occupying positions there seems to be a moot point of ‘can women lead?’ Do women lead in a different manner to men and are they as effective. Writers in the press have identified that a woman’s leadership style is more effective in modern society, and others have argued that gender has no relationship to leadership. “...women were not found to lead in a more interpersonally oriented and less task-oriented manner than men in organizational studies. These differences were found only in settings where behaviour was more regulated by social roles, such as experimental settings. The only robust gender difference found across settings was that women lead in a more democratic, or participative, manner than men...” (Van engen & Willemsen in Northouse 2011:302).
Studies have shown interest in the relation to effectiveness of male and female leaders. In addition, it was found that both men and women were both equally effective leaders; however there was a gender difference in the role they took on. It has been found that women are less successful in masculine positions, such as the military, and men less effective in the positions within education and social services. Women in comparison to men were especially more effective when leading within middle management positions, where personal skills were more highly valued, and men were far more effective when supervised by male colleagues.
There is very little research on the difference of men and women within leadership roles, as again the same question arises of what and who really is a leader. “Women experience slight effectiveness disadvantages in masculine leader roles, whereas roles that are more feminine offer them some advantages. Additionally, woman exceed men in the use of democratic or participatory styles, and they are more likely to use transformational leadership behaviours and contingent reward, styles that are associated with contemporary notions of effective leadership,” (Hoyt in Northouse 2011:304).
It has been argued that women although highly recognised as effective leaders, face a ‘glass ceiling’ which was introduced in America, recognised to be an invisible barrier that prevents and restricts women from occupying those high end leadership roles; it was also said that the ‘white male’ rides a ‘glass escalator’ to the top (were talking early 1990’s).
However years later it was argued that the barrier restricts and prevents women earlier than the ‘high end’ positions, and that in relation to this ‘glass ceiling’ it was in actual fact a leadership ‘labyrinth’, that the challenges arise from much earlier on. “The leadership gap is a global phenomenon whereby women are disproportionately concentrated in lower-level and lower-authority leadership positions than men,” (Powell & Graves in Northouse 2011:306). Barriers such as this labyrinth have not just been identified with woman but those of ethnic minorities. One way that has been described in removing this barrier is to widen the pool in which work candidates come from. Promoting a more diverse group of women into those leadership roles will promote productivity. “Indeed, research has shown a strong connection between gender diversity and organizational financial performance; as the number of women at the top increases, so does financial success, (Catalyst in Northouse 2011:306).
The effects of gender and leadership have implications for all trying to understand just that, leadership. It involves questions that would affect success, those such as style and effectiveness of those leaders in questions men or women and the barriers that as humans they both face. Gender is contemporary to that of the effect of leadership styles that have developed over time. “...styles that have morphed from a traditional masculine, autocratic style to the more feminine or androgynous styles of democratic and transformational leadership. Developing a more androgynous conception of leadership will enhance leadership effectiveness by giving people the opportunity to engage in the best leadership practices, and not by restricting people to those behaviours that are most appropriate for their gender,” (Hoyt in Northouse 2011:316).
As the barriers of leadership are pushed by women, it has developed leadership styles that have increased the success of both male and female leaders. Gender is usually no longer an issue but often is so small they are not clearly recognised to be a gender issue, however issues such as this can often limit the range in style which a female leader may develop; and often threaten them all together.
The removing of these barriers or the ‘glass labyrinth’ will ensure equal opportunity within the success of women leaders, and again financial success. An explanation for this gender gap is that “...women are less likely to self-promote than men are, and they are less likely to initiate negotiation, an important tool all leaders need in order to access the right opportunities and resources...although there are some trait differences between men and women, they equally advantage men and women in leadership,” (Hoyt in Northouse 2011:326).
The ‘New Trend’ here is that people – both male and female will continue to push the barriers and stereotypical traits of leaders, affecting leadership roles that will continue to develop and enhance the styles already identified in previous years, re-developing and changing leadership that it known to us all now.

Leadership: Born or Made?

