Leadership is one of the most important factors that determine the overall performance of an organisation (Lussier & Achua, 2012). As argued by Hogg,Van Knippenberg and Rast (2012), how leaders in organisation’s delegated duties, make decisions and interact with other members either positively or negatively affects employee output and thus influences the attainment of the overall organisational objective. This paper presents an analysis of leadership at EEF, a membership organisation that is a counterpoint to the Trade Union movement and was founded with the aim of supporting employers in the United Kingdom. Among the key concepts addressed in this analysis are the key leadership theories can be applicable to this case and challenges encountered in the leadership process.
The role of Leadership at EEF
As an organisation that represents the interests of many employers around the United Kingdom, the leadership at EEF is obligated to ensure that it establishes the needs of its members and effectively addresses them. The role played by EEF’s leadership is exhibited by the fact that it addresses its members’ needs through providing them with advice, guidance and support that will enable them to efficiently and effectively manage their businesses. EEF’s leadership is also committed towards ensuring that the company is flexible enough to maintain its relevance in its service delivery by implementing the required changes. Some of the changes included the transformation of the company’s legal status from a federation to a limited company by guarantee in 2009 to ensure that that its status as a non-profit was protected. The other change that was implemented by the company’s leadership in the same year was converting it into a single integrated national entity from its original regionalised structure. This integration resulted into the appointment of another CEO who was expected to lead the company under its new banner of “One EEF”. All these changes were made by the company with the aim of addressing the £7 million loss experience in 2009, which was the first it had ever experienced since it was founded. A regional team leader of the company’s sales team, Tom Jones, was also appointed to oversee the now consolidated team. These strategies that were implemented by the company’s top leadership to ensure that the company remains on track highlights one of the key roles of leadership in an organisation, which is decision making. Whereas the £7 million loss that was suffered in 2009 might have highlighted flaws in the leadership of EEF that year, the immediate changes that were made show the commitment of the company’s leadership towards its good performance.
Analysis of Tom Jones’ Leadership using Leadership Theories
The Trait Theory of Leadership
From the case, Jones was selected out of the other applicants who were originally in charge of the regional sales functions. Out of these was an applicant who had expected to be selected as the team leader because of his long-term experience with the company. The trait theory of leadership can be used in explaining this selection. According to the trait leadership theory, good leaders possess a variety of characteristics and personal traits that enable them execute their leadership responsibilities well. These include integrity, assertiveness, empathy, honesty, openness, likeability and decision making skills (Colbert et al., 2012). The applicant mentioned in the case who had served for long as the leader of a regional sales team could have possessed some of these traits, but not as many as Jones exhibited. Some of the traits exhibited by Jones – as highlighted in the case – included openness, honesty and good decision making skills.
The Behavioural Theory
This theory focuses the behaviour of leaders as they guide their followers towards attaining the overall organisational objective, and classifies leaders as democratic, autocratic or Laissez-faire (DeRue et al., 2011). Democratic leaders are characterised by the fact that they involve other team members in the decision making process. The suggestions that receive the most support from team members are adopted as final decisions. Whilst this approach is lauded for ensuring effective teamwork, it becomes challenging to reach a final decision when the suggestions provided are many and differ widely (Lussier & Achua, 2012). Autocratic leadership involves making of decisions without any prior consultation or involvement of team members. This approach has been regarded as being ineffective for teamwork dynamics and team agreement. It is however considered ideal in situations where decisions need to be urgently made (Bhatti et al., 2012). The Laissez-faire approach to leadership is carried out by allowing other team members to make most of the decisions with minimal interference from the leader. This approach is mostly applicable when team members are highly skilled and capable of independently making good decisions. However, leaders who prefer this approach might at times be mistaken for being lazy (Lussier & Achua, 2012). Jones’ leadership approach was characterised by openness, which contributed towards his adoption of a collaborative team building approach that involved sharing of information and ideas, which matches with the democratic approach. Jones also valued the experiences and ideas of other team members. By applying this leadership approach, the team was able to identify the major issues, which were later prioritised according to their urgency.
Transactional vs. Transformational Leadership
Leadership can also be classified as either transactional or transformational. Transactional leadership is based on the assumption that individuals are motivated by punishment and reward. It also assumes that the best way in which social systems can work is through the establishment of a clear chain of command (Carter et al., 2013). According to Bono, Hooper and Yoon (2012), transactional leaders work by clearly setting structures or rules by which their followers are required to abide, as well as rewards to be expected when they are adhered to. Whilst they are not usually mentioned, formal discipline systems and punishments are also well understood by their followers (Carter et al., 2013). This is as opposed to transformational leadership where leaders develop constructive visions for the organisation, sell them to their followers, find the way forward on how to implement the vision and lead the implementation of the vision (Wright et al., 2012). The diagram below depicts the differences between Transactional and transformational leadership.
