Literature Review on Leadership in Workplaces


In contemporary workplace, leadership depicts the capacity of individuals to administer and supervise organizations and its workforce. It can also be defined as the power to act positively and affect others to accomplish their tasks to the best of their capability. Leadership is more than a particular position or a title of a job in an organization. According to Nawaz (2016), in the world of business, efficient leadership is vital for channeling the power of those he or she serves. It is the most critical asset in any business and is normally counted on as a pillar to uphold and sponsor the rest of the workforce. Therefore, their functions are the most scrutinized and their attainment is most directly correlated to the success of organizations.

Additionally, leadership can be identified as a key that unlocks change and performance. It is a social process capable of affecting individuals, and it is more than what those people in leadership do. It springs from purposeful connections and relationships developed not from one person but from a group that act together to make a collective sense of the situation that confronts them. From these perspective on leadership in workplaces, the purpose of this literature review is to investigate the various aspects, perspectives and theories put forth on leadership within workplaces. The review aims to draw an in depth understanding of the role and influence of leaders in workplaces based on the existing theories, concept, and previous studies on the topic. Based on these findings, the review will draw conclusion based on the findings highlighting the areas that need further studies.


Literature Review and analysis

Concept of Leadership

Greek Philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates, the ancient Egyptians, the Arabian civilization by Ibn Khaldun of 1377 provide the traces of the study of leadership. However, it was until the 20th Century particularly in the 1930s that the actual researches of leadership came out focusing on the science of social approaches. The centers that were used back in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s on the studies in leadership included Iowa, Michigan and Ohio States in the United States of America consecutively. Concentration on the leader research studies were done by Massarik and Tannenbaum back in 1957 according to researches by Mjaku (n.d.).

Numerous studies on leadership have been conducted, but the concepts most talked about and studied, are topic in the social anomaly of all ages, and its complexity, characterized by several temperamental liked with the approaches of leadership, variables that circumscribe the whole process of social. For years now, studies on leadership have focused on traits and personalities of leaders, contingencies and situational aspects that influenced leadership and decency styles, charismatic, transactional and transformational leadership (Northouse, 2021; Rosenbach, 2018). By the end of the 20th century, efforts were made to assess different models of leadership to orchestrate into a wider scope known as ‘full range aspect of leadership as studied by Avolio (2009). On the same review supported by Almohaimeed, Saleh (2014), leadership is a term widely tried to be comprehended or defined, currently, leadership is researched but least discerned topic, since people presuppose that it is a life’s rare occurrence that is difficult and mysterious.

Leadership style and values

In a study by Serrat (2017) on Leading in workplaces, argue that leadership in the early models normally in the western world are filched from the military organizations, and they were assessed depending on the circumstances in which leaders came about, and then explored for psychological features. The well-defined, in most cases dauntless bequests they pointed out basically embodied conception, theoretical acclimatization, appeal, stamina, physical endurance , resolution and courage, action-align acumen, intelligence, task competence, need for achievement, self-confidence, eagerness to take accountability, capacity to motivate people, comprehend of followers as well as their needs, skills in dealing with individuals in the same workplace, decisiveness, courage and resolution, adaptability, and trustworthiness (Nielsen et al., 2016; Slemp et al., 2018).

The paradigm values admired from leaders are accepted appropriately in dire situations. Although, ancient archetypes, attributes concepts as well as notions of contingency, transformations, situational, and even transactional leadership, all of which strike of charge and regiment more or less apparently cannot serve the varied collection of workplaces that call for leadership in the organizations of the 21st Century as affirmed by Ba (2015). Arguably, globally, contemporary workplace is increasingly becoming complex with significant challenging situations.

Leadership in Workplace Contex

Hao and Yazdanifard (2015) on ways of improvement and innovation can be leveraged by effective leadership to facilitate change in workplace, argue that leadership in a workplace is the intelligence and the responsibility in form of a power with the potential to influence or adjust the beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors of other people. Specifically, an individual with strong leadership capabilities will set a good example or become a role model to their subordinated, since the leader who is capable of effecting change will attain good results or attainment through admiration and trust of their staff, and unintentionally adjust their beliefs, attitudes, character and values, for impersonation in the candid manner of adulation. The statement got support from researches by Norhthouse (2009), where the research points out that leaders that possesses redoubtable leadership have the cogency to compel others to strive to attain the objectives and goals of the organization.

In another study conducted by Koouzes and Posner (2013), leadership in workplaces is rather a process where those in leadership positions apply their knowledge and skills to lead and bring a team of employees in the desired direction that is vital to their organization’s objectives and goals. But for this to take place, such a leader must depict the ability to show consistency, passionate about the work they do, show consistency in what they believe in, can be trusted and build trust among the employees, and be a visionary. But then, as it being a process, time taken to develop such leadership capacity that changes the management of the workforce will be influenced by varying individual capability to adapt, embrace adjustment, and also engage in the change process for an effective leadership process in a workplace as supported by Wuestman and Casey (2015). Note that just like some employee might be happy in the change process, some might not, thence, such a leader must keep on communicating and engaging or rather working together with the workforce so as to sustain the long-term process changes.

