The paper discusses how successful leadership positively influences productivity. It begins by noting how the current business environment is rife with competitive and therefore in need of strong leadership. It discusses how leadership will result in innovation and creativity. This leadership will also increase motivation and help the organization adapt easily to change. Use of appropriate leadership style is earmarked as one attribute of a good leader. The paper recommends transformational leadership, which is characterized by genuine concern for employees’ welfare as one of the best styles to foster productivity. The paper concludes by reaffirming effective leadership as a key predictor of business success.
Businesses today exist in a fiercely competitive environment. In such an environment, productivity has become synonymous with survival for the organization. Traditionally, management has been seen as the key to productivity. As a result of these, many organizations have been over-managed and under-led. McNeese-Smith (2002) notes that management places emphasis on the control in the effort to increase productivity. While positive results can be obtained from management, good leadership can augment these results. It is therefore crucial for an organization to employ good leadership in order to increase its performance. This paper will argue that effective leadership is a key predictor of business productivity. Particular attention will be given to the ways in which organizations can make use of good leadership to foster productivity.
Successful Leadership and Productivity
By definition, leadership is the process through which an individual elicits the help and support of other people so as to achieve certain set goals and objectives. Strong leadership is crucial to the success of the organization since it provides the means through which organizational tasks can be completed efficiently. The leader is the individual who is under pressure to interact with the followers in such a manner that they increase their level of performance and this translates to higher profitability. There are a number of features inherent in the successful leader.
Successful leadership will be full of innovation and creativity. This is in line with the understanding that the effective leader is one who demonstrates creativity. In the competitive business environment, creativity and innovation are needed to ensure that the organization maintains a competitive edge in the market. Imran and Hasan (2011) state that innovation is today paramount for the survival of the organization since it enables it to increase its productivity and therefore remain profitable. By coming up with innovative ways of doing business, the leader will enhance the company’s productivity and therefore give it a competitive edge over its rivals.
Good leadership will result in the motivation of employees. Motivation, which is a process of inspiring individuals to act in a certain manner in order to fulfil preferred goals, is necessary for organizational success. The effective leader should possess motivational skills and he should make use of the most appropriate method to motivate his followers to achieve certain goals. High motivation will lead to an increased commitment from the employees and this will increase their productivity. The successful leader is aware that motivation is not solely restricted to offering employees monetary benefits. Other factors such as professional growth and working conditions play a major role in the motivation of employees (Donaldson-Feilder, 2011). A leader who has this in mind will engage in mentoring roles and provide forums for professional growth and development, which will greatly motivate the followers.
Organizations exist in a dynamic environment and change has become one of the inevitable concepts in this fast-paced and competitive world. Imran and Hasan (2011) assert that organizations that are quick to learn and adapt to these changes are “in a better position to sustain themselves than the organizations that are reluctant and traditional in their approach” (p.424). Good leadership is necessary to see the organization through the change process. Silverthorne and Wang (2001) highlight that the leader’s success will be influenced by the willingness and readiness of the followers to perform tasks. In addition to this, good leadership assists in the process of organizational learning, which is one of the instruments that allow the organization to quickly adapt itself to the changing internal and external environment. Imran and Hasan (2011) stress on the complexity involved in collective learning and the crucial role that leadership plays in this process. Organizational learning leads to enhanced productivity and performance since it encourages continuous learning and empowerment of the employees.
A successful leader will ensure that the employees are aware of the organizational goals and objectives. This visionary leader will have a vision which will act as a road map for the followers (Cartwright & Baldwin, 2007). With this mental image of where the organization is headed, the members will have a sense of purpose that is needed to accomplish great outcomes. Cartwright and Baldwin (2007) assert that having a vision and communicating it effectively to the followers is mandatory if the organization is to achieve significant productivity. This vision will help the followers to know what to expect and the knowledge will increase their dedication in working towards achieving goals. Strong leadership will help the leader to effectively communicate this vision to the employees and therefore foster productivity.
An effective leader should be able to decide on the best leadership style and make use of it in a given context. This style will be the one that realizes the highest level of overall effectiveness by influencing the employees to perform the necessary tasks with no resistance (Silverthorne & Wang, 2001). It has been acknowledged that certain differing leadership styles are better suited than others in enhancing workforce productivity. Silverthorne and Wang (2001) theorize that “the greater the flexibility demonstrated in leadership, the more positive will be the employees’ response and the greater their productivity” (p.401). As such, flexibility in leadership style is a necessity if the leader is to achieve a high level of leadership effectiveness that is required for increasing productivity. It is important to note that the preferred leadership styles will depend on the particular business environment and other variables influencing employee productivity. For this reason, the organizational context must be taken into consideration when determining the appropriate leadership style to employ in order to enhance organizational productivity.