The question of 'born or made' has been present in leadership and entrepreneurial theory since the turn of the 20th century. It presents the argument whether individuals are born with the traits, ability and skills associated with 'natural born leaders', or whether leaders are made through mentoring, experience and practice within the business environment. This short review on the argument shall focus on three studies conducted by academics in the field of psychology and business. The first study represents the argument that leaders are in fact made through the right mentoring and guidance. The second study looks at the correlation between leadership traits and how heriditary they are. The final study focuses on the development of leaders and its impact on organisations.
According to Avolio, B. (1999) many psychologists believed that leadership qualities were impossible to learn as they were believed to be innate traits that were hereditary. Avolio argues in his study that with the necessary parenting it can instill us with the tools and drives needed to become a leader. It is also suggested that even if individuals don't recieve this parenting in early life, we can still develop these traits through varied techniques. Avolio proposes that through techniques such as visualising the obstacles you may face, setting yourself goals, seek feedback from your colleagues and training gradually, individuals can prepare themselves for leadership in the future. In this article, Avolio mentions five studies which were carried out by leaders of all ages and with all different levels of experience. They were all put into teams and asked to participate in a series of workshops, and then were asked to carry out a number of problem solving techniques and leadership plans which they were asked to carry out in their own organisations in the next six to 12 months. The results indicated that regardless of the leaders experience or age, due to the techniques and plans they were given they all performed at a similar level. This reinforces the argument that the qualities and traits of a leader can be influenced and shaped to excel in certain environments. So although we may be born with the necessary traits of a leader, Avolio argues that potential leaders need the guidance to help develop and utlilise these traits.

The video to the right (Knowledge Horizon, 2009) explores the idea that leaders are formed through a combination of upbringing and nurturing. Through this upbringing potential leaders form habits that can shape our leadership capabilities.

In a study by Johnson, A.M. et al (1998), they explore the relationship between the personaility traits of leaders and the level of which these could be classed as hereditary. Johnson et al (1998) justifies the study by highlighting that when the study was conducted, the trait theory in leadership was quite popular and the fact that no comparison of genetics and leadership styles had ever been conducted. The main method of data collection involved the use of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) which focuses on measuring what makes a leader stand out from the rest by cross-referencing the different styles of leadership. In order to get a sense of hereditability of the participants leadership traits, 247 pairs of twins were asked to particpate. By categorising leadership into two styles (transactional and transformational leadership) Johnson et al (1998) were able to see any variance in results when looking at levels of hereditability. Transformational leadership is when leaders use methods to enhance the motivation and morale of their followers. Transactional leadership refers to the promotion of compliance through the distribution of rewards and punishment to followers. The results concluded that there were moderate to high levels of hereditability between the pairs which suggested that there some leadership traits are hereditary.

The video below (Youtube, 2008) uses the example of Ghandi to argue that leaders are born with the attributes that make them so inspirational. It suggests we are born with the drive and dedication to influence others.

The final article by Ruvolo, C.M. et al (2004) emphasises the importance of leadership development for organisations. The idea that leaders are made through their upbringing and experience stems from initiatives like these; which seek to create leaders from existing workers within organisations.
During the Global Leadership Conference in 2001, they concluded on three significant points on the importnace of leader development:
1. The activities which contribute to the development of leaders are crucial for the success of an organisation.
2. These development activities must be reinforced with leadership and developmental theories in order to be effective.
3. The presence of a good organisational culture is essential in the success of leadership development.

Ruvolo et al (2004) sumarises that by having effective leadership development programmes it can lead to an improvement in the overall health of the organisation. Ruvolo suggests that leadership must change from the more traditional view of a one-man leadership (Balasco & Stayer, 1993) in organisations, to a system where all members are considered as leaders. This is so that the organisation would have leaders on all levels who focus on the vision and mission of the company.

