With the historic resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Church’s College of Cardinals has the responsibility of electing a success to lead the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. Simply put, many organizations large and small ask themselves what makes a good leader? Good leadership in business can make the difference between success and failure.
Over the past few decades many have studied leadership. They want to identify the qualities that make good leaders and how those qualities can be developed in potential managerial candidates.
A popular approach is transformational leadership, a theory developed in large part by James Mac-Gregor Burns and Bernard Bass during the 1970s and 1980s.
Transformational leaders attempt to link organizational goals and projects to individual senses of worth and identity. Their personalities aid them in creating mechanisms to move individuals to better serve the organization. Successful transformational leaders assign staff where they are most likely to excel and help employees take ownership of their work.
They consider the needs of others, are empathetic and supportive but challenge their employees. They recognize individual achievement and listen to the needs of their team members.
Transformational leaders are focused on intellectual growth. They solicit ideas from their teams. They see challenges as learning opportunities that enhance the talents of employees and benefit the organization overall.
They create a learning culture where individuals are free to ask questions and discuss alternatives to current method of performing roles and tasks.
Transformational leaders are role models. They are ethical, avoid shortcuts and have credibility, trust, and respect with others in their organizations.
Servant leadership is another popular theory developed in the 1970s by Robert K. Greenleaf, who maintains that true leadership begins with a desire to first serve others that evolves into a choice to lead.
Unlike other leadership styles, servant leadership is not focused on organizational goals, but on employee development as a way to advance an organization.
Servant leaders are good listeners, who are empathetic to the needs of their employees. They can heal relationships and resolve conflicts. They have foresight and the ability to plan effectively.
The servant leader does not lead through coercion, but by persuasion. Many times a servant leader best manages by teaching others to become more effective and more readily embrace programs and policies.
Another leadership theory is called leadermember exchange or LMX. This leadership theory is less altruistic than the first two theories. LMX views effective leadership as a twoway relationship between supervisors and their subordinates. The goal of LMX is to increase organizations’ success via positive relationships between supervisors and employees. LMX theory focuses on the importance of “in-groups” within an organization. Members of the in-group work hard, contribute more to organizational success, and share leadership duties with their supervisor. “Out-group” members in the organization contribute also, but they are seen as less valuable to organization than the in-group members are.
Aspects of LMX include, “role-taking.” This process is where the supervisor sizes up the abilities of an employee. This process may include offering opportunities to the employee to prove themselves.
The role-taking phase is followed by a “rolemaking” stage. In this stage, the employee and supervisor work together to develop a role where the member can best serve the organization.
In “routinization” stage a pattern of ongoing exchange is developed between the employee and the supervisor. The employee continues the process of working hard and being supportive of the supervisor’s goals in order to maintain themselves in the in-group.
But regardless of the leadership theory, good management matters. Good leaders get the most out of their employees, and the companies they serve benefit from their abilities.
Dan Cravens of Blackfoot is the regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor’s Pocatello office.