Companies invest a lot of time and money in recruiting and developing their leaders.
You only have to look on Linkedin to see how many companies/coaches/trainers are focused on training people to become better leaders.
The emphasis is often on developing ‘transformational’ leaders. Leaders who are able to inspire their team members to go beyond what’s required of their jobs, prioritise the group rather than the individual needs, show more motivation at work, and maintain an intellectually stimulating work environment.
However, according to EBW Global, leaders in the development of Business Emotional Intelligence, a recent study has shown that ‘transformational’ leaders are not effective all the time. In some cases, transformational leadership simply does not have the impact that is expected.
EBW report that the results of recent research by Phillip Gilmore and his colleagues from George Mason University (Virginia), showed that ‘transformational’ leadership did not significantly predict creativity or ‘helping behaviours’ in employees who were already motivated and positive. Gilmore concluded that employees who are already motivated and positive do not appear to need what the transformational leaders offer.
Gilmore suggests that ‘transformational’ leaders are much more effective with employees who are low on energy, sluggish, and melancholic, because for them, the leadership style really makes a difference.
EBW believe that historically, leadership experts have pushed the benefits of ‘transformational’ leaders for good reason. Transformational leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King, Jr., played crucial roles in transforming peoples’ identity and aspirations.
However, what this research suggests is that to be truly effective in a business context, leaders need to tailor their styles rather than use a one-size-fits-all approach.
Leaders need to understand and assess their followers and the situational context in which they work. So if we are leading an organisation that is growing rapidly and attracting ambitious, motivated individuals to join it, we need to adopt a different style compared to leading a struggling business with employees who are demotivated and feeling overwhelmed by the challenges they face.
To do that we need to understand our most authentic leadership style and how to change our style to suit the nature of the workgroup/team we are working with to ensure we get the best out of them. A tough ask and one that many of us struggle to achieve without a significant level of help and support.
Whoever said leadership was easy? Not me! But working out what’s going to be effective in terms of our style of leadership may pay greater dividends in improved business performance than we thought. And if it impacts on that bottom line then it’s got to be one more thing worth working on!
Jo Clarkson – TAB Leeds South