Insights from a Foundations Strategic Leadership Course

Introduction: Motivation

Under foundations strategic leadership course, leadership is perceived as a science build around different philosophies and styles. The course introduced theories, models, and practices of strategic leadership. The course focused primarily on the discussing leadership theories from leadership theories from the point of views of Peter G. Northouse and other leadership experts. Interviewing Zabeth Teelucksingh, who contributed to making Philadelphia the first World Heritage City in the United States, as part of the first assignment “interviewing a strategic leader” gave a deeper perspective into transformational and charismatic leadership style.


Leadership Theories: Transformational leadership

In his perspective, Northouse (2018) supports Burns (1978) and Babrour (2012) by defining transformational leadership as a process that changes and transforms people. He suggests that it is concerned with emotions, values, ethics, standards, and long-term goals. He argues that it involves assessing followers’ motives, satisfying their needs, and treating them as full human beings. He noted that “Transformational leadership involves an exceptional form of influence that moves followers to accomplish more than what is expected of them. It is a process that often incorporates charismatic and visionary leadership (Northouse, 2016).” Moreover, he argued that people who exhibit transformational leadership often have a strong set of internal values and ideals, and they are effective at motivating followers to act in a way that supports the greater good rather than their self-interest. Transformational leaders not only recognize and exploit existing needs of potential followers, but they also look for potential motives and higher needs in followers. Burns (1978) contended that they seek to completely engage their followers and help them to achieve their fullest potential.

An empirical study conducted by the researchers, Bass and Avolio, mapped the frequent leadership styles of managers and commanders. The findings located the two categories (transformational and transactional leadership) on a continuum and created more stages at the passage between those to leadership styles. This model called “The full range of leadership” w introduces four components (4 I’s) of a transformational leader (Kirimi and Barine, 2012). According to Bass and Avolio (1994), the four elements, Idealised influence (II), Intellectual Stimulation (IS), Inspirational Motivation (IM), and Individualised Consideration (IC), are viewed as fundamental in motivating, inspiring, nurturing, and bring together the followers. They characterised aspects of openness, communication, engagement, involvement, and diverse culture under charisma umbrella allows both the leaders and followers engage, associate, and share ideas freely. Charisma is considerably important for a transformational leader. Avolio and Yammarino (2013) suggest that a transformational leader who has charisma is not only influential but also has loyal followers. Stating “transformational and charismatic leadership involve a unique bonding among leaders and followers-emotional attachment, respect, and trust.”

Transformational leadership is a type of leadership that appeals to the team to work together. On the other hand, transactional leaders focus on efficiency of implementation of the team’s objectives; they lead by simply giving out orders and expecting relevant and responsible parties to act as well as provide feedback (Odumeru, and Ogbonna, 2013). While it is quite effective for the military and may be effective for other sectors in civil leadership, it is not the most appropriate leadership style in enhancing and ensuring the realization of the two major functions of communication as highlighted by Lewinska (2015). Gonzales (2016) clarifies that transformational leader in addition to giving commands and orders and expecting implementation and feedback, use their charisma and charm to be able to influence their team to and convince the subordinates to commit to the organization and it its needs above their own personal needs. In this way efficiency is guaranteed as cohesion and cooperation within the group is enhanced by the leader.

Charismatic Leader

One of the areas discussed in Transformational Leadership course is charisma, and ways in which it differs across different cultures. Etymologically, the word charisma originates from a “Latinized form of Greek kharisma" meaning a favour, divine gift, from kharizesthai "to show favour to," from kharis "grace, beauty, kindness" (Charis was the name of one of the three attendants of Aphrodite)” (Conger, 2015; Lindholm, 2018). Charisma can be defined as being set apart from ordinary people and viewed as one with supernatural, exceptional, or superhuman powers (Lindholm, 2018). Charisma is being able to exude a certain charm that makes people drawn to and compelled to follow. As such, one can argue that a person with charisma is regarded to be exemplary or of divine origin, which influences others to treat such a person as a leader. As purported by McLaurin and Al Amri (2008), followers of a leader with charisma attribute heroic and extraordinary leadership abilities to the leader.

