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Strategic Leadership in Examples from Personal Experience


Leadership is interchangeably connected with a vision and the capability of an individual to create and share among the employees a unified perspective regarding why certain things should be done to help the organisation achieve its objectives. This is the central and crucial factor differentiation between managers and leaders. A person who is a good manager can make sure that the firm’s day to day goals are achieved, but only a leader has the skill to inspire and encourage people to work towards a single objective. This paper will present three examples of leadership and an analysis of them using different theoretical concepts.

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Leadership After Promotion Example

The first example of leadership and the first experience of being a leader was my promotion to become a team manager for our company’s new project. As a manager, I was responsible for discussing the project requirements with the client, developing a plan for resourcing and completing this project, choosing team members and managing their work, which are typical tasks for this position. While I was familiar with the majority of the steps necessary to prepare for the project and avoid any bottlenecks and delays, I had no prior experience of managing a large team. Hence, I decided to use the approach the seemed to be suitable – making the majority of decisions on my own, communicating them to the team members and closely monitoring each stage of the project, mainly because I wanted this project to succeed.

Leadership Theory

The leadership theory that relates to the case above is Lewin’s theory of management. According to this concept, there are three primary leadership or management styles – “autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire” (Hall-Fentiman, 2017, para.2). The main difference between the three is the amount of freedom and input a leader has from their followers. In an ideal scenario, a person should use a flexible approach to be able to use all three strategies, depending on the circumstances. In the case above, I adopted the autocratic leadership style, which one can characterise as a leader as the sole decision-maker and the person holding all the power (What is autocratic leadership, no date).

While autocratic leadership may seem unnecessary and bad practice for real-life work, there are some scenarios where the authoritarian approach can lead to success. For example, Zenger (2018, para. 2) argues that both the political and business environment can benefit from having more autocratic leaders and refers to an assessment from a Standford professor Pfeffer, that ‘the most effective leaders are narcissistic and deceptive and do not rely on democratic processes at all.’ This sharply contrasts with the image of a leader that is advocated in the business community, where leaders are seen as people who collaborate with their followers and help guide them but do not intrude on their work, but the assessment is based on real-life leaders.

Although the context should define the leadership strategy, the question of which leadership theory is the most effective remains unanswered. Here, a difference between the theory and practice is evident, since Zenger (2018) cites other professionals who work as human resources managers or editors of professional magazines and who advocate for the autocratic leadership because, in some cases, the top-down approach is more effective when compared to a democratic and all-inclusive strategy. Since there is no unified view of the best leadership strategy, one can assume that being aware of the different leadership styles and applying them based on the context and the culture of an organisation is the best choice. The scholars and practitioners explored this strategy and developed a concept of situational leadership.

Regardless of the style one chooses, a leader should not forget to be mindful of the team they are working with, even when applying the autocratic approach. Situational leadership allows adjusting the leader’s strategy based on the analysis of the current state of things, leading to better outcomes of work. The key steps are “diagnosing, adapting and communicating”, and according to Hersey, these three elements are the crucial competencies of a leader (What do leaders do, no date). For example, communication in a manner that encourages dialogue instead of merely telling employees what their task is can facilitate understanding of the responsibility and vision and buy-in.

Arguably, I was unprepared to become a manager of this team and even less ready to become a leader. However, from the course and the present analysis, I can understand that I used a leadership style I was familiar with instead of evaluating the project’s requirements and the team I was working with and choosing a laissez-fair approach. I encountered many conflicts because I worked with a group of experienced professionals and failed to consider their viewpoints, which led to some mistakes. However, this project and the course material allowed me to use this experience as a learning path.

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Leadership and Motivation Example

In the second case where I had to demonstrate leadership qualities, I was working with my team on developing a new product that the company wanted to introduce to its clients on a short deadline. I worked in collaboration with different departments and managers, and there were several leaders who helped their teams work towards creating a new product on a short deadline. The main issue I encountered was high levels of demotivation towards the end of the project, which are mainly connected to a tight deadline and stress that the employees went through to prepare everything. I learned how to inspire them to continue working, and I understood the importance of vision since this project was part of the company’s CSR strategy and will contribute to the well-being of our community. I used this factor as a way to empower my team and to encourage them to work despite being tired because of long work hours and having to work in a rush.

Leadership Theory

The concept of empowering employees is another essential element of the leadership theory since it allows creating a positive environment, where the employees understand that their opinions and input are valued, even if not all of their ideas and suggestions are implemented. Leaders may struggle with this approach since it disrupts their power, but it is an essential aspect of leadership.

