The Crucial Role of Leadership in Various Disciplines and Environments

Background of Study

Leadership is a critical element in almost all disciplines and indulgences of the human life. Different individuals while not necessarily being incapable of carrying out different tasks or activities on their own requires leadership at one point or another to be able to efficiently discharge duties and tasks. Sharma (2017) points out that an institution or society without leadership always resorts to chaos and disorder thereby underlining the basic importance of leadership which is to enable order which subsequently develops an environment which is conducive for other developments. Significantly, leadership also plays other roles in institutions and organizations which are crucial in the survival and development of these organizations and institutions, for instance Baumeyer (2018) lists up to seven distinct and important functions of leadership to include: Initiating action, motivation, providing direction and guidance, building morale, building a suitable work environment, co-ordination as well as championing values and ideals of their followers. All these functions contribute in one way or another to impact performance including generating creativity and innovation within the institution or organization.

Different leaders however lead differently and thus the availability of a wide range of leadership styles which are significantly different from one another, even complete opposites sometimes, but still effective at influencing performance and growth of an organization or institution. Different scholars across the world including Becker (2019); Raza (2019); Lazzari (2018) highlight up to twelve different leadership styles however the most common among them include: Autocratic, democratic, strategic, transformational, transactional, Bureaucratic, laissez- faire as well as coach style leadership. While all these leadership styles are currently being applied successfully in leadership of different institutions and organizations, they cannot all be described to be all round successful in all aspects of the institution or organizations growth, suffice it to say that different styles are effective for the achievement of different performance and development aspects (Lazzari, 2018). As such progressive and dynamic leaders apply different leadership styles within their organizations depending on the development or performance aspect being emphasized.


Creativity and innovation for instance cannot be attained in an environment where followers are not allowed the power to research and make mistakes while at it such as in an institution practicing Autocratic leadership. According to Baumgartner (2011) creativity has become such a significant aspects of an organization or institutions sustainability that different leadership styles have in fact, been altered to enable its achievement, thereby making way to the rise of a new leadership style described as innovative leadership. Leadership and innovation are now among the top priority of business organizations as well as other societal institutions such as learning and health care institutions. In higher learning institutions especially, innovation and creativity is key in the development of a sharp and market oriented workforce to impact the economy. This research is designed to evaluate key leadership styles used in higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia, especially with specific focus to how they impact on process and product innovation.

Problem Statement

In the age of globalization, companies are required to adapt to the constant changes in the market so as to achieve sustainable competitive advantage (Aitken and Higgs, 2010). This can be done through adopting leadership agility, which is to the capacity of organizations’ leadership to adopt efficient actions amid changing, and complex environment. Particular factors such as diversity of productions, fragmentation of markets, and competition amongst competitors create continuous challenges for organizations which; in turn, requires leaders to consider multifarious agile practices so as to increase innovative methods to face such challenges (Alsolami, Teohand Twalh, 2016). Accordingly, there is a need to underline the appropriate leadership behavior styles that lay down the platform for such agility practices which trigger innovation. However, within the context of Saudi Arabia educational sector, there are no such studies that examined the impact of leadership styles on innovation capacity of these organizations.

Apart from the problems related to the particular context of Saudi Arabia, the relationship between leadership styles and innovation has been explored in the literature. Sethibe and Steyn (2015) describe that the leadership style employed is key construct for creating a climate for innovation. Ricard et al (2017) describes the management of innovation as the overriding responsibility of the manager of today. Even though, much is written about multifarious leadership behavior styles and also about leadership styles that impact the innovation process, less is known about the effect of the different factors of a leadership style on the innovation process of an organization. Zhang (2015) indicates that understanding of innovative behavior is underdeveloped in organizations and institutions. Also, Kesting et al (2016) adds that the research is fragmented and there is little interaction between different theories. For instance, Burns (1978) describes a theory of two streams in leadership styles, the transformational and the transactional leadership style. Donate and de Pablo (2015) describe that organizational learning has an impact on organization innovation, and that transformational leadership has a direct effect on organizational learning. This implies that this type of leadership has an indirect relationship on the innovation process of an organization through organizational learning.

However, when it comes to authentic leadership, there are no such studies that thoughtfully examined the relationship between authentic leadership and innovation. This thesis is to express which factors of a leadership style influence the innovation process of an organization and therefore highlight the different factors of authentic leadership which are significant for innovation.