By reviewing the theories surrounding the topic of leadership and the argument of whether leaders are born or made, it is evidently clear that both sides of the argument have grounds for justification. The likes of Ruvolo et al (2004) and Avolio (1999) suggest that leadership is something that can be developed from childhood. The importance of parenting is suggested for guidance, which gives us the habits we require to utilise the qualities of a leader that we gain in childhood. Developmental programmes within organisations are argued to be instrumental in the growth of leaders as well as the idea of collaborative leaderships within organisational structures. The study by Johnson et al (1998) was a more scientific approach to the argument which suggests that some of the traits associated with strong leadership are hereditary. To conclude, it would seem that the most logical answer to the question would be that we develop these leadership abilities through experience and practice. However the idea that some are born natural leaders cannot be ignored as our individual characteristics are determined through our genes which decide what type of person we will end up to be; a leader or not.

A modern example with an old twist.

An organisation may require a mix of leadership styles (Burns, 1978). The Transformational leadership style where a charismatic leader is required to encourage followers to aspire to achieving the vision and goals of the organisation. Within this process there may need to be elements of transactional leadership where reward and incentives to achieve the goals are provided.

The National Health Service (NHS) produced a framework to assist in the development of leaders within the organisation, the ‘Leadership Qualities Framework’. This focused on the traits of leadership ‘great man theory’ however to enable the NHS to manage changes within such a large and complex organisation a move away from this approach has occurred. It has been recognised within the NHS that emergent leaders or informal leaders evolve within different areas. Emergent leadership was identified by Mayo during experiments conducted at the Hawthorne Works, a Western Electricity factory near Chicago (Mayo, 1933). The Relay assembly experiments were designed to identify if productivity altered due to the lighting conditions within the factory. Out puts rose when the lighting level were either increased or decreased resulting in the theory that the changes in productivity were due to the interest being shown in the workers as opposed to the conditions of the working environment. The bank wiring room experiments were designed to identify if payment incentives affected productivity. During the analysis of the experiment it became evident that leaders within the experimental groups had arisen. Informal rules and behaviours developed, productivity had reduced as a result of peer pressure. The reasoning for the reduction in productivity was the fear of a decrease in the base rate of pay being paid to the workers. The emergent leaders were able to control the production output. Social forces imposed by the peers were greater than the incentives provided by the management.

As leaders can evolve within an organisation the NHS has adopted the theory of distributed leadership and designed a new overarching framework around this theory. The Leadership Framework (National Health Service 2010.a) was commissioned by the National Leadership Council (NLC) in 2010.


NHS Leadership Framework (National Health Service, 2010.b)

The aim was to create a framework that, for all Health and social workers, enabling them to understand their progression and development as leaders. The Leadership Framework during its development has combined elements of other frameworks within the NHS.
  • Leadership Quality Framework – Focusing on the traits of the leader.
  • The Medical Leadership Competency Framework (MLCF) – Focusing on the leadership qualities required by doctors to enable them to plan, deliver and transform the services required by patients within the NHS.
  • The Clinical Leadership Competencies Framework (CLCF) - Designed to test the competencies of the MLCF.
These frameworks are tools for the new and old leaders within the NHS to use in developing their skills and abilities for the future good of the National Health Service and therefore to society as a whole.


In summary, it is evident that leadership is an ever evolving concept in which new approaches and adaptions of previous styles continuously emerge over time. Three new leadership styles have been discussed, however this is not an exhaustive list. More new leadership styles can be seen below if you wish to carry out any further reading.

  • Authentic Leadership
  • Creative Leadership
  • Corrective Leadership
  • Change Leadership
  • Intelligence Leadership
  • Pedagogical Leadership

To conclude by stating that one particular style is best seems incorrect, since each has its own positive and negative drawbacks. However, given the current business climate which is ever changing, adaptive leadership would be a worthwhile approach for a business to adopt. This is because adaptive leaders respond well to change and can forsee situations which other leadership styles appear to not be so good at. Despite its drawbacks it appears to be the most suited approach to the current business climate.

Discussion Questions

  1. How important do you think leadership is in today’s business climate?
  2. Is a combination of leadership styles appropriate or should one approach always be utilised?
  3. What are the most influential leaders in the current business climate and why?

Harvard References

Avolio, B. (1999). Are Leaders Born or Made?. Psychology Today. 32 (5), p18.

