E-Leadership in the New Century

E-Leadership in the New Century

Victor X. Wang (Florida Atlantic University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-068-2.ch002
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This article argues that e-leadership emerged out of technological development among all other major developments in our society. In the virtual environment, leaders are required to lead followers by using totally different approaches. This is not to say that traditional leadership has no place in the new virtual environment characterized by the constant use of technology. Rather, traditional leadership and leadership style studied and conceptualized by researchers and scholars enhance e-leadership supported by Rogers’ facilitative leadership (1951, 1961, 1969, 1980). Leadership theories are meant to be applied to practice. Further, leadership theories can be applied in part or in whole. They are not ideologies that must be followed to the letter.
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About 40 percent of the workforce in the United States telecommute from home to their workplaces (Chafkin, 2010), slightly more than 2% of the U.S. employee workforce (2.8 million people, not including the self employed or unpaid volunteers) considers home their primary place of work (Lister, 2010) and roughly one in six students enrolled in higher education — about 3.2 million people — took at least one online course last fall of 2005, a sharp increase defying predictions that online learning growth is leveling off (Pope, 2006). What are the implications of these numbers? They make e-leadership important and necessary in the new century. They prompt researchers and scholars reexamine leadership and leadership styles in relation to e-leadership.

The literature about leadership and leadership styles has not changed much in the 21st century. Researchers and scholars have studied leadership and leadership styles for years. Leadership theories have been tested in varying situations in different countries. For example, leadership theories by Karl Marx have been applied to countries such as the former Soviet Union, China, North Korea, and Cuba. Have these leadership theories worked for these countries? The answer is to a certain degree, yes. The answer can also be leadership theories are not ideologies that must be applied to the letter. Leadership theories can be applied in part or in whole, or they can be modified based on differing situations. Speaking of situations and circumstances, major economic developments from newly emerged nations and technological break-throughs coupled with the most recent wars in West Asia and in the Middle East have reshaped the world. They have changed the way people work, think, and, above all, react to leadership theories.

The situations and circumstances surrounding leadership and leadership styles have drastically changed in recent years. The business world has become more competitive and volatile, influenced by such factors as faster technology change, greater international competition, the deregulation of markets, overcapacity in capital-intensive industries, an unstable oil cartel, raiders with junk bonds, and the changing demographics of the work force (Kotter, 1998, p. 40). Due to the changes in situations and circumstances, nowadays, there is downsizing, merging, restructuring and even more laying off of current employees if their leaders consider the skills of the employees as being obsolete. Most job descriptions for leaders specify that leaders must possess skills in the use of technology. Without the skills in the use of technology, leaders are not hired, or employees are not promoted to leadership positions.

Without a doubt, among all those other developments in the new century, technology has played a major role in reshaping the world. Technology has permeated society in general, and major government and economic stakeholders have recognized the importance of incorporating technology throughout education in order to prepare a competitive workforce in a global economy (Farmer, 2011, p. 230). The United States used to have the largest number of Internet users. To date, the number of Internet users (179.7 million) in China has surpassed that of the United States (163.3 million) now (Schonfeld, 2009). What are the implications for the leadership and leadership styles? Should leaders change the way they see themselves, others, and everything (Cramer & Wasiak, 2006)? Leaders in the past did not depend on technology. Their secretaries may have done everything related to the use of technology. Now leaders are required to do everything themselves related to the use of technology. Does this shift require further changes in leadership and leadership styles? Although the basic tenets of leadership and leadership styles remain the same, regardless of the changes through the ages, our changing environment requires further examination of today’s leadership and leadership styles. Nowadays, the term e-leadership has emerged in both business world and in higher education. In K-12 education, e-leadership has also emerged. The purpose of this article is to discuss what constitutes e-leadership in the new century and to reveal its far reaching implications in this fast changing environment.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Charisma: It refers to the attractiveness of a person for others; charm and appeal. Followers may be willing to obey charismatic leaders’ order without their presence. However, when these leaders make wrong decisions or when they die, chaos may appear.

Synergism: It comes from the word, synergy which means the extra energy, power, or capability produced by combining two or more agents, operations, or processes. Great leaders are interested in bringing out the synergies of their followers by setting a direction for followers and motivating their followers. The process of great leaders doing this is called synergism.

Volatile: Originally, this word means “explosive.” However, in this article, it is used figuratively, meaning unstable, likely to produce change or harm. In this context, global competition is often volatile. Leadership is needed to cope with change.

Tenets: A tenet is a principle, axiom in a set of beliefs. Setting direction and motivating followers are the basic tenets of leadership.

Leadership: The act of one person directing others. In this article, leadership is defined as coping with change whereas management is defined as coping with complexity. Some people have the capacity to become good managers but not strong leaders. Likewise others have great leadership, but have difficulty becoming strong managers. Today’s organizations value both kinds of people and work hard to make them a part of their teams. Some scholars consider leadership an art while others consider it a science. According to this article, the effective and successful leadership is the one that copes with change based on followers’ need for direction and need for support. The roles of leaders are such that they must change in order to meet the current and future needs of their followers. If leadership focuses on task only, it is no good; it leadership focuses on people only, it is no good. Good leadership always strives to strike a balance between structure and consideration as implied in the article.

Quadrants: A quadrant is a quarter of a circle. For example, a circle has four quadrants.

Facilitative Leadership: This kind of leadership trust and respect followers. It believes that followers have unlimited resources to contribute to an organization. Therefore, followers’ values and beliefs should be respected and released. This kind of leadership involves followers in the planning process in order to bring out followers’ energy and expertise. It is used in the article to contrast with authoritarian leadership.

Theory X: Theory X refers to a set of assumptions that theory X persons may possess. People who are considered theory X persons inherently dislike work and will avoid it if they can. Because of this characteristically human dislike of work, most people must be coerced, controlled, threatened in the interest of organizational objectives. Leaders must change their roles when dealing with theory X persons. Now their roles should be that of directors or coaches. These two roles work best with theory X persons in today’s organizations.

E-Leadership: e means electronic in this article. e-leadership refers to leadership in the new era, namely the information age which is characterized by fast development of technology, a global economy where businesses constantly move across borders to wherever they can make a profit. Leadership is needed to fix many of the problems created by the information age.

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