Research Aim and Objectives


The study aims to evaluate the impact of leadership styles on innovation in Saudi Arabia’s higher education institutions. Through the evaluation of the different factors that impact innovation on different leadership styles, the findings will be able to highlight the most effective leadership style for institutional innovation as well as the impact of commitment on the leadership style with the eventual matched innovation. To be able to achieve this aim, it will be further broken down to specific objectives of study, which include:

Research Objectives

To investigate the impact of transformational leadership on the level of innovation in Saudi higher educational institutions.

To explore the effect of transactional leadership on the innovation capacity of Saudi higher educational institutions.

To examine the influence of authentic leadership behaviour on the level of innovation of Saudi Arabia’s higher educational institutions.

To understand the effect of organisational commitment on the relationship between leadership styles and innovation within higher educational organisations.

To underline the most effective leadership style that will increase the level of innovation within higher educational organisations.

Research Questions

What is the impact of transformational leadership on the level of innovation in Saudi Arabia’s higher educational institutions?

What are the effects of transactional leadership on the innovation capacity of Saudi Arabia’s higher learning institutions?

How does authentic leadership influence innovation in Saudi Arabia’s Higher learning institutions?

What are the effects of organizational commitment on the relationship between leadership styles and innovation within higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia?

What is the most effective leadership style that will significantly increase the level of innovation within higher education institutions?

Rationale of the Study

While significant research exists with regards to impact of different leadership styles on innovation of organizations across the globe, limited literature exist with regards to the impact these leadership techniques have in organizations in Saudi Arabia, especially with specific bias to higher education institutions. As such, this research will significantly contribute to the academic knowledge in this area. Moreover, this research will provide reference on effective leadership styles and techniques to apply within higher educational institutions in Saudi Arabia to impact high levels of innovation which subsequently impacts increased economical and societal development within Saudi Arabia, this through increased innovative solutions and provision of a highly trained and innovative workforce to Saudi’s Economy and society.


Creativity and innovation are increasingly becoming a paramount prerequisite for the achieving success among different organizations in developed and developing countries (Elreheil, Emeagwali, Alsaad and Alzghoul, 2017). However, it can only thrive in conducive operation environments which are provided by effective leadership and management of the organizations affairs. The studies literature will generally revolve around the different leadership styles and how they impact innovation in institutions and organization structure. While a wide range of leadership styles exist as pointed earlier including: Autocratic, democratic, strategic, transformational, transactional, Bureaucratic, laissez- faire as well as coach style leadership, the study will majorly focus on three different types of leadership and their impact to organizational innovation and development including Transformational, transactional and authentic leadership.

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Transformational leadership

Elenkov and Manev (2005) describe Transformational leadership as a leadership style that impacts change in individual and societal system. It is a leadership style majorly applied in instances where change in different aspects of an institution or organization is required for its continuous development. Slimane (2015) points out that transformational leadership inspires individuals to achieve results given that it allows workers autonomy and authority to make their own decisions regarding different aspect of their tasks and therefore giving room for creativity and innovation. This highlights a significant indirect influence of transformational leadership to innovation within different institutions.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership as a leadership style enables increased interaction between the leader and their followers thereby enhancing communication which is critical in organization development. Kesting et al., (2016) points out that transactional management or leadership is a style that focuses on supervision, organization and performance and the leaders promote compliance and performance through both rewards and punishments that effectively limit the followers’ indulgence. Hussein et al. (2017) points out that transactional leadership is especially effective in inspiring organizational creativity and innovation through Knowledge sharing between employees and leaders. Employees are allowed a degree of innovation within this leadership style however with strict coordination with the leader which impacts a level of caution on the consequences of decisions made.

Authentic leadership

This is a relatively new design of leadership developed due to the need for a multifarious leadership behavior style. Ahmad (2018) describes authentic leadership as an approach that emphasizes building a leader’s legitimacy through development of honest relationships with their followers and impacting the development of a team or unit that work together. Authentic leadership takes into account the essentials of innovation and creativity within the organization and basically develops an environment where all the involved individuals trust one another and can therefore work together for the greater benefit of the organization. in this way high levels of creativity and innovation among employees can be achieved through sharing of information and complementing each other’s ideas for a more convenient and better idea eventually.

All these different leadership styles impact creativity and innovation due to different aspects which is involved with the leaders’ behavior. In transformational leadership for instance innovation among employees can be influenced by various factors including inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation as well as idealized influence (Elreheil et al., 2017) the research will also consider factors such as self awareness and relational transparency for Authentic leadership styles so as to determine the influence it has on innovation.

