Can bad leadership be good for an organisation? -A0134781

o-LEADERSHIP-facebookLeadership is one of the defining aspects of organisations – it is often a leadership figure that brings a team, a company or a project to new heights and successes. As discussed in class, there are different styles of leadership, ranging from coercive to coaching, each of them relying on different styles and having different effects. Some of those affect the climate positively, others negatively, however all of them drive results. However, I thought an analysis of bad leadership was missing, after a bit of research I found a fitting article to give us a more complete view of leadership and a surprising conclusion. The author Malcolm Higgs reviewed literature on bad leadership in his paper “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Leadership and Narcissism” and I will highlight some key findings that relate to our session.

Before giving a definition of bad leadership and its causes, Higgs recaps on the parameters for good leadership in a core definitional framework. The three components are: (i) leadership being a social influence process; (ii) leadership being focused on the achievement of specific goals; and (iii) leadership being concerned with both means and ends (Hughes et al., 2005). It puts a higher emphasis on the relationship between leader and followers, the leader’s behaviour creates a climate that promotes employee performance. This fits well with Goleman’s different styles and his analysis of the climate variable we discussed in class.

Moving away from the focus on good leadership, Higgs names (i) abuse of power; (ii) inclicting damage on others; (iii) Over-exercise of control to satisfy personal needs; and (iv) rule breaking to serve own purposes as the main behaviours of bad leaders. In his paper he goes on to look for the cause of bad leadership and refers to research that concluded personal flaws where the most significant driver of bad leadership, more so than skill deficiencies (McCall and Lombardo, 1983). Further literature narrows the personal traits down to narcissism as the main cause of bad leadership. Here Higgs finds conflicting findings in empirical research, both negative and positive aspects of narcissistic leaders. On the one hand ‘destructive’ narcissism creates a ‘toxic’ climate in an organisation and are known to abuse power for personal aggrandisement. On the other hand the concept of ‘productive’ narcissism (Maccoby, 2000) argues that organisations with narcissistic leaders have a stronger sense of vision, a higher courage for change as well as more charismatic leadership. Digging deeper, further research could confirm this view, finding that narcissistic CEO’s would initiate more changes, engage in acts of grandiosity and undertake bolder moves (Chatterjee and Hambrick 2007). However performance of those firms was neither better nor worse than that of other firms. Higgs concludes that further research is necessary to weigh the contradicting effects of productive and destructive narcissism.

In my opinion Higgs uncovered some very interesting aspects of bad leadership that add to our discussion of the topic. Might bad leadership occasionally drive a company to more successes? Steve Jobs and Apple come to mind. Infamous for his draconic and sometimes harassing leadership style, he not only founded Apple, but advanced it from bankruptcy to most admired company in the world in two decades. Especially in chaotic or troublesome times an organisation might be in need of a visionary leader that is willing boldly change direction.

Looking forward to any thoughts on the topic.


Malcolm Higgs: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Leadership and Narcissism. Journal of Change Management, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 2

Why should we care about resilience in organizations?


In class this week, we covered resilience, one of the newer topics of organizational behavior that is often not discussed. Resilience was defined as the ability to reintegrate after previous disruptive events. However, is resilience really that important to today’s organizations? Should companies devote resources to care about it?

Personally, I believe that resilience is indeed important to organizations.

Firstly, today’s business world is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Competition, instability and uncertainty are prevalent. Companies are easily susceptible to changes such as financial crises, surges in raw material prices that can have an adverse negative impact on their businesses. To succeed in such an environment, companies have to possess high levels of resilience that will allow them to survive and recover from these crises efficiently with minimal damage.  One apt example to illustrate my point would be the HSBC bank.  As we all know, the financial sector is one that is easily susceptible to changes. In order to ensure that they are well insulated against potential shocks, HSBC made sure to factor resilience in their strategy, operations, culture and values. By doing so, HSBC was kept alert to changes and ready to react quickly in crises. When the financial crisis did hit in 2009, HSBC did not suffer badly and was able to tide through successfully thanks to the strong, resilient systems and procedures that they had implemented to deal with crises. Another example to illustrate the importance of resilience can be seen in Nokia, a Finnish telecommunication company. From its beginnings, Nokia faced many difficulties and market changes. And each time, it “ diversified, realigned and offered different products and services, from generating electricity to making car tires.”  Eventually, after much persistence, Nokia rebuilt itself and managed to gain success. The high level of resilience that it possessed allowed it to adapt flexibly and handle challenges efficiently as they come. Therefore, as shown from the 2 examples above, having a high level of resilience does indeed help to buffer companies through difficult times and is therefore important.

