Leadership is a relevant topic in various fields and disciplines today, such as business, politics, healthcare, and religion. Every aspect of the economy entails an individual appointed or elected by other team members to inspire change or lead them toward accomplishing strategic goals. A feature of a leader may include recognized style, traits, behaviors, or attitudes they need to have or apply in their area of influence to cause effective change. For instance, leaders who demonstrate empathy, honesty, humility, or open-mindedness possess qualities that allow them to be more effective in their duties and influence or inspire their followers. Leaders are responsible for effectively addressing challenges in the present and the potential future. To better tackle issues, individuals in higher authority should have qualities that directly align with immediate problems to ensure positive change.
Constant shifts in the business, political and technology, and education environment, whether positive or negative, affect countries and call the need to adjust leadership tactics to stand out as exceptional. Most individuals have a specific perception or expectations they associate with leaders, whereby they view certain traits as more important (Stelmokienė & Endriulaitienė, 2020). Leadership in the modern world requires individuals elected or appointed for the role to demonstrate specific attributes in line with the fast-paced changes and challenges arising. Various theories and research materials provide an evidence-based approach to inform practical leadership attributes. The leadership qualities and features an individual possesses and demonstrates determine the sense of direction, level of productivity, and progress among their subordinates.
Contemporary Issues in Leadership
Leaders become ideal when they display certain qualities and traits that encourage and inspire people during hard times. The emergence of catastrophic or unstable situations in society demands leaders to take charge and guide individuals through those hard times, encourage them to overcome fear, and work harder through those hard times. Leaders in different organizations and institutions face multiple dynamic, social, and emergent challenges and complexities. The crisis of environmental degradation, global warming, and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions has been a topic of discussion for decades and is still relevant now and possibly in the future (Asbari et al., 2020). Additionally, the COVID-19 global pandemic that first emerged in 2019 is a health crisis that no citizen, group, organization, or nation had anticipated. This global pandemic has torn down countries, towns, neighborhoods, and cities and affected most individuals’ sources of livelihood, health, and wellbeing (Mora Cortez & Johnston, 2020). Leaders also encounter social challenges concerning the inability to make decisions in the sense of urgency in consideration of contributions from multiple stakeholders who hold diverse views and perspectives on different issues, hence giving rise to conflict.
However, throughout history, specific world and business leaders or individuals have shown up in times of uncertainty and helped others through the hard times. For instance, Ernest Shackleton, the 1915 Atlantic explorer, demonstrated effective leadership when his ship got stuck on ice. He and his crew had to stay on a floating iceberg all winter (Koehn, 2020). Shackleton delegated duties and responsibilities to all crew members, such as manual labor, to acquire food and products that would sustain them throughout the period (Koehn, 2020). Similarly, when the 1971 Washington Post’s leader, Katherine Graham, faced opposition from the government concerning publishing Pentagon papers, she demonstrated courage, guided her editors and journalists, and encouraged them not to fear. These leaders have shown strength in calamity and established a strong legacy and reputation. Effective leadership and administration facilitate better response to a crisis and social changes, resulting in permanent solutions.
Rapid globalization and modernization in the current world are shifting the market dynamic and demanding advanced knowledge and expertise in leadership for overall success. Constant innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship are core determining factors for growth and success in every field of operation. Transformational leadership fits the mold of an ideal leader because it is mainly future-oriented and designed to effect positive changes for generations to come (Stelmokienė & Endriulaitienė, 2020). Transformational leadership refers to motivating and inspiring individuals to achieve stipulated goals and exceed performance expectations in the organization (Grošelj et al., 2020). These leaders often share and clarify their vision for the future and empower subordinates to make it their own and work toward achieving it. For instance, Nelson Mandela used transformational leadership in the efforts to eliminate racism in South Africa and cause positive change in the country (Reza, 2019). Similarly, companies ranked in the Fortune 500 global list, such as Walmart, Apple, and Exxon Mobil, have enjoyed successful transformation primarily through innovation under the leadership of specific individuals; Timothy Cook, Darren Woods, and McMillon.
Transformational leaders display a high level of charisma when they change outdated systems and processes and introduce new, current ways of handling tasks. A leader must apply inspirational motivation and understand the global market and environmental changes (Islam et al., 2021). For the successful transformation of organizations, a leader has to achieve intellectual stimulation by encouraging individuals to think creatively and critically when handling tasks or solving problems (Reza, 2019). Similarly, a transformational leader needs to apply the element of individualized consideration by offering individual support, care, and concern for subordinates.