Research Strategy

This research takes up the guiding philosophy of interpretivism while the approach is induction. The philosophy and approach of interpretivism and induction are used to carry out research studies supported by first hand collected data which produces inferable results significant and necessary to draw conclusion regarding a previously unknown phenomenon. (Corley and Gioia, 2011). This research study aims to carry out a quantitative research to establish the impact of leadership styles taken up by higher learning institutions academic staff to the innovation in the institutions in terms of product and processes.

Methods of Data Collection

The research will incorporate the use of semi-structured questionnaires and interviews to collect data from the academic staff of various higher learning institutions within Saudi Arabia. These questions will be with regards to the leadership styles adopted and how these impact on the product and process innovation within the institution such as: delivering new courses and coursework, championing research studies, development of new training programs as well as involvement of new technology in teaching practices.


In being able to select an appropriate sampling technique the researcher must be aware of the magnitude and extent of the research population and how closely related they are in terms of the phenomenon or characteristics being studies. Blaikie (2010) premises that the awareness of a researcher as to the magnitude and extent to which ones population goes and therefore the confines from which the sample for study can be selected is equally a key consideration in the decision of which sampling technique to be employed. The population of the study consists of the academic staff in public universities within Saudi Arabia. The research therefore will use random sampling for 10 academic staff members from 5 public universities within the countru making up a total sample size of 50 respondents.

Data Analysis

Data analysis of the qualitative data will be done through the use of SPSS. Various factors such as correlation and similarity in the aspects of study will be evaluated in order to determine the most effective leadership style in being able to impact organizational creativity and innovation. Further any qualitative data derived from interviews to further explain leadership processes and their impact to innovation will be analyzed using thematic analysis. Thematic analysis involves a widely used qualitative research method of first hand data analysis which primarily focuses on the identification and relation of patterns, themes and connections within a huge database (Braun and Clarke, 2006)

Ethical Consideration

Involvement of humans as a source of information or the population of study requires the application of moral frameworks and their considerations from the early stages of the research (Biggam, 2015; Oliver, 2010) The study should be able to occur whilst respect to human dignity, autonomy, privacy and integrity of the participants is observed at all times. (Kjellstrom, Ross and Fridlund, 2010). Dangers of exposing too much operational details and leaving both institution and individuals interviewed vulnerable are some of the risks associated with the research and as such calls for the enforcement of ethical considerations of maintaining anonymity of the respondents and conducting the interviews at the point of their exclusive confidence.


Aitken, P. and Higgs, M., 2010. Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. Routledge.

Alsolami, H., Guan Cheng, K. and M. Ibn Twalh, A. (2016). Revisiting Innovation Leadership. Open Journal of Leadership, 05(02), pp.31-38.

Becker, B. (2019). The 8 Most Common Leadership Styles & How to Find Your Own. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 Oct. 2019].

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Braun, V. and Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77-101

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Donate, M.J. and de Pablo, J.D.S., 2015. The role of knowledge-oriented leadership in knowledge management practices and innovation. Journal of Business Research, 68(2), pp.360-370.

Elenkov, D. and Manev, I. (2005). Top Management Leadership and Influence on Innovation: The Role of Sociocultural Context. Journal of Management, 31(3), pp.381-402.

Harmer, S., Ochola, G. and Couturier, L. (2017). 12 Different Types of Leadership Styles. [online] WiseToast. Available at: [Accessed 2 Oct. 2019].

Kesting, P., Ulhøi, J.P., Song, L.J. and Niu, H., 2016. The impact of leadership styles on innovation-a review. Journal of Innovation Management, 3(4), pp.22-41.

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Ricard, L.M., Klijn, E.H., Lewis, J.M. and Ysa, T., 2017. Assessing public leadership styles for innovation: A comparison of Copenhagen, Rotterdam and Barcelona. Public Management Review, 19(2), pp.134-156.

Sethibe, T. and Steyn, R., 2015. The relationship between leadership styles, innovation and organisational performance: A systematic review. South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, 18(3), pp.325-337.

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Zhang, S.J., Chen, Y.Q. and Sun, H., 2015. Emotional intelligence, conflict management styles, and innovation performance: An empirical study of Chinese employees. International Journal of Conflict Management, 26(4), pp.450-478.

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