My Vision of Leadership

screen-shot-2016-11-12-at-3-37-18-pm (2016)

The 21st century is characterized by rapid changes in technology, rising global population and scarce resources (Barton 2016). All these external influences have developed new opportunities, but also developed new challenges for aspirational leaders (Wharton 2016). The leaders of tomorrow need to develop both short-term and long-term strategic plans, build a network of managerial support for improved decision making and apply a leadership which is “fit for purpose” (Barton 2015).

My Inspiration: The Late Steve Jobs

Figure 2: The Late Steve Jobs (Gallo 2015)

In the past, I was lucky to work with a few great leaders from whom, I like to think that I’ve picked up, precisely what makes their leadership style effective. A successful leader, in my opinion, always starts with a clear vision. Steve Jobs is one of the leaders I admire, and I believe that I have plenty to learn from his leadership style. By watching his biographic movie “Steve Jobs” (2015), I’ve learned that Jobs was a visionary leader, always obsessed with excellence, making everything perfect, and not settling for less. Throughout his career at Apple, he has inspired me (and many others) to “dream bigger” and “change the world!” (Gallo 2015). Alike Steve Jobs, I’ve always been an idealist and a dreamer, working extremely hard and passionately in my job, while also visualizing to change the world into a better one.

My Vision of Leadership

If I were a leader today, I would choose to apply a combination of situational and inspirational leadership styles, as I consider that there is no single leadership style that fits all circumstances and effective leaders need to adapt their style to a given situation (Mullins 2010). The diagram below summarises the situational leadership behavior model by McKinsey & Company (McKinsey 2014).

Figure 3: McKinsey Situational Leadership Behaviour Model (McKinsey 2014)

McKinsey (2014) discovered that the importance of applying different leadership styles will vary according to a different level of organizational health. The Baseline (Figure 3) is a generic starting point, where leaders should evaluate the current situation of an organization by encouraging teamwork (McKinsey 2014). In the second stage, a leader should focus on fact-based decisions, such as effective problem solving and recovery from failures (McKinsey 2014). Organizations which are “moving on up” need leaders who are able to keep teams on task and direct them towards well-defined goals, while companies in the top quartiles are most effectively lead by inspirational leaders who employ motivational behaviours (McKinsey 2014). Although it seems simple to apply, there are many managers who cannot identify correctly the stage of the organization, and therefore, fail in implementing the situational model.

What Have I Learnt so Far?

Throughout this course I have improved my knowledge in various areas of leadership which can be applied in my future leadership role. Firstly, I’ve learned that in a work environment it’s important to adopt an ethical approach based on the coexistence of deontological and consequentialist ethics. Additionally, I’ve studied Tuckman’s team formation model which can minimize conflicts and discrimination in teams. Next, to become an effective leader I will account for continuous changes and use communication skills to manage employees’ resistance to change. Finally, I’ve learned that leadership and management are different concepts and the efficiency of leadership styles varies based on the context.

Figure 4: DISC Personality Test

Fig. 4 DISC Personality Test shows that my personality is high on dominance (44%) and influence (25%) and low in steadiness (18%) and compliance (13%). This test indicates that I thrive in competitive situations and enjoy preforming challenging tasks. I find this description accurate, as I have always enjoyed challenging duties which require stepping outside of my comfort zone, allowing me to exercise my critical thinking skills. Another benefit of my personality is that I have a strong inner motivation to influence people and circumstance.

What Skills Should I Improve?

To become an aspirational leader, I should learn how to apply different sets of skills and actions in different situations. Although I have developed some leadership skills, in my previous job as a business development executive, such as managing a diverse team, there are still some areas that I would like to improve. By applying the Johari Window and receiving feedback from my MBA classmates throughout this course, I’ve learnt that my colleagues perceive me as a perfectionist, with a dominant personality but that I tend to forget about time management. To develop these skills, I’ve worked out a 6-months personal development plan which aims to track my performance against my skills development goals.


Ultimately, I consider that leadership is taught, not inherited, and only by continuous development, thirst for knowledge and persistence, one can become a successful leader. As Thomas Friedman, a New York Times columnist, said “the age or average is over” and thus, being able to lead in the 21st century, an aspiring leader requires added “creativity, imagination and persistence” Gallo (2015).