Avolio, B. and Bass, B. (2002). Developing Potential across a Full Range of Leadership Cases on Transactional and Transformational Leadership. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Avolio, B., Waldman, D. and Yammarino, F. (1991). Leading in the 1990s: the four Is of transformational leadership. Journal of European Industrial Training.15(4). pp. 9-16.
Bass, B. (1990). From transactional to transformational leadership: learning to share the Vision. Organizational Dynamics. 18(3). pp. 19-31.

Bass, B. (1985). Leadership and performance beyond expectations. New York: The Free Press.

Bass, B., Waldman, D., Avolio, B. and Bebb, M. (1987). Transformational leadership and the falling dominoes effect. Group and Organisation Studies. 12(1).pp. 73-87.

Belasco, J.A. & Stayer, R. (1993) Flight of the Buffalo: Soaring to Excellence, learning to let employees lead. New York. Warner Books.

Bolden, R. (2004) ‘What is Leadership’. Leadership Report South West, 1 pp.1-38.
Bocarnea, M. and Dennis, R. (2005) ‘Development of the Servant Leadership Assessment Instrument’. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 26 (8), pp.600-615.
Boxall, P. and Purcell, J. (2011). Strategy and Human Resource Management. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Burns, J. (1996) ‘Defining Leadership: Can We See the Forest for the Trees?’. Journal of Leadership & Organisational Studies, 3 (2), pp.148-157.

Burns, J. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.

Chell, E., Haworth, J. and Brearley, S. (1991) ‘The Entrepreneurial Personality: Concepts, cases and categories’. London: Routledge.
Daft, R. (2008) ‘The Leadership Experience’. 4th ed. Mason: Thomson South Western.
Fry, W. and Matherly, L. (2006) Spiritual Leadership and Organisational Performance: An exploratory study’. Tarleton State Journals, 1. pp.1-32.
Gallos, J. (2008) ‘Business Leadership’. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Gold.J & Thorpe,R (2010). Leadership and Management Development. 5th ed. London: Chartered institute of personal development,. 3, 6, 12,72.

Gollan, J. (2005). High involvement management and human resource sustainability: The challenges and opportunities. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources. 43(18). pp. 18-33.
Heifetz, R., Grashow, A. and Linsky, M. (2009) ‘Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis’. Harvard Business Review, 87 (7), pp.62-68.
Higgs, M. (2003) ‘How can we make sense of leadership in the 21st century?’. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 24 (5), pp.273-284.

Huselid, M. (1995). The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity, and corporate financial performance. Academy of Management Journal. 38(3). pp. 635-72.

Johnson, A.M, Vernon, P.A, McCarthy, J.M, Molson, M, Harris, J.A, Jang, K.L. (1998). Nature vs Nurture: Are leaders born or made?. Twin Research. 1, p216-223.

Jung, D. and Avolio, B. (2000). Opening the black box: an experimental investigation of the mediating effects of trust and value congruence on transformational and transactional leadership. Journal of Organizational Behavior.21(8). pp. 949-64.

Le Grand, J., (2001). ‘The Provision of Health Care: Is the public sector ethically superior to the private sector?’ LSE Health Care, 2001: pp 1-18.

Lowe, K., Kroeck, K. and Sivasubramaniam, N. (1996). Effectiveness correlates of transformational and transactional leadership: A meta-analytic review of the MLQ literature. The Leadership Quarterly.7(3). pp. 385–425.

Mayo, E.,(1933). The human problems of an industrial civilisation. New York: MacMillan.

National Health Service (2010.b) NHS Leadership Framework. (Accessed online 6th May 2012)

National Health Service (2010.a) Development of the Leadership Framework. online 6th May 2012)

Northouse, P.G. (2009) Being a Leader: Introduction to Leadership: Concepts and Practice. Sage Publications, London. pp1-8.

Northouse, P.G, 2011 Leadership Theory and Practice Fifth Edition South Asia Edition, Sage Publications, India.

Rafferty, A. and Griffin, M. (2004). Dimensions of transformational leadership: Conceptual and empirical extensions. The Leadership Quarterly. 15. pp. 329-354.

