About this sample
About this sample
Words: 1092 |
6 min read
Published: Aug 4, 2023
Words: 1092|Pages: 2|6 min read
Whereas the term “leadership” often conjures up a mental image of a lone, heroic figure leading a group of followers, this is often not how leadership plays out in organisational structures. As explained by Spillane (2005), distributed leadership recognises that the reality is leadership often involves numerous individuals, tools and structures which work together to form a collective, distributed leadership. Using a distributed leadership approach to organisational change has been shown to have the potential to positively impact organisational change and its outcomes (Harris, 2009). Graetz (2000) argues that successful change leadership will incorporate aspects of distributed leadership with powerful, personalised leadership at the top.
However, others have pointed out a number of weaknesses in a distributed leadership approach, including the fact that distributed leadership does not necessarily mean distributed power and that moving away from having one clear leader reduces feelings of security and stability and creates a dispersion of responsibility that makes it more difficult for individuals to be held accountable (Hatcher, 2005). This is problematic in the context of organisational change because creating a sense of security and stability in employees is especially important in times of change. It has been found that major organisational change can lead to reduced feelings of security and general wellbeing, so minimising the amount of insecurity and instability experienced by followers is an important role of leadership (Ferrie et al., 1998). Furthermore, if followers are unsatisfied with the outcome of organisational change it is important that they know to whom they should address their concerns and who should be held accountable. If leadership becomes too dispersed and depersonalised, it becomes more difficult to hold individuals accountable and feel in control of their position in the organisation.
However, as suggested by Graetz’s (2000) argument, using a distributed leadership approach in conjunction with leaders at the top implementing transformational elements such as intrinsic motivation and a personal bond with followers can have a positive impact on organisational change. The more managerial and organised elements of distributed leadership complement the more personal and emotion-based approach of transformational leadership. There is currently little research focusing on using these approaches in conjunction with one another, so the field may benefit from further studies on the topic.
Although sceptics of the concept of leadership make several valid arguments, ultimately it is clear that despite its flaws, leadership does play an important role in organisational change. However, research should proceed with awareness of issues such as leadership’s ability to create an unrealistic, misleading or heroic image in the minds of followers. It is ethically and practically important that followers do not support and follow a leader’s changes or practices based on a false idea of their leadership. Therefore, researchers should consider this a potential issue when conducting their research and take appropriate measures to ensure it is recognised if and when it occurs.
Numerous studies and texts have supported the fact that leadership plays an important role in effective organisational change. However, as previously illustrated, there are numerous factors to consider when deciding which style of leadership to use in approaching different types of change. The majority of research on the topic focuses on how individual leadership styles impact organisational change, but it has also been shown that each of the leadership styles discussed can positively affect organisational change in different contexts. As change is an ever-present reality of most organisations and can appear in multiple contexts within the same organisation, it would make sense to research how elements of multiple leadership styles can be adopted within the same organisation to approach different changes and scenarios. Therefore, this essay would recommend further research into this topic.
Similarly, from a managerial perspective, this essay would recommend that managers incorporate elements of multiple leadership styles into their practice rather than focusing on just one. Each leadership style has its limitations and specific areas of weakness, so using multiple styles in conjunction may reduce the chance of these limitations negatively affecting the effectiveness of organisational changes. For instance, although transactional leadership has been criticised as an approach to organisational change because of its ineffectiveness in motivating followers, it has also been shown that using transactional and transformational leadership in conjunction can be more effective than using either individually (Bass and Avolio, 1990; Goodwin, Wofford and Whittington, 2001).
Ultimately, it is evident from the research and studies examined in this essay that leadership plays a significant role in organisational change for a number of reasons and a variety of ways. Management alone without leadership is not sufficient to motivate, inspire and lead followers through organisational change. Individuals in positions of leadership and management must ensure that they incorporate aspects of both management and leadership into their approach so that followers can feel secure, committed and accepting of organisational changes. Leaders are necessary to inspire, motivate and establish direction for their followers in a way that management cannot accomplish. It is also important for leaders to be aware of different styles of leadership and the differences in the way they impact organisational change. The most effective leaders will recognise which style of leadership is appropriate for their specific context of organisational change and implement it accordingly. Rather than relying on just one style of leadership for all organisational changes a leader (or leaders) may face, it is preferable to utilise elements from several leadership styles depending on the context of change. As previously explained, this is also why the field would benefit from more research into how leaders can most effectively use elements from different styles in conjunction rather than focusing on only one style at a time.
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