Despite evidence-based proof of the effectiveness of transformational leadership in leading change now and in the future, certain scholars claim the style is antidemocratic and emphasizes heroics rather than teamwork and collaboration (Asbari et al., 2020). However, researchers have challenged this statement by arguing that transformational leaders can be democratic, participative, or directive. Additionally, this leadership trait is multi-faceted and does not entail the element of charisma solely. Another main criticism and weakness of this style are that leaders may misuse it for self-interest and mislead followers. To counter this argument, researchers propose authentic leadership encompassing attributes of self and moral awareness to deal with the problem of charisma. Transformational leadership behavior is a practical approach to keeping up with technological changes and shifts in the market.
The issue of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) is crucial in the current economic environment that helps organizations gain public trust and retain a pool of highly skilled and talented individuals. Integrity allows individuals to maintain consistency in their beliefs, values, and behavior to influence positive change (Al-Abrrow et al., 2019). Many organizations and institutions have adopted the concept of CSR as a self-regulation strategy and a source of competitive advantage, especially after the massive disruption brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Integrity refers to being honest and demonstrating the ability to adhere to moral principles and values (Engelbrecht et al., 2017). For a leader to be ethical, they have to apply integrity in their decisions and operations. A leader’s attitude affects the productivity and engagement of employees in organizations. Leaders are responsible for establishing clearly defined organizational policies, daily control practices, principles, culture, and core values that are desirable and will contribute to long-term survival. Leading with integrity entails analyzing one’s values and beliefs and sharing them with subordinates in every situation (Hemberg &Salmela, 2021). Public criticism is a significant challenge in leadership, where subordinates lash out when leaders fail to deliver on their promises and expectations associated with practicing integrity. Hence, demonstrating integrity allows leaders to develop a trusting relationship with followers.
Employee retention is a crucial challenge in the job market today. Leaders need to encourage an open culture and decision-making procedure to minimize high turnover and enhance performance. Findings from a structural model comprised of 204 South African employees reported a positive relationship between consistency, reliability of moral behavior, and trust among followers (Engelbrecht et al., 2017). Despite the valuable insight generated from the study, the research only focuses on a single data source rather than including peer ratings or self-assessment among leaders to determine the relevance of leadership integrity. Similarly, the sampling technique applied in this research does not represent the general business population effectively, thus limiting the significance of the findings. The social exchange theory (SET) suggests that establishing trust between leaders and subordinates relies on quality interactions and relationships. Economic and social rewards such as money, open sharing of ideas, and satisfaction are relevant forms of relational exchange in interactions (Cortez & Johnston, 2020). The concepts of leadership and SET are interrelated in this context because displaying integrity enhances trust. In the future world, business or academic leaders need to demonstrate integrity in their words and follow through with corresponding actions that will build confidence and facilitate better policy formulation and adherence to ethical requirements.
Organizations and institutions face constant market pressure to shift strategies and methods of operation to ensure they survive and maintain relevance. As the world is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic that has paralyzed various sectors and resulted in millions of death, leaders in those sectors should implement changes to counter the losses accrued. Leaders in the education sector adopted different best practices upon the onset of this crisis, especially emotional intelligence, to connect with people and empathize with their needs (Fernandez & Shaw, 2020). The academic leaders wrote to stakeholders to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic and offer assurance of their efforts and plan to address the issue. Connecting with and understanding the teachers, students, and parents’ emotions and concerns over the challenge facilitated a quick response and transition to home-based learning.
The ability model states that emotions are a relevant source of information that leaders can process, utilize, and respond intelligently in a dilemma or change situation. The ability to perceive, use, understand, and manage emotions enhances emotions, which are crucial aspects of this model, facilitating emotional intelligence (Lee, 2019). Goldman’s competency model of emotional intelligence comprises various competencies and skills categorized into four groups to influence performance in a personal and social context. Training of future leaders will help them develop emotional intelligence for effective leadership. For instance, implementing a Leading Nurses Program for 3,750 nursing home residents facilitates the development of emotional intelligence and new skills for effective handling of duties (Crowne et al., 2017). Leaders who possess emotional intelligence traits are often aware of their emotions and others’ and can efficiently regulate or utilize them to perform assigned responsibilities.
Change often results in emotional turmoil, causing anxieties, uncertainties, or fear, particularly when the matter challenges their values and beliefs, thus making them reluctant to accept it (Issah, 2018). Present and future leaders should be able to connect with followers and respond to their needs with empathy for organizational effectiveness. Due to the sense of urgency or vision, leaders often lack patience and insist on getting things done their way without considering followers’ needs and values. The issue of diversity and gender equality in the workplace, government, schools, and other institutions is garnering massive attention in the 21st century (Lubbadeh, 2020). Thus, current and future leaders should show emotional intelligence by applying empathy, self-awareness, and sensitivity to understand the perspective of others before making decisions or offering advice. This leadership trait can also have a dark side in instances where leaders may use it to promote self-interests leading to strategic action (Lubbadeh, 2020). A leader with high emotional intelligence may use it to manipulate subordinates to engage in immoral and unethical practices. Individuals with narcissism and psychopathic tendencies may use their emotional intelligence to guide people to the wrong path with malicious intent. However, other empirical studies argue against the shady side of this leadership feature by suggesting that it is double-faceted. Leaders can utilize emotional intelligence to advance themselves or subordinates and achieve self-centered goals at their expense.