Table 1: Transactional vs. Transformational leadership (Adopted from Lussier and Achua (2012)
Jones’ involvement of the team at EEF, formulation of necessary changes to transform the company and offering both personal and professional support to his team to enable them achieve these changes matches with the transformation approach to leadership. Among the changes that were identified as necessary for EEF were the establishment of new geographical sales areas and their respective sales representatives, implementing the necessary forecasting and reporting processes, and ensuring that the existing CRM systems are upgraded so as to attain consistency in the measurement key performance indicators. Jones embarked on achieving these changes by leading the change in the organisational culture by encouraging team members to be more ‘corporate minded’ and committed to problem solving. He also embarked on building corporation and trust within the team he was leading. These characteristics of Jones’ leadership further verify his transformational leadership approach.
Leadership challenges from the Case
There are several challenges that can be identified from the provided case on EEF. One of these was the loss that was incurred in the 2009 financial year, which triggered the transformation of EEF’s overall structure. The changes that were implemented further triggered challenges that are typical to any change process in organisations. The first was ensuring that he addressed the feelings of the applicants who lost on their applications as team leaders and creating a formidable team. Given that they all held same regional position before, it can be concluded that their capabilities were almost the same. Therefore, the most effective approach that could be used by Jones in addressing this was involving them in decision making through a highly democratic leadership style (DeRue et al., 2011). By knowing that their opinions are valued by their leader, they will be motivated and committed towards attaining the desired organisational objective (Lussier & Achua, 2012).
The other challenge was in regards to the transformation of the organisation’s structure from being regionally based to a unit national structure. In order to attain this overall change, there are several change management models that could be used. One of these is the 8 step model of organisational change, which was proposed by Kotter (1996). It divides the whole change process into eight stages that are more manageable and all contribute towards the attainment of the desired outcome of change. These stages are explained in table 2 below. Whereas this approach to organisational change has been supported by a wide number of researchers, it has also received criticism. For instance, O’Keefe (2013) pointed out that the model assumes that change is a linear process and does not account for challenges or changes that might be encountered in the change process.
Table 2: Kotter’s 8-stage model of organisational change (Kotter, 1996)
In conclusion, this paper has presented an in-depth analysis of leadership at EEF in regard to the changes implemented with the aim of recovering from its poor performance that was registered in 2009. In the analysis, leadership concepts and theories have been referred to and their applicability to the case has been explained. Among these are the trait and behavioural theories of leadership, transformational and transactional leadership models and Kotter’s 8 stage model of leadership. Even with the few mentioned challenges that were highlighted in the case, it has been shown that Tom Jones’ leadership approach was ideal for the EEF as it set out to implement the necessary changes in its functional and organisational structures.
Bhatti, N. et al. (2012) The impact of autocratic and democratic leadership style on job satisfaction. International Business Research, 5(2), pp.192-207.
Bono, J.E., Hooper, A.C. & Yoon, D.J. (2012) Impact of rater personality on transformational and transactional leadership ratings. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(1), pp.132-45.
Carter, M.Z., Armenakis, A.A., Feild, H.S. & Mossholder, K.W. (2013) Transformational leadership, relationship quality, and employee performance during continuous incremental organisational change. Journal of Organisational Behavior, 34(7), pp.942-58.
Colbert, A.E., Judge, T.A., Choi, D. & Wang, G. (2012) Assessing the trait theory of leadership using self and observer ratings of personality: The mediating role of contributions to group success. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(4), pp.670-85.
DeRue, D.S., Nahrgang, J.D., Wellman, N.E.D. & Humphrey, S.E. (2011) Trait and behavioral theories of leadership: An integration and meta‐analytic test of their relative validity. Personnel Psychology, 64(1), pp.7-52.
Hogg, M.A., Van Knippenberg, D. & Rast, D.E. (2012) Intergroup leadership in organisations: Leading across group and organisational boundaries. Academy of Management Review, 37(2), pp.232-55.
Kotter, J.P. (1996) Leading change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Lussier, R. & Achua, C. (2012) Leadership: Theory, application, & skill development. Mason: Cengage Learning.
O’Keefe, K. (2013) Where Kotter’s 8 Steps Gets it Wrong. [Online] Available at: http://www.executiveboard.com/communications-blog/where-kotters-8-steps-gets-it-wrong [Accessed 18 December 2014].
Wright, B.E., Moynihan, D.P. & Pandey, S.K. (2012) Pulling the Levers: Transformational Leadership, Public Service, Motivation, and Mission Valence. Public Administration Review, 72(2), p.206–215.