Leadership Concepts: Theory and Critical Discussion


Leadership is a concept that has long been studied, yet there are still no guidelines or at least a clear definition of this skill. Every business needs a leading individual or a group of people who would shape the company’s policies and define strategies. Despite the traditional understanding of this role defining two types of working parties, which are the leaders and the subordinates, the former do not necessarily have the higher position.

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The modern approach accepts the possibility of horizontal relationships. This fact makes significant the idea of motivating employees that are not necessarily required to take orders from leaders but rather act on behalf of their emotional devotion to the working process and community. The focus of analysis is how leadership behaviour may influence the motivation of workers both positively and negatively, and why is it important to be flexible in the modern business world.

Leaders and Managers

In order to better understand the role of a leader, his or her functions must be first compared with those of a manager. Although both concepts are very alike, they imply an entirely different approach towards company strategy and goal setting. The primary interest of a manager is to keep the stability of the whole working system. All strategies are developed through a detailed analysis with a consideration of the received experience. While leaders also form strategies after a thorough planning, they prefer to be flexible and rely on changes rather than on stability. Diversity is seen be leaders is one of the key components of the success since the uniform community does not possess the same variety of ideas required for achieving progress.

Leadership Styles

In the past, only the directive approach was considered appropriate. Employees were viewed only as units capable of executing orders efficiently. This approach is still popular in structures that are associated with the high level of risk and routine tasks. However, other leadership styles become more popular these days. For instance, transformational leadership serves to create value for employee communities through offering them additional material and psychological benefits, increasing the level of motivation and trust.

Transformational leadership.
Transformational leadership.

Empowering leadership aims to improve the results without giving the direct orders but rather influencing skilled workers to progress themselves. Literature suggests that these different styles are used for translating a message to different types of workers, depending on their employee status, that would address their emotional needs (Miner 2011, p. 104). In this case, acting through encouraging rather than ordering is more valuable, yet it cannot fit all company structures.

Motivation through Leadership

Nowadays, employee engagement is valued as never before. Business owners realise that they need to collect opinions from all levels of their company structure to better understand the weak sides and to draft better strategies for the future. In order to have workers participating in the process beyond their standard duties, they have to be highly motivated to contribute.

However, there is one obstacle that needs to be kept in mind. Leadership belongs to the concept of environment that surrounds each employee at work. It this sense, it is a set of relationship qualities and psychological contract policies that define the level of satisfaction. The problem is that the influence of environment on motivation is accounted for only 50 percent of the total number of factors (Adair 2009, p. 89).

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Other elements are those coming from an employee. That is why it is necessary for leaders not only to be motivated themselves and create the corresponding environment but also to hire motivated workers from the start. Usually, candidates seek for a combination of a good salary, a rewarding atmosphere, and a possibility of career growth. While all of these elements may be offered by leaders, there can be other factors as well.

Another concept is that a positive environment created by leadership is very hard to maintain. Moreover, it is not a frequent case of people becoming motivated by good conditions, yet the bad environment will almost necessarily result in the decrease of engagement (Shelton 2012, p. 100). Once again, this fact serves as a reminder to keep only motivated workers from the start. Recognising real devotion is one of the qualities of a good leader who both knows the job requirements and the attitude that should be expected regarding the position.

Leadership nowadays also requires a great portion of emotional intelligence. Of course, each company has goals that need to be achieved, yet having people work towards them despite their emotional state on a particular day may decrease their motivation level. In fact, when leaders show that they care for their workers, the latter often reply with the same attitude and are eager to help even if it requires to put extra effort not included in the official contract. Leaders must recognise psychological needs of employees and respond accordingly. They must understand that people are the most valuable resource of any business that defines its success. Working in a diverse community puts great pressure on leaders, yet they should be able to manage each member equally.


Leadership is a concept that is different from management in its approach to changes in operations and strategy. It has much to do with finding an appropriate model of working with people depending on their employee status. The type of work also plays a great role in determining the leadership style. In general, the directive approach does not have much space for creating an emotional background for employee engagement.

Transformational and empowering leadership styles are more appropriate for increasing the level of motivation. However, leadership belongs to the environmental dimension of work, which has its limits of influence, which is not more than half of the total number of factors. Thus, managers must recognise initially motivated workers before hiring or promoting them. Finally, a high level of emotional intelligence is a skill that should be essential to every leader that needs to have employees engaged in the working process.


Adair, J 2009, Leadership and motivation: The fifty-fifty rule and the eight key principles of motivating others, Kogan Page Ltd, London, UK.

Miner, J B 2011, Organizational behavior 6: Integrated theory development and the role of the unconscious, M. E. Shape, Inc, Armonk, NY.

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Shelton, E J 2012, Transformational leadership: Trust, motivation and engagement, Trafford Publishing, Bloomington, IN.

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