Influential leaders in different aspects have to possess strong leadership qualities that will facilitate proper guidance. During periods of intense difficulty and calamity or disaster, leaders have to rise to the occasion and guide their followers through those hard times. Additionally, present and future leaders are responsible for leading change in their areas of influence. Four distinct models, including trait, ability, and competency, entail unique forms and means of measuring and understanding emotional intelligence. Transformational leadership, emotional intelligence, and integrity are qualities ideal current and future leaders should have to deal with contemporary challenges effectively. However, leaders should avoid any form of trickery, manipulative or dishonest actions that may lead followers astray for selfish gain. Therefore, current and future leaders should possess specific qualities that will drive change and empower, inspire or motivate followers toward better days.
AL-Abrrow, H., Abdullah, H., & Atshan, N. (2019). Effect of organizational integrity and leadership behaviour on organizational excellence: Mediator role of work engagement. International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 27(4). https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOA-08-2018-1518
Asbari, M., Santoso, P. B., & Prasetya, A. B. (2020). Political and Antidemocratic Transformational Leadership Critics: Is It Still Relevant? (A Literature Study). International Journal of Sociology, Policy, and Law (Ijospl), 01(01). https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.8888/ijospl.v1i1.10
Cortez, M. R., & Johnston, W. J. (2020). The Coronavirus crisis in B2B settings: Crisis uniqueness and managerial implications based on social exchange theory. Industrial Marketing Management, 88. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2020.05.004
Crowne, K. A., Young, T. M., Goldman, B., Patterson, B., Krouse, A. M., & Proenca, J. (2017). Leading nurses: emotional intelligence and leadership development effectiveness. Leadership in Health Services, 30(3). https://doi.org/10.1108/LHS-12-2015-0055
Engelbrecht, A. S., Heine, G., & Mahembe, B. (2017). Integrity, ethical leadership, trust, and work engagement. Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 38(3). https://doi.org/10.1108/LODJ-11-2015-0237
Fernandez, A. A., & Shaw, G. P. (2020). Academic Leadership in a Time of Crisis: The Coronavirus and COVID-19. Journal of Leadership Studies, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1002/jls.21684
Grošelj, M., Černe, M., Penger, S., & Grah, B. (2020). Authentic and transformational leadership and innovative work behaviour: the moderating role of psychological empowerment. European Journal of Innovation Management, 24(3). https://doi.org/10.1108/EJIM-10-2019-0294
Hemberg, J. & Salmela, S. (2021). Integrity and Efficiency in Nursing Leadership: An Integrative Review. International Journal of Caring Sciences, 14(2). http://www.internationaljournalofcaringsciences.org/docs/76_hemberg_speccial_14_2.pdf
Islam, M. N., Furuoka, F., & Idris, A. (2021). Mapping the relationship between transformational leadership, trust in leadership, and employee championing behavior during organizational change. Asia Pacific Management Review, 26(2). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmrv.2020.09.002
Issah, M. (2018). Change Leadership: The Role of Emotional Intelligence. SAGE Open, 8(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244018800910
Lee, Y. H. (2019). Emotional intelligence, servant leadership, and development goal orientation in athletic directors. Sport management review, 22(3), 395-406. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smr.2018.05.003
Koehn, N. (2020). Authentic leaders are forged in crisis. Harvard Business Review, 3, 1-6. https://www.harvardbusiness.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/HBR_Real-Leaders-Are-Forged-In-Crisis.pdf
Lubbadeh, T. (2020). Emotional intelligence and leadership – the dark and bright sides. Modern Management Review. https://doi.org/10.7862/rz.2020.mmr.5
Reza, H. M. (2019). Components of transformational leadership behavior. EPRA International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research (IJMR) Peer Reviewed Journal, 5(3). https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333798276_COMPONENTS_OF_TRANSFORMATIONAL_LEADERSHIP_BEHAVIOR
Stelmokienė, A., & Endriulaitienė, A. (2020). Congruence between actual and ideal leaders. What matters more in today’s work world: the ethical behavior of a leader or productivity?. Verslas: teorija ir praktika= Business: theory & practice. Vilnius: VGTU leidykla, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.3846/btp.2020.11800