We may put a strong effort into proving that the importance of leadership is nothing more than the “romance of leadership” (Bauer and Edrogan 285); however, the irrefutable evidence of the significance of leadership may be found in history and our everyday life. Without an experienced, wise, and courageous leader, even a numerous army will be defeated; you may also ask 10 geniuses to cooperate and develop innovation, but this outstanding team will need a leader to organize their work, as well as another leader to find the way to practically apply their invention. The role of leadership remains undoubted for many people; that is why leadership is actively studied by scholars.
Several approaches are developed for classifying the approaches to leadership. One of these approaches is Robert House’s path-way theory of leadership (297). According to House, four leadership styles significantly differ from each other:
- directive leaders prefer to provide subordinates with clear guidelines, rules, schedules and encourage them to follow all these guidelines;
- supportive leaders care about employees’ emotional comfort, encourage and support them;
- participative leaders emphasize the importance of employees’ involvement into the work and decision-making;
- achievement-oriented leaders set goals and encourage employees to reach them.
In my opinion, none of these leadership styles is absolutely bad or, backward, ultimately effective; the result depends on the conditions of applying them. Correspondingly, a good leader’s task is to understand the difference between these styles and be able to adapt his/her leadership style according to the situation. Otherwise, a leader’s decisions, as well as subordinates’ actions, may be ineffective.
In her (1997), Merseth offers a series of cases on leadership and administration in education. The case titled Promise and Fear (55-69) is devoted to a talented and experienced teacher Erical Suzman who comes to a new school as a principal. Ms. Suzman wants to set good rapport and friendly relations with the staff and actively involves them in decision-making. On her subordinates’ insistent advice, she hires Mrs. Clyde as a principal assistant despite her misgivings about Clyde’s personality.
The decision turns out to be wrong: Mrs. Clyde’s behavior towards the students, as well as towards Suzman leaves much to be desired, while other teachers also do not demonstrate favor to Suzman. This case is a good example of how important choosing an appropriate leadership style is: following the participative leadership approach, the principal has made a mistake.
When being a team leader, I always try to evaluate the situation and understand my teammates’ capability and expectations; this allows me to choose an appropriate leadership style. I had a great experience that corroborates this approach: when I and my classmates fulfilled a team project at school, I at first tried to be a participative leader; I aspired to allow my teammates to actively participate in fulfilling the project and make decisions.
However, soon I discovered that my “colleagues” had neither background on the topic nor desire to display initiative. My team spent one week while I was waiting for the response from my teammates; however, I realized that my leadership approach is ineffective and tried behaving like a directive leader: I developed the idea on my own, distributed responsibilities, and provided deadlines. The result did not take long to appear: my teammates actively plunged into work, and we had excellent results.
However, understanding different leadership style is important not for a leader only, but for a subordinate as well. If the leadership style “professed” by a leader does not coincide with a team’s needs and expectations, team members will be more likely to give a bad evaluation to his/her leadership. In the case discussed above, my teammates could at first consider me a bad leader, as they expected me to organize their work.
Besides, in case our team finally failed, they would be disappointed with my leadership skills. Understanding different leadership styles help subordinates see the difference between bad leadership and “another leadership style”, which is an essential condition of successful teamwork; this makes studying leadership theory so important for us all.
Bauer, Talya, and Berrin Erdogan. Organizational Behavior. Nyack, NY: Flat World Knowledge, 2009. Print.
Merseth, Katherine Klippert. Cases in Educational Administration. USA: Allyn & Bacon, 1997. Print.