One leadership style that might greatly enhance organizational productivity is transformational leadership. This leadership style was introduced in 1978 by Burns and he described the transformational leader as one who “looks for potential motives in followers, seeks to satisfy higher needs, and engages the full person of the follower” (Burns 1978, p.173). A transformational leader is very considerate of the needs of the followers and he demonstrates genuine concern for their affairs. Showing genuine concern for staff is the single most important positive leadership factor for employees at all levels. By doing this, the leader is able to gain the respect and admiration of the followers, which increases his influence. The heightened influence increases the chance of the leader influencing the followers to increase their effectiveness. All employees will experience stress or even de-motivation as they work. In such a scenario, having a leader who can identify with what the employees are going through and react with concern is very important. Kellerman (2007) elaborates that the followers will be more willing to follow the guidance of this leader who demonstrates concern, therefore, increasing overall productivity.
A successful leader possesses effective communication skills. Effective communication is the basis of successful organizational relationships and poor communications results in many performance problems. Fournies (1999) documents that a lack of good communication by the leader decreases the morale of the followers and might lead to poor performance. This is especially likely when the tasks at hand have high levels of uncertainty and the employees are unsure as to how they should act. A leader who utilizes open and regular communication will help offset the uncertainty. This will increase the levels of confidence that the employees have and therefore foster positive attitudes that increase performance. Effective communication will also ensure that the leader does not only talk to the employees when they have done something wrong. Feedback will be provided even when the employee has performed well. Regular and effective communication encourages commitment to the organization and therefore increases productivity (Kellerman, 2007).
The individual should be recognizable as a leader by the followers through his actions and thoughts. The Implicit Leadership Theory suggests that there are attributes that distinguish the effective leader from the ineffective one. The followers must, therefore, perceive the leader as being capable since a person must first be “looked at as a leader before they are allowed to influence others (Leung, 2005, p.357). If there is no perception of a leader by the followers, then these followers will be reluctant to entrust the leader with the task of leading. This will decrease the leader’s efficiency and therefore decrease overall productivity.
Good leadership also ensures that employee expectations are considerably met. In all organizations, employees have some expectations and if these are completely ignored, the employee will not be motivated to work hard. The successful leader will be conscious of employee needs and ensure that they are met to a practical extent. This will decrease any perceptions of inequality in the employee-employer relationship (McNeese-Smith, 2002). An employee who perceives that he is being treated fairly will give more effort to the organization and therefore raise productivity.
The leader’s skills will influence the approach that he uses to increase the productivity of the employees. While some leaders may make use of positive reinforcement, others might make use of negative consequences to modify the behaviour of the employees and therefore increase productivity. Fournies (1999) reveals that while being strict and stern might yield positive results, it is likely to cause some undesirable consequences such as rebellion and aggression by the followers. This will disrupt productivity since the followers might intentionally sabotage work performance with the intention of frustrating the leader. In addition to this, a leader who engages in aggressive behaviour such as belittling and blaming the staff will increase job dissatisfaction, which might cause higher turnover rates among employees. Using positive reinforcement to increase the desirable employee behaviour would, therefore, be more beneficial for the leader. Such an approach will not incur any aggressive reaction from employees and the likelihood of the employees supporting the leader in his efforts to raise productivity is high.
Good leadership will assist in the resolution of conflicts among or between employees. Contentious issues are unavoidable in all organization and they might even be instrumental for the growth of the organization. However, the positive influence of conflicts depends on how they are resolved. The good leader will possess appropriate conflict resolution skills that will be used to deal with any contentious issues among the followers (Kellerman, 2007). By utilizing good negotiation skills and acting as a mediator, the leader will diffuse any tensions that might occur due to misunderstandings among employees. Dealing with conflicts constructively will ensure that employees are able to grow and increase their effectiveness, which will lead to higher productivity.
Many researchers agree on the importance of leadership in increasing the productivity of the organization (Imran & Hasan, 2011; McNeese-Smith, 2002). Successful leadership will ensure that the leader does not engage in behaviour that will be detrimental to the performance of the employees. The successful leader will use his exemplary communication and motivational skills to inspire a shared vision, manage the change process, enable others to act, and resolve conflicts in a diplomatic manner. This will increase the performance of the individuals in the company and consequently result in the desired increase in productivity.
This paper set out to highlight the effects of leadership on organizational productivity. The paper has demonstrated that successful leadership is inherently connected to increased productivity in the company. It has detailed some of the ways in which successful leadership directly results in increased productivity for the organization. The paper has also noted that the effective leader is one who is able to make use of the most appropriate leadership style in a given situation. The discussions presented have underscored the fact that it is important for all organizations to pursue successful leadership in order to maintain high productivity and therefore ensure business survival.
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