One of the key functions of the human resource division is the training and development of the organizational staff. Technology is forcing change with respect to the tools and skills required to lead organizations. As such, the identification of the competencies required for an effective executive recruitment and development program can impact the future of an organization. Leadership development should be a company’s core competency (Foster, 2006). The correct mix of leadership traits, skills, and abilities can be dictated by the situation in which the leader operates, for example, industrial versus service, traditional versus virtual. The following is a brief description of leadership theory, the competencies of effective leaders, and a look at implications for the future.
Leadership is a somewhat elusive concept that is the food for debate in a variety of places, including the sports field, boardroom, kitchen table, or chat room. Kotter (2001) differentiates leaders from managers in several areas. Management concerns coping with complexity and is marked by actions such as planning, budgeting, organizing, and staffing. Whereas, leadership involves coping with change and is exhibited by implementing a vision, and aligning and motivating people.
Over the past century, there have been a host of theories of leadership that range from trait to style, and innate versus learned. What follows is a brief description of a representative of these theories.
Trait theory has been around for over a century, beginning with the great man theories. It is an appealing, if not empirical theory that attempts to identify who leaders are. It assumes that leaders are different and tries to define those differences by analyzing traits such as intelligence, self-confidence, determination, integrity, and sociability. It is not a complete analysis tool due to the fact that it fails to incorporate the situation, a fact that Stodgill (1948) identified more than 50 years ago. In addition, training new leaders by reviewing traits can be less fruitful. Many personality traits are fairly fixed and not easily changed (Northouse, 2004).
The style approach to leadership is concerned with what leaders do as opposed to who they are. It underscores the important concepts of task and relationship behaviors. Task structured leaders are concerned primarily with reaching a goal, whereas relationship motivated leaders are concerned with developing close personal relations (Northouse, 2004). One of the most famous models of managerial behavior was developed by Blake and Mouton (1975). This model used often for training managers, places leadership behaviors along a grid of two axes—concern for results and concern for people. Although a useful visual representation, researchers have not been very successful in connecting style with outcomes such as employee morale, job satisfaction, and productivity.
According to Bhattacharyya (2006), it is the leadership style that creates the climate for entrepreneurship and innovation of an organization, positing that promoters and founders are good entrepreneurs but not necessarily good leaders. Bhattacharyya identified four traits of leaders of small organizations that may not translate well as the organization grows: loyalty to comrades, task orientation, single-mindedness, and working in isolation.