Abbas and Asghar (2010) argue that leadership in workplaces is not a magic that one individual and others do not possess. It is also not about the orders provided by the leaders in the workplace, or the observations made on how much these orders are assented. Instead, leadership in workplaces is the capacity of the management to obtain and protect the organization or business benefits by meeting the needs of the workforce and objectives of the organization brought together to work in a conducive and much better surrounding so as to attain a common objective(s) as quoted from a study by Sansom (1998). Leadership in workplaces possesses a principal function in the cultivation and evolution of an organization. It can also aid the stakeholders of the organization as well as the workforce to face the evidence and to work for organizational objectives in an admirable manner.

In a report by Ejimabo (2015) on ways of understanding leadership decision making in organization, he argues that being a leader in a work place or an organization, can be a complicated and confronting situation role in taking care of variety of forms that are influenced by the requirements of the organization as well as the individuals that are being led. Any leader in a given workplace can be tasked in variety roles to complete these tasks in a particular day or time depending on what arises and what issues are required to be taken care of. It is to depict that leadership and decision-making is at the heart of every workplace, and they are key drivers to any organizational result, and according to Lunenburg (2010), decision making is one of the greatest activities in which organizations engage on a daily basis, and the success of an organization is critically connected to critical decision made by the leader(s). Normally there exist a process that a leader follows to make sound decision, and they include; identification of a problem, creating possible choices, assessing possible choices, choosing a choice, effecting the decision, and assessing decision cogency.

Investigating the role of leadership in employees’ motivation, Naile and Selesho (2014) held that the success of every organization will depend on the workforce’ drive to bloom via their endeavors, obligations, commitment, profession and steadfastness. In this manner, motivation is a vital topic since leadership qualification entails the capacity to motivate the employees in a workplace as quoted from Lussier (2013) as one of the vital aspects in the duties of a leader in a job. Leadership starts with the first endeavor created to recruit a new staff, then proceed via the whole induction process, then proceed each day till the time the employee exists from the organization. This process is bolstered by a leader, motivating the contemporary employees as well as it points out, once again, the essence of leadership in workplace.


In all the researched conducted and analyzed are more of patriarchy, where leadership and all its aspects is predominantly a male right and gender insensitive from times of ancient Egypt, to 21st century. Most of studies conducted regarding leadership focus on traits common in the male gender even though in the last fifty years, women have made significant strides in the achievement of education and heightened participation in the workforce. In addition, there have been women leaders via out history and they can be identified in each culture as well as era. However, in contemporary workplace, male leaders greatly outdo leaders of the female gender according to studies by Cook and Glass (2014). Those women that have broken the glass ceiling and progressed to the top leadership in workplaces have shown that applying the command-and-control form of leading others, a form in several occasion linked with men in huge traditional institutions is a depiction that leadership perspective has failed and need to be addressed. Note that both women and men have different leadership styles, with women likely to view leadership as more of a transformational while applying interpersonal skills as well as hard work to transform or motivate their staff instead of applying position power like men do as they mix it with transactional form of leadership. Additionally, modern workplaces evolve rapidly, and for an organization to performance and be a success, leaders must match the internal and external variables in optimizing the qualities, attributes, and talents of each employee. Therefore, there is need for constant development of leadership in attempt to align with contemporary workplaces.

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Abbas, W. and Asghar, I., 2010. The role of leadership in organizational change: relating the successful organizational change with visionary and innovative leadership.

Al-Malki, M. and Juan, W., 2018. Leadership styles and job performance: A literature review. Journal of International Business Research and Marketing, 3(3).

Ba, B.G.M., 2015. Understanding leadership and empowerment in the workplace. European Scientific Journal, 11(35).

Cook, A. and Glass, C. (2014). Women and Top Leadership Positions: Towards an Institutional Analysis. Gender, Work & Organization, 21, pp.91–103.

Ejimabo, N.O., 2015. An approach to understanding leadership decision making in organization. European Scientific Journal, 11(11).

Hao, M.J. and Yazdanifard, R., 2015. How effective leadership can facilitate change in organizations through improvement and innovation. Global journal of management and business research.

Kouzes, J.M. and Posner, B.Z., 2013. Great leadership creates great workplaces. John Wiley & Sons.

Mjaku, G., Strategic Management and Strategic Leadership.

Naile, I. and Selesho, J.M., 2014. The role of leadership in employee motivation. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5(3), p.175.

Nawaz, Z.A.K.D.A. and Khan_ PhD, I., 2016. Leadership theories and styles: A literature review. Leadership, 16(1), pp.1-7.

Nielsen, M. B., Skogstad, A., Matthiesen, S. B., & Einarsen, S. (2016). The importance of a multidimensional and temporal design in research on leadership and workplace safety. The Leadership Quarterly, 27(1), 142-155.

Northouse, P.G., 2021. Leadership: Theory and practice. SAGE Publications.

Rosenbach, W.E., 2018. Contemporary issues in leadership. Routledge.

Serrat, O., 2017. Leading in the Workplace. In Knowledge Solutions (pp. 633-638). Springer, Singapore.

Slemp, G. R., Kern, M. L., Patrick, K. J., & Ryan, R. M. (2018). Leader autonomy support in the workplace: A meta-analytic review. Motivation and emotion, 42(5), 706-724.

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