Public organizations are primarily concerned with the provision of government goods and services to the population. All enterprises and agencies owned and run by national and local governments fall in this category. In most countries, this sector is the most prominent employer and provider of services such as education, health, and security (Lyons, Duxbury, & Higgins, 2006). Though leaders in public and private sectors face the same leadership issues, the challenges and environment vary considerably. As public organizations become more diverse and multi-cultural, an effective leader must be culturally sensitive and adapt leadership styles to form and lead a cohesive team.
In the recent times, inter-cultural contact has become an unavoidable phenomenon. The advent of internet-based technology and improvement in transport is increasingly making the world a global village where geographical and cultural borders are continuously shifting, and the momentum has reached previously conservative public institutions (Aggarwa, R. (2011). As such, the modern leader in this work setting must not only understand cultural differences but also embrace them in building and leading cohesive groups. A multi-cultural team exhibit differences in ideology, language, belief systems, status, values, skills, and motivation. Managing such variations requires cultural sensitivity defined as a set of skills that enables one to learn and understand people who come from a different cultural background (Frost &Walker, 2007). The study of leadership provides an opportunity to learn cultural sensitivity skills for team building.
Leadership refers to a complicated process that evaluates one's environment and leadership limitations, develops multiple leading traits and skill, perfects individual style for varying scenarios; achieves set objectives, and values personal performance. The study of leadership gained momentum in the 20th century, but the interest in leaders has been a historical theme (Van Wart, 2017). This interest results from two factors. First, the impact of leaders in peoples' lives is universal and cuts across all fields whether national, business, religion and even family. Leaders wield power, and their influence determines whether their organizations and subjects will succeed or fail. For example, Hitler put Germany on a path to progress then led it to destruction (Van Wart, 2017). Secondly, people have a deep affinity for leadership and admiration for those in power. This habit is so irrespective of the type and style of leadership. Since leadership is essential, it becomes imperative to examine the major types of leadership.
In public organizations, the type of people led or the type of work the leader focuses on becomes the basis of defining leadership (Van Wart, 2017). Some leaders spend their time leading followers they have authority over like in a government agency, others represent interest groups such as voters, while others influence their adherents without exercising direct jurisdiction over them like in trade unions. The work of a leader can also be the basis of understanding leadership. Within an organization, a person can execute duties, implement programs, make, or recommend policy and this falls into the category of organizational leadership. If such a leader focuses on new ideas, then it is a transformational leader.
Leaders can hold formal and informal positions within the public sector but outside the organization setting. First, a lobbyist leader can have an official job such as the chair of a board but cannot punish or reward. As such, he/she relies on his/her status, expertise, and popularity to get things done. Alternatively, a leader may lack any formal position yet use his reputation and skills to influence others. The formation of a new team naturally creates the need for a leader. More so, leaders can apply different types of leadership at the same time or change their roles in the course of time. However, various kinds of competencies are required for each type of leadership in public organizations.
Various factors affect the environment in which a leader operates. In public entities, the leaders pay close attention to meeting public interests by the provision of public goods and services. The different parts of the same organization can have different leadership. For example, in public institutions, policy regulation calls for a different emphasis on administration as compared to service delivery. The level of change in the environment affects leadership competence; for example, a government regime change leads to modifications in public administration (Van Wart, 2017). Besides, public leadership environment differs with organization maturity, access to resources, and size of an enterprise.
The evolution of the concept of leadership is central to understanding approaches that embrace diversity and foster teamwork. The study of organizational leadership stems from biological experiments on animal groups. Studies reveal that a "pecking order" exists among chicken and primates where dominant males use their power to get more food and mates and guide the order, safety, and interactions of the group. The concept of the "great man" was a favorite discourse in nineteenth-century suggesting that intervention by strong men who intervene in times of multi-ethnic crisis such as Bismarck in Germany (Van Wart, 2017). A shift towards the science of leadership started with the personal trait theory that listed the characteristics of an ideal leader. However, the lists grew long, and personality became hard to predict. Situational theories emerged to fill the gap focusing on situations that affect leaders and their behaviors (Van Wart, 2017). Situational theories helped change organizational cultures and instruct managers. The study of leadership changed dramatically with the emergence of transformational approaches in late 1970's. The change areas advocated for in transformational leadership include vision, charisma, quality, and productivity. The modern, multifaceted theoretical frameworks influences include the need for holistic leadership, democracy, and dynamism in the light of the formation of multi-cultural teams.