Barton, D. (2016) Dominic Barton [online] available from <; [12 November 2016]

Gallo, C. (2015) How Steve Jobs Inspired People To ‘Dream Bigger’ [online]available from <; [12 November 2016]

McKinsey&Co. (2014) Leadership In Context [online] available from <; [12 November 2016]

Wharton (2015) Mckinsey’s Dominic Barton On Leadership [online] available from <; [12 November 2016].



Leadership and Change

Change is a natural part of the business life cycle and managers play a very important role in leading change effectively. While some leaders fully embrace new challenges and treat it as an opportunity for learning, growth and innovation, others tend to resist changes and prefer having a sense of security and consistence instead (Mullins 2010:753).

A Leader’s Role in Change

I disagree with Mullins’ statement that “there is little management can do about resistance to change” (Mullins 2010:753). First of all, organisational changes start with a leader’s vision. In order to implement change successfully, effective leaders need to plan, execute and communicate their change strategy effectively across the organization (Wilson 2014). Furthermore, leaders should also make themselves accessible at all time and communicate openly their vision for change with their employees (Trapp 2015). BCG, cited by Trapp (2015) added that employees need their leaders to be visible especially during challenging times.

Change Models

One of the widespread models managers can use to manage organizational change effectively is the McKinsey 7-S Framework.  Developed in the late 1970s by Robert Waterman and Tom Peters, the model offers a holistic approach by addressing the critical role of coordination, rather than structure, in managing change (McKinsey 2008). The framework is based on the theory that, in order to achieve effectiveness in a workplace, seven different elements need to be aligned (McKinsey 2008). These 7Ss are: strategy, structure, style, staff, skills, systems and shared values (McKinsey 2008). To better explain how the seven elements work together, the following illustration has been included.

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 9.19.41 PM.png
Figure 1: The McKinsey 7-S Framework (McKinsey 2008)

Nowadays, more than ever, coordination plays an important role as organizations are growing in size and structure alone isn’t organization. Thus, the McKinsey model provides a successful framework that can be applied by managers today regardless of the nature of change –  be it merger and acquisition, a new process or change of leadership (Mourifield 2014). Despite it being very successful in managing change in large corporations, the McKinsey model has met with high incidences of failure among smaller firms. One of the main reasons is due to its complexity to understand and apply, as changes in one element will trigger changes in other areas (Normandin 2012).

PEARSON – embracing change

Giant education publisher Pearson went through a major change in 2012, when John Fallon took the CEO position from long-time leader Marjorie Scardino (Pearson 2016). Fallon announced an entirely new game plan and named it the “Global Education Strategy” (Cavanagh 2016). He emphasized that the company’s goal is to help students succeed and, by listening to teachers’ needs, he sought to bring innovation in classrooms (Cavanagh 2016). Apart from changing the vision, he also grouped the workforce into six distinct business units, each unit having a clear and distinct goal (Cavanagh 2016). Today, Pearson’s reach extends to “open” education resources, language training, virtual schools, testing and various other areas (Pearson 2016).

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 1.52.15 PM.png
Figure 2: Pearson Changed Its Traditional Business Model by Introducing Digital Platforms (Pearson 2016)

Nevertheless, employee resistance to change is normal. For every action has an equal opposite reaction Newton said ( 2016). Change creates anxiety and uncertainty as it requires new skills, new ways of thinking and doing things (Heathfield 2016). Resistance to change can be minimized by forming an employee-oriented and trusting work environment prior to the change (Heathfield 2016). Next, managers have to wholeheartedly communicate the change to employees, encouraging them to provide feedback for improvement of processes (Heathfield 2016).

BORDERS – resisting change

When companies are too late to implement change, they lose important momentum. While Amazon has been investing in new technology, Borders, the second largest bookstore in US, resisted change by failing to recognize the need of having an online sales platform. Instead, they decided to outsource online sales to Amazon which was a colossal mistake (Bomey 2011). Therefore, in 2011, Borders declared that it was closing its 399 stores and laying off 11,000 workers (Wang 2014).

“As someone once said, the Internet is the comet that killed the dinosaur. I’m afraid Borders is one of those dinosaurs.” Said David Dykhouse, General Manager of Borders (Bomey 2011).

In conclusion, leadership plays the main role in organizational change. Both tangible and intangible elements of organizational culture share a connection to the vision and mission of an organization (Hodgetts 2005). Profit for instance, is a tangible element while employee morale and team spirit is intangible, but they are all linked by a strong vision set by leadership (Hodgetts 2005). In other words, leaders who combine both tangible and intangible elements in managing change, with high level of trust and transparent communication, will have a huge advantage.


