Corporate Leadership an Analysis of Successful Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2392 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 14  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership

Corporate Leadership

An Analysis of Successful Leadership in the 21st Century

Because it is so important to the success of a group, an organization, or even a country, effective leadership has been the focus of an increasing amount of attention in recent years. In the past, leadership was believed to be something that was associated with particular qualities of certain individuals. Today, though, it is becoming increasingly apparent that not all successful leaders are not necessarily born that way, but somehow overcome the obstacles and challenges in their lives to assume the mantle of leadership. In a globalized marketplace, it is reasonable to assume that successful corporate leadership requires more than a "seat-of-the-pants" management style, but many successful corporate leaders appear to do just that; by contrast, other effective corporate leaders subscribe to various management theories and never sway from their approach to leadership. To determine what makes a successful leader in today's corporate world, this paper will provide an examination of what characteristics and traits are typically shared by successful leaders, and a comparison of recent great leaders with those from the past. A summary of the research and salient findings will be provided in the conclusion.

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Term Paper on Corporate Leadership an Analysis of Successful Leadership Assignment

Background and Overview. Just as individual concepts of success tend to change over the years, successful leadership may represent different things to different people. For some, a successful leader would be one that managed to keep a company solvent during tough economic times, or perhaps one who was able to help a failing company turn its fortunes around and prosper. Increasingly, though, it would seem that concepts of successful leaders today transcend these important - but limited - concepts of what makes some people better able to lead others to a common goal. For example, Poch and Wolverton (2000) report that, "The leadership push in corporate America seems to be moving CEOs away from command and control tactics and toward team-based leadership" (122). What makes one individual more effective in this new environment than others? In this regard, some typical characteristics and traits that are shared by successful leaders are discussed further below.

Typical Characteristics and Traits Shared by Successful Leaders. Although every organizational setting is unique, the common process of successful leadership in virtually any setting can be viewed as "the use of noncoercive influence to direct and coordinate the activities of the members of an organized group toward the accomplishment of group objectives. As a property, leadership is a set of qualities or characteristics attributed to those who are perceived to successfully employ such influence" (Rost 76). Not surprisingly, in recent years, management theorists have increasingly sought to identify the specific characteristics and traits of successful leaders (Blackwell, Gibson & Hannon 11). To this end, researchers have increasingly sought to understand what makes one person a successful leader while another might fail by looking into the backgrounds of corporate America executives, including their childhood and youth experiences to determine which, if any, of their characteristics and traits may influence or change their organizations (Poch & Wolverton 122).

Based on the growing body of research, successful leaders, it would seem, are able to apply their skills and talents to virtually any setting, with a common attribute of somehow inspiring others to enthusiastically follow them in achieving a common organizational objective that transcends their personal needs. For example, "Leadership refers to interpersonal processes in social groups, through which some individuals assist and direct the group toward the completion of group goals"; in addition, there is almost an element of instilling willingness among followers:

Leadership is the ability to influence people so that they willingly and enthusiastically strive toward the achievement of group goals" (Rost 23). According to Fairholm (1994), one of the most important characteristics identified among successful corporate leaders to date has been the element of trust: "Trust is key to the task of creating a corporate culture built on the values of respect and candor and is critical in values leadership," he says. "Indeed, part of the definition of leadership is that leaders command the respect, trust, and loyalty of their followers" (emphasis added) (117).

In addition, the fairly nebulous but invaluable characteristic of charisma is repeatedly cited in the scholarly literature as being shared by many successful corporate leaders today (Chaganti & Sherman 59). In their essay, "Charismatic Leadership: The Hidden Controversy," Blackwell, Gibson and Hannon report that charisma is "Charisma, that 'you'll know it when you see it' dynamic personality often defined as magnetic and inspirational has received a lot of attention in the last two decades of leadership research"; charisma, they add, is "a personal magic of leadership arousing special popular loyalty or enthusiasm for a public figure" (11). Likewise, Bristol (2001) points out that, "Charisma is easy to recognize but hard to explain. Some people just have it -- the rest don't" (203).

According to Blackwell and Gibson, Max Weber was one of the first to study charisma as a leadership attribute when he described three types of authority: 1) rational-legal, 2) traditional, and 3) charismatic, with the latter being a type of authority that is based on the force of one's personality; however, it was not until the forces of globalization in the closing years of the 20th century caused researchers to investigate the role of leaders in providing companies with needed change and vision (Blackwell & Gibson 120). "By zeroing in on leaders as change agents," Gibson et al. note, it was determined "that corporate leaders with high levels of motivation, vision, and innovativeness were particularly effective facilitators of organizational change" (Gibson et al. 18). The researchers who have examined charismatic leadership have recognized the enormous influence this quality can have over ordinary people; however, they have also been quick to emphasize that the attribute in and of itself has its limits. "Charismatic individuals, after all, are not superhuman," Perloff points out, "but are seen in this light by their followers. Followers, for their part, influence the self-perception of leaders" (151). As Riggio (1987) notes, "the charismatic leader inspires the crowd, but he also becomes charged by the emotions of the followers. Thus, there is an interplay between leader and followers that helps to build a strong union between them" (76).

Today, the importance of charismatic leadership has been widely recognized and in some cases, it is called "transformational" or "visionary leadership"; whatever it is called, charismatic leadership is based on Robert House's 1977 definition of charismatic leaders as being those "who have a profound emotional effect on their followers" (Blackwell & Gibson 120). Interestingly, Blackwell and his colleagues (1998) also point out that, based on its divine attributions in the past, charisma today is still largely regarded as something an individual "is born with" rather than a trait that can be learned or cultivated over time. For example, early on, Weber (1968) suggested that charisma is "a certain quality of the individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least exceptional powers and qualities" (241). Clearly, these are all critical attributes in any organizational setting where everyone is going to have a different set of values, needs and wants, and motivating others to greater effort may be one of the most difficult things that many people are confronted with in their managerial careers if they do not possess these attributes. For those lucky few that do, though, the world -- it would seem -- is their personal oyster; a discussion concerning these types of leaders is provided below.

Examples of Recent Successful Leadership. According to Gibson and Blackwell (1999), the co-founder, CEO, president and chairman of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, is frequently cited as an ideal example of successful leadership at its best. Kelleher, it would seem, has always possessed the "vision" that is required of successful leaders and has not been afraid to model the way for others. Early on in his career, Kelleher captured the imaginations and the unswerving loyalty of his employees. "Since his involvement in the founding of Southwest Airlines in 1967," Gibson and Blackwell report, "Herb Kelleher has almost assumed cult status with his much publicized shenanigans like dressing up as Elvis or arm-wrestling a competitor for rights to the slogan, 'Just Plane Smart'" (120). Clearly, though, there is more to being an effective leader than clowning around for the press. In reality, though, there is nothing mysterious about Kelleher's leadership philosophy today, but not long ago, it was considered inappropriate or even leadership blasphemy:

Years ago, business gurus used to apply the business school conundrum to me: 'Who comes first? Your shareholders, your employees, or your customers?' I said, 'Well, that's easy,' but my response was heresy at that time. I said employees come first and if employees are treated right, they treat the outside world right, the outside world uses the company's product again, and that makes the shareholders happy. That really is the way that it works and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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