Four questions shape the debate on effective leadership. To begin with is the dilemma of whether leaders in public organizations should focus on technical performance, human resource development, or aligning the organization. Leaders oversee technical aspects such as financing, training, controlling, and coordinating (Van Wart, 2017). However, developing people is essential in an organization since leaders since leaders depend on others to get work done. An effective leader ensures training, motivation, and continuous development of people since their satisfaction contributes to team cohesion (Van Wart, 2017). Service to followers is also a central theme in building human capacities. In aligning the organization, leaders are performers in that they improve their constituents, and promote the interest of the organization. Secondly, is the question of how much difference leaders make in organizations and at what level. Van Wart (2017) argues that it is hard to isolate leader's influential factors since the success of the organization is a product of teamwork and environment opportunities. Leadership can occur throughout the organization or at specific lower levels. Thirdly, is the dilemma of whether effective leaders are born or made. Analysts in the "great man" theories assume that leaders in political offices are born with leadership qualities or imparted to them at childhood (Van Wart, 2017). Formal training on technical skills, management theories, and life coaching is the more accepted version of leadership. However, official practice cannot be a substitute for credibility.
The question on the best style of leadership is by far the most important query in forming and leading multi-cultural teams. A leader's style refers to the most critical aspect of the set of leadership traits. These styles relate to participatory approaches and involve either commanding, consultation or conquering. The method of communication and value belief systems such as ethics also differentiates styles. There are differing opinions on whether leaders can alter their style and to what extent with some analysts maintaining that it is better to figure out the situation need then find a suitable leader. Many studies have established a link between leadership behaviors and team satisfaction. A leader who embraces participatory management styles is likely to cause more satisfaction to followers (Van Wart, 2017). The author, further, argues that consideration traits in a leader create a healthy relationship with and among followers than the use of task and organizational behaviors.
An effective leader can adapt any of the following leadership styles in forming in leading cohesive teams. The directive style involves informing subordinates on what they are required to do, guiding them, scheduling their tasks, and coordinating their activities while insisting they follow specific rules and procedures (Van Wart, 2017). The approach is critical in the formation of new teams since role confusion and competition for resources and authority is more evident at this level. Leader's attributes for directive style includes the ability to monitor, plan, inform and delegate and people skills such as managing team conflicts.
Supportive style calls for consideration of the needs of the group members essentially creating a friendly work environment for each staff. Supportive leaders are expected to consult and listen, adequately coordinate team while focusing on their development, and offer motivation as he builds unity of purpose (Van Wart, 2017). Equally, in participative style, consultation, and consideration of subordinates opinion is critical. Instead of directing, leaders' advice in a friendly work environment that encourages creativity and teamwork. The leader's desired behavior encourages delegation, discussion, motivation, team development, and management of change and conflicts. In multi-cultural teams, individuals have different capacities and competitive instincts. Leaders can utilize this for the common good through delegation. The delegating style allows subordinates freedom in decision-making and contributes to team effort. Besides, it eases the leader's daily monitoring task by having short-term reviews. The primary trait for leaders is delegating, developing, and motivating staff.
Achievement oriented style involves setting challenging task goals, improving tasks, laying emphasis on excellent performance while exuding confidence in followers capacity to perform well (Van Wart, 2017). Enabling behaviors includes clarifying goals, informing, problem-solving, and managing creativity while showing people skills such as consultation, planning, and role assignment, developing, and motivating teams. In comparison, inspirational style of leadership stimulates new ideas and processes while expressing believe in team abilities. Inspirational leaders focus on managing innovation, motivating, and building teams as they articulate a vision, building and maintaining internal and external networks, and managing organizational change.
In collaborative style, the focus is relationship building in multi-cultural groups. The method is useful especially when leading teams working from different geographic locations (Aggarwa, 2011). The emphasis is on building partnerships and networks. Using this style, a leader informs internal and external stakeholders, consults constituents, networks, and collaborates with others. Lastly, a leader can opt for the combined style entailing fusing and use of two or more methods; for example, strategic and inspirational techniques.
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