  1. Bomey, N. (2011) Borders Plans To Liquidate, Ending 40-Year-Old Bookstore Chain [online] available from <; [11 November 2016]
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Most Effective Leadership and Management Styles

Leadership and management are actually different concepts and disciplines, nevertheless, there is an overlapping  in the skills they both require (Dusya and Crossan 2016). Prof. Kanosuke Matsushinta from Harvard University (2013) explained the differences in the two concepts as following:

  • Management is more concerned with the processes of running a day-to-day business such as planning, clarifying jobs, quality control and problem-solving
  • Leadership is about “aligning people to the vision”. That involves communicating, motivating and inspiring people to follow an aspiration

To distinguish further amongst the two concepts, we should look at the differences and similarities between leadership and management functions as described in the classical theories and models.

  • In 1916, Henri Fayol created the first principles of the Classical Management Theory. In his view, there are five functions of management which include planning, organizing, coordinating, commanding and controlling (CMI Institute 2012).
  • Meanwhile, John Adair (1973) identified eight functions of leadership. These involve setting goals, planning the task, briefing the team, controlling the results, evaluating the outcomes, motivating individuals, organizing manpower and setting an example (Gosling, Marturano and Dennison 2015). 

These theories imply that even though, both leadership and management functions are important in an organisation, sometimes the boundary between these roles may be difficult to ascertain. Some managers can be effective leaders and vice-versa, but it’s not always the case that good leaders are great managers (Williams 2016). Ratcliffe (2013) argued that even though Winston Churchill (ex. British Prime Minister) was a strong leader, he wasn’t a manager.                                  

To better understand the leadership concept, various theoretical models have been proposed. 

John Adair’s Action-Centered Leadership Model (shown in Figure 1, below) implies that a leader’s effectiveness is measured by effectiveness in the following three areas: accomplishment of a common task needs, accomplishment of team needs and meeting individual team members’ needs. The three needs are represented as overlapping circles in the figure below (Mullins 2010:413).

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.27.19 PM

Figure 1: Action-Centered Model (Source: Constructed based on Mullins 2010:413)

Some of the advantages of Adair’s action-centered model

  • The model is simple and easy to apply in the workplace.
  • It also implies that leadership can be trained rather than being inborn.
  • The list of leadership activities can be linked with Henri Fayol’s classic management functions. For instance, building a team spirit involves leadership while achieving a common task involves management (Mullins 2010:413). 

Criticism of Adair’s Model

Achieving balance among the three main leadership functions is difficult in real-life business context as many leaders tend to prioritise one need above the others.

  • For instance, John Gibbs the CIO of Rolls Royce gets tasks done by encouraging cross-functional teamwork and close relationship with individual staff, whose needs for job sharing support or development of talent he supports (Rossi 2016).
  • On the other side, the former Apple CEO, Steve Jobs was more concentrated on task accomplishment, leaving individual and team needs secondary (Mitchelson 2014).

Transformational Leadership Style

I believe that one of the most efficient approaches to managing the work of subordinates is the transformational leadership style. Within an organization, transformational leaders impact both economic and human transformations as they set visions, missions and goals that inspire employees to work towards achieving them (Givens 2014). Bass and Avolio (1994), have associated the following behaviours with transformational leadership: moral and ethical behaviours, inspirational motivation, encourage critical thinking and innovation, paying attention to individual needs and making decisions for the greater good of society.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 3.23.26 PM.png

Figure 2: Transformational Leadership Traits (Source: Constructed based on Bass and Avolio 1994)

Elon Musk: co-founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX

Figure 3: Elon Musk

Leading by example, Elon Musk is one of the contemporary transformational leaders that I admire most. After the 2008 financial crisis, Musk took the leadership of Tesla Motors where he currently serves as CEO (Forbes 2016). His original vision together with strong dedication, perseverance and hard work (he works 100 hours a week) has transformed the working culture at Tesla Motors (Gregerson and Dyer 2016).  After his takeover, Tesla engineers started working harder to innovate and transformed the automotive industry by introducing electric cars that “go faster and further than other vehicles” (Gregerson and Dyer 2016). In 2016, Forbes recognized his influence as a leader and ranked Musk 34th most powerful man in the world (Forbes 2016).

