Leadership in Management: A Universal Leadership Model for the 21st Century

“The current economic environment remains in constant flux and is characterized by rapid changes in technology, costs, regulations and market demands” (Capoccia & Abeles, 2006, p. 13). The complexity and pace of these challenges seem to have increased exponentially in the last decade, causing significant stress on employees and employers alike. Nick Petrie (2011), in his white paper “Future trends in leadership development,” describes this new working environment with the army term “V.U. C.A ”, an acronym for:

Volatile: Change happens rapidly and on a large scale

Uncertain: The future cannot be predicted with any precision

Complex: Challenges are complicated by many factors and there are few single causes or solutions

Ambiguous: There is little clarity on what events mean and what effect they may have (p. 8)

Executives have increasingly been struggling to balance operational efficiency and effectiveness with the delivery of quality products against an increasingly complex, regulated and deteriorating economic climate. These rapidly changing internal and external variables are forcing managers to adapt and evolve to a more effective, innovative, and solution based approach.

Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Bill Gates, and on the flip side, Bernie Ebbers, Kenneth Lay, and Bernie Madoff are some prime examples of how success and failure are most often attributed to the organization’s leadership, or lack thereof. The Institute for Crisis Management (ICM), in a 2009 report, identified 51% of the crises to be “management-related”, which suggests that management, as a whole, is doing a poor job of leading their organizations (Brumfield, 2012, p. 45). While the study does not provide a root cause analysis or answers, it clearly indicates that there is a significant managerial problem that can substantially affect organizational outcomes. The question then remains what constitutes “good leadership” and how can management attain this quality?

Upon reviewing the definition of “leadership” the authors discovered a large number of different opinions and descriptions, but found little or no consensus on one all-encompassing definition.

They did notice an overwhelming support from global corporate management to address the need for the development of leadership skills within the business curricula (Bloch, Brewer, & Stout, 2012). The resulting research suggested a positive correlation to exist between leadership effectiveness and specific traits (Malik, Hussain, U. Ali, & M. Ali, 2011), as well as leadership and organizational commitment (Rehman, Shareef, Mahmood, & Ishaque, 2012). Studies by Khan, Hafeez, Rizvi, Hasnain, and Mariam (2012) and Rehman, et al. (2012) prove transformational and transactional leadership styles to be the most effective managerial tool for current times. Larsson and Vinberg (2010) conducted a study of effective leadership behavior spanning one hospital and one retail business, and concluded successful managers predominantly employed relationship oriented behaviors. However, they further hypothesized that managerial behavior could be modified to include change and structure oriented actions depending on situational factors.

Furthermore, Cangemi, Davis, Sand, and Lott (2011) postulate leadership effectiveness to be dependent on the phase of organizational development. Petrie (2011) and Brumfield (2012) provide a different perspective and hypothesize leadership to be a process of influence rather than a series of personal actions and decisions. Finally, Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee (2002) maintain that high emotional intelligence is the key element to producing outstanding leadership performance, and he theorizes that leadership competencies can be learned.

Even though literature reveals divided opinions and conclusions, it is evident that leadership effectiveness should be explored and analyzed from a multitude of angles.