Taking the lead in leadership

Table of Contents

What is leadership? As explained by Bethel (1990), leadership is the capability to affect others. In the late 1980s, organisations viewed leadership as an engine of change. Today, leaders within the organisation must change along with the organisation, as it eventually develops and matures (Bass, 2000).

The 2 types of Leadership

In the address during the Cold War, John F. Kennedy declared, “My friends, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” In essence, there are two types of leaders. The transformational leader emphasises what you can do for your country. In contrast, the transactional leader emphasises what your country can do for you (Bass, 1999).

Transformational Leadership

Who is a transformational leader? A transformational leader strengthens the individual’s self-concept. In addition, a transformational leader nurtures the individual’s capacity to go beyond their own self-interest for the good of their team, organisation and country (Bass, 2000).

Shamir, House and Arthur (1993) further explains that as the individual’s self-concept identifies with the espoused values, the individual becomes more motivated to go the extra mile.

Dimensions of Transformational Leadership

How do transformational leaders inspire? In total, there are three dimensions to transformational leadership. A transformational leader increases organisational effectiveness through inspirational leadership, leadership through intellectual stimulation, and leadership in the form of individualized consideration (Bass, 2000).

To further elaborate, leaders inspire by creating a vision and articulating the steps required to attain that vision. Moreover, leaders inspire innovation by encouraging creative thought processes across all employees. This maximises the creative potential of the organisation as a whole. Lastly, a transformational leader dedicates his or her energy to developing the potential of each individual.

Authenticity is valued

Today’s generation in the workforce appreciates authenticity. Now more than ever, they are searching for this attribute in their leaders. Authentic leaders are “individuals who are deeply aware of how they think and behave. In addition, they are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others’ values/moral perspective, knowledge, and strengths.

They are aware of the context in which they operate; and who are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and high on moral character” (Avolio et al., 2004). However, in today's context, employees are probably unlikely to follow their leader over a distant and unknown hill. Instead, they prefer to question. They want to be inspired. And they want authenticity and ethical reasoning in their leaders (Twenge and Campbell, 2008).

Conventional leadership is inadequate

In Taiwan, Chang and Lee (2007) argues that as the number of knowledge workers increases, it is impossible for leaders to satisfy employees’ demands by means of conventional leadership. Instead, leaders are required to enhance their own skills through transformational leadership.

In particular, the increasing emphasis on team-based knowledge work pushes the boundaries of traditional models of leadership. In the past,  it tended to be vested in one individual. Now,  it encompasses more complex models of leadership, including concepts such as self- and shared leadership (Houghton et al., 2003).

Self-leadership capabilities

There is a leader in you, and there is a leader in me. Self-leadership capabilities are shaped by self-directional competencies such as emotional intelligence and related dispositional behavior patterns. Some strategies that build self-leadership include self-goal setting, self-correcting feedback and constructive thought patterns (D’Intino et al., 2007).

While not to be viewed as complete substitutes for traditional leadership, they offer alternative and creative ways to expand leadership capacity within organizations. Therefore, this lessens dependence on top-down leadership practices. In addition, these strategies can be nurtured and sustained by organisational cultures that emphasize and build upon employee strengths and resilience (Froman, 2009).

Break out of traditional constraints

Today, young adults grow up in a world of opportunities and are told ‘you can do anything.’ As such, it is no wonder that they are more prepared to take greater risks. For instance, young adults are receptive to new work approaches than traditional methods.

As organisations, we should learn to view such behavior as strengths. We want to be able to learn how to utilise our strengths in order to achieve personal and organisational growth. Altogether, fresh ideas and perspectives provide organisations with much needed impetus to break out of traditional constraints. Thus, new heights never before imagined can become possible.

Let us then aspire to be leaders of integrity. And inspire others with our ability to nurture leaders in them.


Bass, B. M. (2000). The Future of Leadership in Learning Organizations. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 7(3), 18-40.

Bass, B. M. (1999). Two Decades of Research and Development in Transformational Leadership. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 8(1), 9-32.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, S. M. (2008). Generational differences in psychological traits and their impact on the workplace. Journal of Managerial Psychology Journal of Managerial Psych, 23(8), 862-877.

Chang, S., & Lee, M. (2007). A study on relationship among leadership, organizational culture, the operation of learning organization and employees' job satisfaction. The Learning Organization, 14(2), 155-185.

Bligh, M. C., Pearce, C. L., & Kohles, J. C. (2006). The importance of self‐ and shared leadership in team based knowledge work. Journal of Managerial Psychology Journal of Managerial Psych, 21(4), 296-318.

Froman, L. (2009). Positive Psychology in the Workplace. Journal of Adult Development J Adult Dev, 17(2), 59-69.

Shamir, B., House, R. J., & Arthur, M. B. (1993). The Motivational Effects of Charismatic Leadership: A Self-Concept Based Theory. Organization Science, 4(4), 577-594.

D'intino, R. S., Goldsby, M. G., Houghton, J. D., & Neck, C. P. (2007). Self Leadership: A Process for Entrepreneurial Success. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 13(4), 105-120.

Bethel, S.M. (1990), Making the Difference: Twelve Qualities That Make You a Leader, Berkley Publishing Group, New York, NY.

Avolio, B.J., Gardner, W.L., Walumbwa, F.O., Luthans, F. and May, D.R. (2004), “Unlocking the mask: a look at the process by which authentic leaders impact follower attitudes and behaviors”, Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 15 No. 6, pp. 801-16.

Houghton, J., Neck, C.P. and Manz, C.C. (2003), “Self-leadership and SuperLeadership: the heart and the art of creating shared leadership in teams”, in Pearce, C.L. and Conger, J.A. (Eds), Shared Leadership: Reframing the Hows and Whys of Leadership, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 123-40.

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