Steve Jobs: the late CEO of Apple

Figure 4: Steve Jobs

Alike Musk, Steve Jobs was a genius and a visionary leader that transformed a company that was heading towards bankruptcy in 1997 into the most valuable brand in the world in 2011 (Entrepreneur 2011). Under his leadership, he helped transform Apple by introducing a series of revolutionary technologies including the iPad and Iphone amongst others. He spoke with passion, intensity and emotion about his values and beliefs and he also transferred those into Apple’s products he launched (Isaacson 2012).


I agree with the CMI (2013) statement that there is no single ideal leadership style, and approaches vary according to circumstances. As such, it may be difficult to describe leaders by using one style or another, and a combination of styles may be more correct. For example, if the economic and political environment are favourable or at a stable stage, then a leader may find that a managerial approach is more essential than transformational or charismatic leadership ideologies. Conversely, during economic downturn the inspirational leadership style is more essential as leaders have the opportunity to activate people to do something they haven’t done before and push the innovation boundaries; not so much to do something they’ve always been doing well (Ratcliffe 2013).


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The Challenge of Managing a Diverse Team

Diversity among workforce is natural in an organization. Individual differences can foster creativity, happiness and fulfilment at work but they may also be the cause for clashes and disagreements. Managing workforce differences has become a key skill for managers who need to match the skills of an individual with the requirements of the organization (Mullins 2010).

People are unique in many ways. The Four Layers of Diversity Wheel by Gardenswartz and Rowe (Washington 2008:1- 4) shows the complexity of factors that influence and shape a person’s unique character. Plenty of studies attempt to measure an individual’s personality such as OCEAN Test which measures “The Big 5 Personality Traits”: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism (Mullins 2010). Managers use personality tests to identify differences in skills and characters while forming a team.

Figure 1: The 4 Layers of Diversity Wheel created by Gardenswartz & Rowe (2003)


Building teams requires the ability to understand people’s strengths and unique skills and knowing how to maneuver them in an efficient manner (Llopis 2012). Tuckman’s team formation model relates the way individuals behave when they come together as a group. The model comprises of four stages: forming, storming, norming and performing and implies that once the issues of processes and feelings are addressed in the initial stages, it’s expected that the team will reach a fruitful final stage and vice versa (Hut 2010). The four stages of the team formation are summarized in the diagram below:

Figure 2: Tuckman’s Team Formation Mode

While Tuckman’s suggests a linear succession from one stage to next stage and has been successfully implemented in small teams, human processes are subject to variation and “stages” of development can be skipped or reversed (Clements and Jones 2008). Other theorists have proposed cyclical alternative models such as Bales (1965) who argues that team members seek a balance between getting the task done and building interpersonal relationships. Therefore, there is a movement between norming and performing (Kemper 2015).


Diversity is seen differently by organizations. While some companies promote diversity by valuing influences from diversified talents, others tolerate it by merely following the rules, the rest see it as a setback (Rawat and Bsergekar 2016).

Advantages of Diversity Management

Promoting diversity may bring plenty of advantages such as increased employee satisfaction, customer focus, more innovation and creativity and improved cross-team learning (Mullins 2010). Hunt et al. (2014) reported that companies having higher workforce diversity have a competitive advantage. KPMG is an example of a firm who took a long-term strategic approach to engaging diverse talent. Having a large multinational client base, KPMG took the effort to understand their business protocols and culture by integrating diversity with corporate responsibility (Llopis 2011). (2015) ranked KPMG in Top 50 most successful companies in employing women and minorities in management roles (32% higher than US average).

Figure 3: KPMG Diversity Forecast 2018 (Source: The Guardian 2014)

Challenges of Diversity Management

  1. Not Understanding Differences in Cultural Values

Majority of managers lack experience in managing culturally diverse teams. They are accustomed to working with people with whom they share same values and beliefs in life and when they face a diverse workforce they fail to understand what motivates individual team members (Majlergaard 2012). Many Korean companies including Samsung are struggling with understanding their cultural diverse workforce, and employees who “stand out” from the norm end up leaving the company (Hwangjung 2013).

  1. Discrimination and Stereotyping 

Green et. al (2015) suggest that prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination in an organization harms working relationships and brings damage to the morale and productivity in a diverse environment. Connor (2015) found that 31% of women feel discriminated at work while men are offered better opportunities.

  1. Lack of Proper Training Programs and Promotion for Women

Many corporations have failed at applying diversity training programs which can be seen in the lack of promotion opportunities among women and minorities. Fortune Magazine (2006) found that only 2% of CEOs in Fortune 1000 were women.