According to Avolio and Yammarino (2013), a leader with charisma has four basic qualities that are not evident in other people. These are presenting a clear vision, a willingness to take risks in order to achieve the vision, sensitivity to the needs of the followers, and a behaviour different from that of other people. Haney, Sirbasku, and McCann (2010) coined the term leadership charisma as those who, create and maintain a work environment where people are emotionally and intellectually committed to the organization’s goals. They build an energetic and positive attitude in others and inspire them to do their best. In doing so, they create a common sense of purpose where people are more inclined to invest extra energy and even some of their own time in their work (Conger, 2015). These characteristics of a leader with charisma mean that they do not struggle too much in getting people to listen to them. As pointed out by Babcock-Roberson and Strickland (2010), people tend to view the leader as exceptional and concerned with their needs, they may be willing to follow their leader. In addition, the followers believe that everything the leader does is intended for their good, which keeps them loyal to the leader.

One core attribute of charismatic leaders is ability to communicate skilfully in addition to being eloquent and associate with the followers on a deep and emotional level. According to McLaurin and Al Amri (2008), they possess able to articulate a captivating vision and connecting through moulding strong emotions in the followers. Additionally, Antonakis (2012) contended that these kind of leaders lead others by motivating the followers to get things done through persuasion, eloquent communication, and force of personality. Levay (2010) and Erez et al. (2008) argues that traits of the charismatic leaders are founded on the ability to not only excite the followers but also motivate and persuade them.

Charisma in Different Cultures

Wilderom, van den Berg, and Wiersma (2012) postulate that charisma differs in cultures due to different meaning of the word. For some cultures, a charismatic person is thought to possess “superhuman” capabilities, while in other cultures, a person with charisma is the one who makes things happen. Considering that the qualities of a charismatic leader are attributed, there is a possibility that the leader could be perceived to be transformational, which may not be the case in another culture. In addition, a charismatic leader is expected to have a convincing vision, and the nature of this vision differs from culture to culture depending on cultural values Erez et al. (2008). In advocating for the needs of the people, what is said to be good communication differs from culture to culture. Lastly, a leader must be willing to take risks to attain charisma. This may call for interrupting what others, especially people in power, are doing, which in some cultures is impolite and unacceptable.

One can regard Haifaa Al-mansour, the first female filmmaker in Saudi Arabia, as an example of a charismatic leader. To many women in the Middle East, Haifaa resembles a courageous, charismatic, and talented character, who managed to inspire Arab women into pursuing opportunities in any field (Mullally, 2018; Turak, 2019). Not only did she overcome the challenges of being a female filmmaker, and won international awards, but also her footsteps in the field have transformed the film industry in Saudi Arabia. Haifaa’s film, Wadjda, which she wrote and directed, tells the story of a rebellious Saudi girl who wants to ride a bicycle in her country, where it is unacceptable in both her culture and country’s law. It was released by Sony Pictures Classics in the U.S. after launching from the Venice Film Festival in 2012, and was Saudi Arabia’s first Oscar foreign-language film entry (Bloom, 2013). Her film reflects the issues of women in Saudi Arabia, including fighting for the right to drive. Haifaa’s significant role in the film industry in Saudi Arabia has opened the doors for a cultural transformation. As a result and largely attributable to her work, in September 2017, women in Saudi Arabia gained the right to drive. In addition, in January 2018, Saudi lifted a 35-year ban on commercial theatres, making it possible for Saudi citizens to watch movies in public. Through her public speaking, one can see her as an eloquent speaker, very passionate about work, modest and eager to open the doors for more milestones to come.