Rost, J.C. (1991). Leadership for the twenty-first century. Westport, CO: Praeger.

Russell, R. and Stone, A. (2002). A review of servant leadership attributes: developing a practical model. The Leadership & Organization Development Journal.23(3). pp. 145-57.

Ruvolo, C.M, Peterson, S.A. & LeBoeuf, J.N.G. (2004). Leaders are Made, Not Born. Consulting Psychology Journal. 56 (1), p10-19.

Sendjaya, S. and Sarros, J. (2002) ‘Servant Leadership: It’s Origin, Development, and Application in Organisations’. Journal of Leadership and Organisational Studies, 9 (2), pp.57-64.

Shih, H., Chiang, Y. and Hsu, C. (2006). Can high performance work systems really lead to better performance? International Journal of Manpower. 27(8). pp. 741-763.

Spears, L. (2004) ‘Practicing Servant Leadership’. Leader to Leader, 2004 (34), pp.7-11.
Spears, L. and Lawrence, M. (2002) ‘Focus on Leadership: Servant leadership for the twenty-first century’. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Stone, A., Russell, R. and Patterson, K. (2004). Transformational versus servant leadership: a difference in leader focus. The Leadership & Organization Development Journal. 25(4). pp. 349-361.

Torres, R. and Reeves, M. (2011) ‘Adaptive Leadership’. Leadership Excellence, 28 (7), pp.8-8.
Washington, R., Sutton, C. and Feild, H. (2006) ‘Individual Differences in Servant Leadership: the roles of values and personality’. Leadership & Organisation Journal, 27 (8), pp.700-716.

Zaleznik, A. (1998). Managers and Leaders: Are they Different?. In: Harvard Business Review on Leadership. 5th ed. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing. p61-88.

A search of 21st century leadership literature establishes that many of the leadership styles authors class as new, are in fact, not. The styles are simply an adapted version of a previous approach. Nonetheless, there are some new approaches to leadership in the 21st century which are distinct from old styles. These new approaches to leadership have been listed below in separate headings.

Bolden, R. (2004) ‘What is Leadership’. Leadership Report South West, 1 pp.1-38.
Higgs, M. (2003) ‘How can we make sense of leadership in the 21st century?’. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 24 (5), pp.273-284.
Burns, J. (1996) ‘Defining Leadership: Can We See the Forest for the Trees?’. Journal of Leadership & Organisational Studies, 3 (2), pp.148-157.
Gallos, J. (2008) ‘Business Leadership’. 2nd ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Chell, E., Haworth, J. and Brearley, S. (1991) ‘The Entrepreneurial Personality: Concepts, cases and categories’. London: Routledge.
Heifetz, R., Grashow, A. and Linsky, M. (2009) ‘Leadership in a (Permanent) Crisis’. Harvard Business Review, 87 (7), pp.62-68.
Fry, W. and Matherly, L. (2006) Spiritual Leadership and Organisational Performance: An exploratory study’. Tarleton State Journals, 1. pp.1-32.
Daft, R. (2008) ‘The Leadership Experience’. 4th ed. Mason: Thomson South Western.
Sendjaya, S. and Sarros, J. (2002) ‘Servant Leadership: It’s Origin, Development, and Application in Organisations’. Journal of Leadership and Organisational Studies, 9 (2), pp.57-64.
Bocarnea, M. and Dennis, R. (2005) ‘Development of the Servant Leadership Assessment Instrument’. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 26 (8), pp.600-615.
Spears, L. (2004) ‘Practicing Servant Leadership’. Leader to Leader, 2004 (34), pp.7-11.
Spears, L. and Lawrence, M. (2002) ‘Focus on Leadership: Servant leadership for the twenty-first century’. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Washington, R., Sutton, C. and Feild, H. (2006) ‘Individual Differences in Servant Leadership: the roles of values and personality’. Leadership & Organisation Journal, 27 (8), pp.700-716.
Torres, R. and Reeves, M. (2011) ‘Adaptive Leadership’. Leadership Excellence, 28 (7), pp.8-8.