Empowerment, in essence, is sharing power from a leader to a member. Owens and Hekman (2012, p. 787) argue that a humble leader positively affects the subordinates and impacts the change and growth in an organisation by ‘modelling to followers how to grow and produces positive organisational outcomes.’ This type of behaviour contributes to empowerment since a humble leader can allow the followers to be responsible for their actions and create an environment where they can voice their opinions. Singh and Rangnekar (2020) found that this approach allows the employees to be more proactive and be more goal-oriented.

Upon analysing this case, I understand that this project is a valuable asset in my understanding of empowerment and motivation because I first-hand experienced how a good vision can inspire people to work harder. In the past, I did not understand the importance of empowering because of the perception that employees should be motivated to do their job the best they can. However, this project helped me improve my understanding of empowerment and cooperation with subordinates.

Leadership and Cooperation Example

In the final example of leadership, I will discuss the cooperation with another department in a client case, which allowed me to manage a team of diverse individuals. For this project, I was assigned to lead an already established group that had already begun the work with a different manager, but he had to leave the project early. An evident difficulty was the fact that that manager had already established a specific work environment and workflow, and I had to adapt to it. Another issue I faced was resistance hostility from some members of the team, which I can also attribute to the fact that they wanted to continue working with that manager. Although I successfully delivered the project, over the course of it, I had to work on improving my communication skills to establish a better connection with the part of the team that showed resistance.

Leadership Theory

There is always a relationship that develops between a leader and team members, where exchange occurs. The Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX) aims to determine the specifics of this exchange and the mutual benefit received from it (Boogaard, no date; Leadership-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory, no date; Wallis, 2020). The dyadic relationship is the basis of LMX, which is a two-way relationship between a leader and members, and the quality of it can be evaluated based on trust, respect, and similar factors (Janse, 2019). Notably, this relationship develops regardless of the leader’s intentions and can lead to the creation of in-group and out-group members or people supporting and opposing the leader. As a result, one can face resistance from the out-group members due to a failure to establish a good relationship. Martin et al. (no date) argue that the focus of LMX is the quality of the relationship between the two parties, and in accordance with the basis of LMX, different types of exchanges lead to a differentiation in the way each employee is treated. As a result, the performance of employees can be affected either negatively or positively, based on the interactions with the leader.

Although maintaining a good relationship with the employees is essential, it is also essential to keep in mind the impact that employees have on managers. According to Andrews and Francis-Smythe (2010), subordinates with narcissistic traits or psychopathy may suppress their managers and can have an adverse impact on their co-workers. Therefore, apart from recognising the importance of an exchange between the leader and employees, it is essential to be able to identify harmful behaviour and address it, which is something that I plan on employing in the future to maintain an excellent organisational environment and culture. With this project, I was able to intuitively understand the hostility of the group, its causes and work towards achieving a better relationship.

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To conclude, this essay presents the three examples of leadership from my personal experience of managing teams in several projects for my organisation. To analyse the first scenario, I used the theory of different leadership styles, focusing on laissez-faire and autocratic leadership as the two opposites that can be used depending on the context. In the second case, I applied the theory of empowering employees to promote better engagement. Finally, the third case demonstrates the importance of LMX in the interactions between a leader and their followers. This analysis helped me understand how leadership theory helps analyse these situations and use three different theories of leadership to reflect on real-life experiences. This critical analysis encourages me to adopt a similar behaviour in the future – focus on the exchange with the employees, empowerment and a more liberal approach to managing their work.

Reference List

  1. Andrews, H. and Francis-Smythe, J. (2010) Dangerous liaisons. Web.
  2. Owens, B. P. and Hekman, D. R. (2012) ‘Modeling how to grow: an inductive examination of humble leader behaviours, contingencies and outcomes’, Academy of Management Journal, 55(4), pp. 787-818.
  3. Singh, A. and Rangnekar, S. (2020) ‘Empowering leadership in hospital employees: effects on goal orientation, job conditions, and employee proactivity’, International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, pp. 1-10.
  4. Zenger, J. (2018) The need for autocratic leadership is half right.
  5. What do leaders do?’ (no date) Situational, no date. Web.
  6. Wallis, N.C. (2020) ‘Transforming in relationship: when Leader–Member Exchange Theory meets adult development theory’, in Reams, J. (ed.) Maturing leadership: how adult development impacts leadership, London: Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 151-169.

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