Emotional Intelligence in Leadership

Goleman et al. (2013) described emotional intelligence (ET) as ability to recognise, understand, manage, and influence emotions of oneself and those around a person. Fundamentally, the concept aligns the one’s non-cognitive skills, capabilities, and competencies to be able to manage and influence others either perspective or input on given tasks. According to Serrat (2017) and Eze et al. (2019), the EI competencies are governed by five traits; Motivation, Empathy, Social skills, Self-awareness, and Self-regulation. Kerr et al. (2006) and Crowne et al. (2017) contended that, collectively, effective leaders grow their success from leading self, others, and organizations, and in doing so, need to take into consideration their and others perspective, emotion, perspective, and driving-force. In addition to strategizing, sharing their vision, communicate effectively, and upholding high integrity, success of effective leaders lie on ways they drive the followers’ emotion in right direction.

Communication and Leadership in Military

Kruse (2013) emphasizes that the premise of leadership has nothing to do with seniority or one’s position within an organization, it involves the concept of influence and the ability of an individual to influence and therefore impact on the maximization of other individuals’ efforts towards the achievement of the desired goals. According to the Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 6-22 influencing informs more than just passing out information and orders as would be the case in civil leadership, rather, within the military, good leaders communicate through listening actively, creating shared understanding, employing engaging communication techniques and being sensitive to cultural factors while communicating (Ford, 2015).

Within the military influencing the team means inspiring them towards undertaking a range of variety missions including: Humanitarian/disaster relief, peacekeeping, National defense, nation building as well as kinetic/cyber warfare all of which are quite sensitive and possess potential threats and danger. The central idea of ‘influencing’ within the concept of military leadership therefore is highly reliant on effective and accurate communication, failure to which a monumental disaster may be triggered. This makes modern communication in the military context exponentially different from modern communication in civil and other types of leadership.

Communication within the military is important especially considering the fact that is dependent on the effective and efficient operations of the Army. Lewinska (2015) highlights two basic functions of communication within an organization to include informational-organizational as well as motivating-inspirational. Formal communication in other sectors including the civil and cooperate context are responsible for fulfilling the informational-organizational function of communication, while the second function is left majorly for informal communication and as a function of different sub departments of an organization which may include the Human Resource department. However within the military the two functions are equally essential as they both have a bearing towards the eventual outcome of the teams efforts As such are both carried out specifically by formal communication.

Lewinska (2015) further highlights, that within the military, difference should be drawn between the staff functions and command functions. While staff functions basically resemble any other civil leadership functions and as such does not require stringent communication measures, the command function has both functions of communication decisively dominant and necessary for planning the course of action. This accentuates that within the military, communication is also a tool utilized by leaders and commanders to be able to strengthen the bond between team members as well as build trust, cohesion, cooperation and understanding (Thomson and Back, 2018). This highlights the major contrast within military and civil leadership with regards to the essence of communication.

Ford (2015) emphasizes that military command requires active interaction and communication characterized by continuous vertical as well as horizontal feedback. Feedback, he notes, is important as it provides the means to confirm orders given, situational understanding as well as improve the whole communication process for effective results which in war may mean a difference between a win and a lose both of which have high stakes. The leadership style taken up for use by a leader within the military must therefore be one that capitalizes on effective and punctual communication of useful information. Through consideration of the leaderships behavior and perspective, a range of theories on leadership and leadership style, some of which are applicable within the military and others are not, can be derived. Gonzales (2016) suggests two of the most commonly used within the military to include Transformational and/or Transactional Leadership.

Given the importance of communication in leadership it is necessary for certain leadership styles to be adopted by the military to ensure effective implementation of the various objectives set forward. While different leaders take up different leadership styles in being able to effectively lead their teams, the driving force of the leadership style to be taken within the civil leadership context largely depends on the leader as he is the vision barer of the team and possesses the necessary skills and experience required for the achievement of the dream (Welsh, 2016). However, within the military leadership involves an amalgamation of various components including effective communication, team motivation, and inspiration, risk taking, problem solving as well as discipline both towards accepting and execution of orders as well as in the giving of feedback.

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