In in the end, “it takes great leaders to build great teams”.  Team building is both an “art and a science” as it requires exceptional understanding of the differences in personality and skills to build high performance and long-lasting teams (Llopis 2012). I strongly believe that a successful team building activity will lead to a more successful workplace environment.


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Leadership and Ethics

Many academicians describe leadership as revolving around vision, ideas and has more to do with inspiring people as to direction and goals than with day-to-day implementation (Bennis 2007:132).  In order to define ethical leadership one must examine the root concepts of the two main schools of ethics: deontological ethics and consequentialist ethics. 

  • Deontological ethics places special emphasis on the relationship between duty and morality of people’s actions and not the consequences of their actions. Philosopher Kant explained the concept as follows: “it is unethical to tell a lie in order to save a friend from murder” (Introduction to ethics 2014). According to Zidaric (2015), business leaders such as Henry Ford (Ford Motors) and Jack Ma (Alibaba) have enforced deontological principles in their corporate culture. By treating every individual they inspired their employees to follow them in acting morally right.
  • In contrast, consequentialist ethics focuses on the consequences of an action. Firstly, whether an act is right or wrong depends on the results of that act and secondly, the better the consequence an act produces, the better that act (Vilcox and Mohan 2008). The main advantage of this theory is its flexibility as it can account for any circumstance, however rare or extraordinary. On the other hand, consequentialist ethics are impractical in the real life as “the goodness” of consequences is difficult to measure and it’s easy for leaders be biased. Milton Friedman, a consequentialist leader, said that businesses should focus more on increasing profits rather than acting in a socially responsible way.

Among the most popular ethical leadership models, the 4-V model, developed by Dr. Bill Grace, has been widely implemented mainly due to its simplicity.

4V Model of Ethical Leadership

The model is based on the four main pillars of ethical leadership: value, vision voice and virtue. Value is at the top of the triangle as committing to core values is the starting point for ethical leaders. Leaders also need to be visionary and anticipate how their actions will benefit all members of society in the future. Next, ethical leaders should voice out their values to influence and motivate the public in acting towards a common goal. Virtue symbolises ethical integrity and doing what is right for the common good. Virtuous behaviour (ethical behaviour) is at the centre of the model acting as a glue that binds all the V’s together (Ghurman and Aswathappa 2010). 


Ethical Leaders are defined as honest, trustworthy, caring and principled persons who are proactive models for ethical conduct and practice what they preach (Brown and Trevino 2006:505). Ethisphere has named three main principles to help identify ethical businesses. These are: enforcement of ethical corporate standards internally, enabling managers and workers to make better decisions and contribution to shaping industry standards.

Example 1: Ethical Leadership at Accenture

Accenture, listed for nine consecutive years as one of the most ethical companies by Ethisphere, exemplifies how a company built on a solid ethical foundation can raise the bar for ethical standards in the industry. Accenture makes the growth of people and communities its main focus by implementing business practices that benefit the community. “We believe that companies should have a deep commitment to ethics from the top as well as sustained dedication to high standards from employees at every level” explained Chad Fentress (2010) of Accenture.

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 6.37.41 PM.png
Video link: Adrian Latja explains the three dimensions of ethical leadership at Accenture: value creation, business operation and people development

Contrary to ethical governance, unethical leadership is practiced by manipulative and self-absorbing leaders, who are insensitive to employees’ needs, use power in their self-interest, and have little regard for community development (De Hoogh and De Hartag 2008).

Example 2: Unethical Leadership at Toshiba
In 2015 Toshiba’s CEO and half of Toshiba’s Board resigned after an independent investigating team had uncovered that the management overstated earnings by “pressuring employees into creative accounting tactics such as postponing loss reports or moving certain costs into later years”. Toshiba’s corporate culture de-emphasized business ethics, reducing all decisions to the purely economic and it discouraged employees to challenge the management decisions. (Mochizuki 2015). Toshiba accounting scandal proves that unethical leadership based on greed and deception is unsustainable in the long term.

Toshiba CEO resigned as a result of Accounting Scandal (WSJ 2015)


To ensure that ethical issues are deliberated, leaders should learn from the past accounting scandals and craft an ethical culture based on their own virtues, promoting good ethics to all levels within an organization, appoint ethics officers and be morally courageous and motivate others to do the same (Dowling et al. 2009:153). However not all ethical dilemmas have a clear solution and in those cases it will reflect on the leader’s ability to make hard decisions for the best interest of the company.


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