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Leadership Models – A Comparison The study of leadership requires examining various leadership models and the alignment of the theory and practice. Leading and influencing others is a complex task. Leaders and managers can try to lead in a variety of different ways. For this paper, I will examine four models of interest to me, of which I will compare and contrast and where possible touch on the similarities and differences, as well as address some challenges of the different models.

The four models / theories I will be specifically focusing on include: Transformational Leadership, Transactional Leadership, Contrarian Leadership and Strong Man Leadership. Transformational leaders find ways to modify the way people think, see, and connect to their environment through motivation. Avolio & Yammarino (2002) defines transformation leaders as those that engender trust, seek to develop leadership in others, exhibit self-sacrifice and serve as moral agents, focusing on themselves and followers on objectives that transcend the more immediate needs of the work group (pg. 38).

These leaders tend to increase their followers’ level of interest, respect the group’s obligations and mission, become role models, and encouraging followers to find solutions by proposing new ideas. The degree to which a leader is regarded as being transformational depends on the effect he or she has on the follower, where followers of transformational leaders feel trust and respect towards leaders, and are motivated to perform extraordinary behaviors (Barbuto, 1997). This simply shows that as a consequence of the transformational leader’s behavior, the emotional attachment to the leader by the followers is through motivation.

The transactional leadership model addresses the self-interest concerns of followers by exchanging rewards or recognition for cooperation and compliance behaviors consistent with task requirements (Avolio & Yammarino, 2002, pg 38-39). A transactional leader will thus offer positive reinforcements such as prizes, praise, compliments, and rewards when goals are reached and will utilize negative reinforcement such as punishment and reproach when errors are made or failures occur.

In this type of leadership style the leader’s power stems from his ability to provide rewards. Typical leader behaviors include interactive goal setting, contingent material reward, contingent personal reward and personal recognition (Manz & Sims, 1991). Hater and Bass (1988) indicated that, by contrasting transformational and transactional leadership, it does not mean that the two models are unrelated. In fact, although the two are distinct concepts, they are interrelated, meaning that a leader can be both transactional and transformational.

Although transformational leadership may be more effective in changing times, the transactional process of clarifying certain expectancies for a reward, is an essential component of the full range of effective leadership. Transformational leaders, unlike transactional leaders, are said to inspire their followers to such an extent that they work towards the good of the company, while, as pointed out by Avolio & Yammarino, (2002), transactional leaderships are constructive as they often tend to result in achieving defined performance requirements.

Yukl (2006) relates Transformational leadership as a type that appeals to the moral values of followers in an attempt to raise their consciousness about ethical issues and to mobilize their energy and resources to reform institutions as compared to Transactional leadership which motivates followers by appealing to their self-interest and exchanging benefits (pg 249). Transformational and transactional leadership models thus differ with regard to the process by which leaders motivate subordinates and the types of goals set (Hater & Bass, 1988).

One very interesting leadership model is the Contrarian Leader – a leader who thinks differently from the people around him. In particular, such a leader is able to maintain his intellectual independence by thinking gray, and enhance his intellectual creativity by thinking free (Sample, 2002). The essence of thinking gray is that you don’t form an opinion about an important matter until you’ve heard all the relevant facts and arguments. Sample (2002) continues to say most people are binary and instant in their judgments; that is, they immediately categorize things as good or bad, true or false, black or white, friend or foe.

A truly effective leader, however, needs to be able to see the shades of gray inherent in a situation in order to make wise decisions as to how to proceed. There are three very real dangers to effective leadership associated with binary thinking. One is that the leader forms opinions before it is necessary to do so, and in the process closes his mind to facts and arguments that may subsequently come to his attention. The Contrarian leadership style is different from that of transactional and transformational styles. However, I believe this model an actually be employed in conjunction with any other leadership model such as transformational or transactional. The leader waits for and validates intelligence and then decides to act from the given facts from which he then will use his transformational or transactional styles to motivate and deploy his followers. Sample (2002) recons that thinking gray is not a natural act, especially for people who see themselves as leaders. Our typical view of great leaders is that they are bold and decisive people who are strongly governed by their passions and prejudices.

The “Strong Man” type of leadership, as termed by Manz & Sims (1991), represents a highly directive, occasionally punitive and dictatorial individual. The strong-man view of leadership creates an image of a John Wayne type who is not afraid to “knock some heads” to get followers to do what he wants done. This model is the leader who sizes up the situation and, based on some seemingly superior strength, skill, and courage, delivers firm commands to the workers. If the job is not performed as commanded, inevitably some significant form of punishment is delivered.

The focus is on the leader whose power stems primarily from his position in the organization. Subordinates simply comply (Manz & Sims, 1991). The emphasis with this autocratic view is on the strength of the leader. One can say the Strong Man leadership style closely resembles the transactional leadership model, however, the difference is that the transactional leader may allow the follower freedom to get to an end goal and wait passively for mistakes to occur, or for things not to go as planned, before taking corrective action with or reprimand whereas the Strong Man leadership prefers “my way or the highway” rule of law.

One of the dangers of this type of leadership is the possibility of constant flip-flopping. A leader hears something in favor of a proposition and decides on the spot that the proposition must be true. Whereas a short while later he hears an argument against the proposition and decides that the proposition must be false. Law is passed based on the leader’s perception and no one can oppose or say otherwise. The contrarian leadership model is best to avoid this possible occurrence, as he weighs all the facts before proceeding.

On the other side of the coin, if decisions need to be made quickly, on the move, with limited information, I’m not so sure the contrarian leader would be able to cope. Based on the findings from above, it leads one to believe that leaders do not always need to have just a single leadership style. Instead leaders may need to employ more than one leadership style, depending on the context. Even so, some of the styles are complementary. Whatever the style, leading people effectively is a tremendous challenge and a serious responsibility.

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