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WHY LEADERS LOSE THEIR WAY

What is "Leadership"? According to Organizational Behaviour, 17th edition by Stephen P.


Robbins and Timothy A. Judge, leadership is "the ability to influence a group toward the
achievement of a vision or set of goals." Throughout history, strong leaders have used many
kinds of leadership theories to guide them to lead their people and organization. There are;

i. Trait theories of leadership


Focus on personal qualities and characteristics that differentiate leaders from non-
leaders. For a personality, a comprehensive review of the leadership literature
organized around the Big Five Framework.
ii. Behavioural Theories
Proposing that specific behaviours differentiate leaders from non-leaders. In contrast,
imply we can train people to be leaders and provides us a basis for selecting the right
people based on their successful past behaviour that predictor of future success.
iii. Contingency Theories
The theory that effective groups depend on a proper match between a leader's style of
interacting with subordinates and the degree to which the situation gives control and
influence to the leader. This theory based on "The Fiedler Model".
iv. Situational Leadership Theory
A contingency theory that focuses on followers' readiness. the leadership styles must
be varied according to the situation.
v. Path-Goal Theory
A theory that states that it is the leader's job to assist followers in attaining their goals
and to provide the necessary direction and/or support to ensure that their goals are
compatible with the overall objectives of the group organization.
vi. Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Theory
A theory that supports leaders' creation of in-groups and out-group; subordinates with
in-group status will have higher performance ratings, less turnover, and greater job
satisfaction.

By looking at all the leadership theories above, by human nature we will feel safe in terms of
our leaders have all the knowledge in the world that could guide them in leading the path for
us to follow. But its more what eyes can see!
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I've came across one article from Harvard Business Review (HBR) that caught my attention
to read it further. "Why Leaders Lost Their Way", what a catchy headlines to begin with.
Many of us know being a leader is not an easy task. It comes with a great responsibility and
power. But once we misuse it, everything that we cherish and built before will shattered like a
glass in front of us. There are lots of people proclaim themselves as a leader, but actually in
an organization I can guarantee you that there are many bosses but few leaders.
"Why Leaders Lost Their way" is an article written by Prof. Bill George for HBR and
published on Jun 6, 2011. It was about how powerful leaders lost their moral bearings and
how they could stay grounded and prepare themselves to confront enormous complexities and
pressures throughout their reign.
This article revealed about few high-level leaders have mysteriously lost their way while they
were at the peak of their career by doing unethical behaviour and even illegal act such as
submitting false expense reports, covering up an extra mental affair with monetary payoffs,
bank fraud schemes and many more. All of these talented leaders were well-known and
successful in their respective fields but somehow their behaviour especially perplexing and
keeping us raising question why they are behaving this way.
Prof. Bill George brilliantly revealed how the media, politicians and the general public
perceptions towards leaders. Leaders frequently characterize as bad people and even some
call them an evil person. But not all people go into leadership to "CHEAT" or do "EVIL".
Lets us take Lee B. Farkas for instant. He was a former chairman of giant mortgage lender for
Taylor, Bean & Whitaker, in April 2011 was found guilty for his role in one of the largest
bank fraud schemes in America history. Despites all that we can't categorize him as a bad or
an evil person, he's more as a leader who lost his moral bearing due to yielding to seductions
in his path on climbing a higher satisfaction in his career.
When someone decided to takes on a leadership role, they should ask themselves, "Why do I
want to lead?" and "what's the purpose of my leadership?" Its sound simple but if you
couldn't find the answer to it, its mean you are not ready to become one. In organizational
behaviour there are few types of leaders we can identify and they are;

i. Charismatic leadership - A leadership theory that states that followers make


attributions of heroic or extraordinary leadership abilities when they observe certain
behaviours.
ii. Transactional leaders - Leaders who guide or motivate their followers
in the direction of established goals by clarifying role and task requirements.
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iii. Transformation leaders - Leaders who inspire followers to transcend their own
self-interests and who are capable of having a profound and extraordinary effect on
followers.
iv. Authentic leadership - Leaders who know who they are, know what they
believe in and value, and act on those values and beliefs openly and candidly. Their
followers would consider them to be ethical people.
v. Ethical leadership - Leaders who influences not only direct followers, but
all the way down the command structure as well.
vi. Socialized charismatic leadership - A leadership concept that states that leaders
convey values that are other-centered versus self-centered and who role-model ethical
conduct.
vii. Servant leadership - A leadership style marked by going beyond the
leader's own self-interest and instead focusing on opportunities to help followers grow
and develop.

All these types of leaders required to do "self-reflection" as a path of their leadership


development. They need to know what type of leader that they want to be and what is the
purpose of leadership that they want to pursue. If they only focusing on power, prestige and
money, leaders are at risk of relying on external gratification for fulfilment. High tendency
for them to fall in the "leadership trap" as mentioned in the article.
Leaders come in different form but the only thing that separate them are their strong desire to
win and become successful. We are aware that most people value fair compensation for their
accomplishment and their deepen desire that keep them going to achieve what they wanted to
achieve in life. There is no right or wrong in this statement but when they often driven by
strong desires, leaders can do whatever it takes even though they know their action can leads
to bizarre and illegal behaviour. This happen when leaders start focusing on external
gratification instead of inner satisfaction, tendency for them to lose their grounding is high.
Many top leaders climbing the corporate leader by imposing their will on others and even
destroying people who standing in their way. This behaviour categorize under "the dark side
of leadership". When leaders reach to the top and started feeling insecure with people
surround them, they tend to develop an impostor complex that caused this symptom to be
awaken. They are so focus on getting people approval and showing them how capable they
are as a leader until they forgot to stop and take a deep breath. They believe that if they don't
work hard enough people will start thinking that they are impostor not a true leader. They
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also incapable accepting their own failure and usually looking for "scapegoats" to take all the
blame. Basically, at this stage leaders are vulnerable to making big mistake because they are
not thinking straight and their capacity to think logically about important issues.
However, being a leader require a hard work. Once one decided to become a leader, he or she
need to be aware that this position will come with great power and responsibilities. Not to
mention the challenges that a leader need to face in daily basis. This is where support system
is really important. It will help them to maintain their equilibrium and keep them to stay
centered. At the same time, leaders can avoid any misshaped and pitfalls by reframing their
leadership from being heroes to being servants of the people they lead.
In conclusion, this article thought us a leader can't be a leader without a follower and a leader
need to bear in mind that "You need Power, only when you want to do something
'HARMFUL', otherwise 'LOVE' is enough to get everything done". Successful leaders are
always looking for opportunities to help others but unsuccessful leaders are always asking
"what's in it for me?"

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References

1. George, B. (2011, June 8). Why Leaders Lose Their Way. Harvard Business Review.
Retrieved from https://hbr.org
2. Robbins, Judge, S. P., T. A. (2016). Organizational Behaviour, 17 edition. Global
Edition, Pearson
3. Peshawaria, R. (2014). Leadership for Sustainable Success. Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMoqK0o-TPg

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