In the past, the study of leadership has mostly been focused on the attributes of people who have the authority to make critical decisions. However, modern researchers argue that much attention should also be paid to the characteristics of followers and various situational factors (Dugan, 2017). This paper will discuss how the interplay of leader characteristics, follower characteristics, and situational factors affect people’s behavior and the effectiveness of their work. Overall, leaders should remember that their beliefs can come in conflict with the values of employees and the organizational environment; therefore, they must understand the cause of this problem and demonstrate the need for change.
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Leaders’ success often relies on their motivational skills and ability to bring out the best qualities of followers; however, this objective can be attained if the characteristics of these people are compatible with each other. To illustrate this argument, one can refer to the situations when there is a conflict between their worldviews and the values of these people. For instance, transformational leaders often value independent initiatives of workers and sometimes urge them to adopt unconventional methods or strategies to solve existing problems (Dugan, 2017). However, such leaders are more likely to succeed if their followers are people who are ready to embrace changes and innovations. They may not produce satisfactory outcomes when they interact with individuals whose priorities are security and stability (Oreg & Goldenberg, 2015). Thus, the compatibility of leader and follower characteristics is essential for effectiveness. By contrast, the conflict between these attributes is likely to diminish the probability of success.
Researchers also focus on the impacts of situational factors that often affect the relationships between leaders and their followers. Scholars can distinguish such aspects as the complexity of workplace tasks, the structure and size of the company, and the quality of social relationships among participants (Hewstone, Stroebe, & Jonas, 2016). Some of these issues may have adverse impacts on interactions between leaders and followers. For instance, the rules of some organizations lay stress on the necessity to follow the instructions; moreover, they often discourage employee empowerment (Pugh, 2015). Under such circumstances, leaders may not be able to rely on the assistance of pro-active workers. They will have no incentives to take independent steps. By contrast, some businesses recognize and reward those people who are ready and willing to embrace innovations. In such an environment, business administrators will find it easier to implement new strategies. In their turn, business administrators should consider how situational factors and follower characteristics can determine the outcomes of their initiatives.
This discussion suggests that leaders may encounter several difficulties when they interact with followers. At first, it is possible to consider the conflict between leaders’ and followers’ values. For example, a leader may stress the importance of such things as innovation, the need to adapt to new trends, and pro-activeness. By contrast, his/her followers may focus on risk aversion, clarity of workplace duties, and the desire to preserve one’s status within the organization (Oreg & Goldenberg, 2015). In this case, the strategies introduced by the leader may not be effective because employees will be reluctant to accept new roles and responsibilities. Situational factors can also present serious challenges. For instance, one can refer to the problems typical of very bureaucratic organizations. Very often, they do not foster cooperation and information sharing (Pugh, 2015). Under such circumstances, the new approaches advocated by leaders will be adopted very slowly. Moreover, it will be very difficult to improve the performance of workers.
To address these problems, a leader will have to adopt several approaches that can prompt individuals and organizations to re-evaluate their current behaviors. Firstly, this person should demonstrate that current practices result in inefficiency. For example, he/she may focus on the cases showing that unwillingness to take independent initiatives slows down the performance of the company or provokes customers’ discontent. Similarly, this individual will have to advocate for the changes in the design of the organization. In particular, he/she may insist on the removal of bureaucratic barriers. Sometimes, a leader may take a different path to address these issues. For instance, he/she may decide to adapt to the existing organizational environment and characteristics of followers. Nevertheless, such a strategy is not likely to be effective because it does not address any of the problems undermining the performance of a company. The main issue is that a leader should accurately assess the characteristics of followers and situational factors. If this task is not done, the activities of this person will be met with misunderstanding and apprehension.
On the whole, leaders can successfully achieve their goals if they accurately determine whether their values are consistent with the characteristics of their followers as well as the organizational environment. In many cases, their attributes can come in conflict with the priorities and needs of workers. Situational factors can also undermine the initiatives of leaders since they can discourage workers from accepting new behaviors and practices. To overcome these challenges, decision-makers should highlight the need to transform existing worldviews, values, and institutional policies.
Dugan, J. (2017). Leadership theory: Cultivating critical perspectives. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
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Hewstone, M., Stroebe, W., & Jonas, K. (2016). An introduction to social psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.
Oreg, S., & Goldenberg, J. (2015). Resistance to innovation: Its sources and manifestations. Chicago, Ill: University of Chicago Press.
Pugh, L. (2015). Change management in information services (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.