Second, resilience is important as research has shown that resilience has an impact on desired work-related employee outcomes such as job satisfaction, work happiness and organizational commitment. In their paper “ Positive Organizational Behavior in the Workplace: The impact of hope, optimism and resilience,  Youssef and Luthans (2007) conducted experiments on 1,032 employees from a wide range of positions in 135 midwestern organizations from a broad range of industries such as manufacturing, sales, services, public sector and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The results of their experiments supported the hypothesis that employees’ resilience indeed contributes unique variance in relation to the work-related outcomes of job satisfaction, work happiness and organizational commitment.  However, how the causal mechanisms actually work is uncertain and much more research is still needed in that area. Nonetheless, although there is just a correlation between resilience and the various work-related employee outcomes, resilience does indeed have an impact on these behaviors. Hence, possessing resilience is important to organizations since such work-related behaviors have significant consequences for them

Finally, possessing high levels of resilience improves the productivity and morale of the company. It also helps to improve the reputation of the company and aids in attracting talents. Organizations that lack resilience are often stressful places to work. In turn, such stress burn out employees and they are more likely to commit mistakes, decreasing their productivity. In the Forbes magazine 2014, it was reported that “ Presenteeism”, the phrase used to describe attending work when unwell and unproductive was 50% higher for highly stressed employees with an average of 16 day per year versus around 10 days for employees claiming low stress levels.  At the same time, having such stressful places to work decreases the morale of the employees as they feel pessimistic and are not happy and engaged with their work. This has significant implications on the reputation of the company. Such companies will be viewed negatively and talents will be less attracted to them due to its stressful workplace. Possessing high levels of resilience avoids such problems and is thus essential to organizations.

In conclusion, as illustrated, resilience has significant effects on organizations in many various ways. Companies with resilience possess many advantages that are important for them to ensure success in the long run. Therefore, resilience is indeed crucial to today’s organizations and companies should start devoting resources to building a resilient workplace in their companies.


Youssef, C. M., & Luthans, F. (2007). Positive organizational behavior in the workplace: The impact of hope, optimism, and resilience. Journal of Management, 33(5), 774-800. doi:10.1177/0149206307305562



Diversity in the workplace

Diversity is a global phenomenon in today’s workplace. Given the high rate of globalization, we often work with various people, people of different race or religion or ideologies.

Just look around your class and see how many people of different nationalities you can find. On the bus or the train, in fact anywhere you look you will find people of different races, religions, ages. Diversity is not only about different cultures, race or languages; it’s also about different gender, physical ability, age, personality and educational background.


Ranked in top 10 for diversity, MasterCard promotes diversity through its mentoring program which consists of cross-cultural mentoring pairs. Its headquarters also houses prayer rooms, adoption assistance, paternity leave, thus promoting a diverse workforce.

Organizations can benefit from a diverse workforce as employees with different backgrounds have different expertise. People of different backgrounds and experiences can offer more creative solutions for problems. Employees also have different viewpoints and can brainstorm more ideas, which can come in handy, for instance, during brainstorming sessions for new products, services, business ideas or strategies. One of my team members had worked in the company we were researching for a group project. She could provide fresh insights into the company, something which would not be possible by mere observation as opposed to her internship experience.

Employees can also understand different markets and customers better based on their diverse cultural background. The organization can have a wider customer base, better meet customers’ needs and increase their market share with a diverse workforce. It is also helpful for organizations operating globally or venturing into overseas markets.

In their “How Diversity Can Drive Innovation” article, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Melinda Marshall and Laura Sherbin mentioned organizations with “two-dimensional diversity out-innovate and out-perform others”. Leaders of these organizations had at least 3 inherent diversity traits such as gender, age, race and 3 acquired ones such as those gained from experience. For instance, working abroad would allow employees to appreciate cultural differences or serving female customers would allow employees to understand what a particular gender prefers, thus gaining diversity traits from their working experience.

Encouraging diversity also helps organizations to recruit and retain employees, according to a recent Glassdoor survey. Almost 70% of those surveyed felt diversity was an important factor when considering job offers. Many people also may quit their jobs as they may feel uncomfortable working in an environment that does not welcome them. Would anyone want to work in an organisation where they feel neglected or ostracized just because they are different?

However, there are challenges of workplace diversity that organisations must identify. There may be employees who are uncomfortable working with people ‘different’ from them and hence not participate in activities or be an uncooperative member in the team. This can affect employee morale and team performance. With different opinions, cultural values and beliefs, employees may not communicate with each other and tensions may escalate. It can be difficult for organisations to manage a diverse workforce, such as different cultures may view work-life balance differently. For example, in Turkish culture, family is very important so organisations often implement formal policies promoting work-life balance; however this may not be the case for other cultures. This can impact how an employee views his/her organisation depending on his/her cultural upbringing.

Another challenge can also be weekday-weekend arrangement. For example, in the Middle East, countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have a Friday-Saturday weekend, while most countries have a Saturday-Sunday weekend, hence while working in global teams, this may result in some conflicts. To add, time differences are also a cause of concern for conference calls or virtual meetings. Gestures and facial expressions also have different meanings in different cultures, like showing a thumbs-up sign means great in UK but has other meanings in the Middle East.


So how can organisations implement workplace diversity? Organisations can choose to formally develop diversity strategies such as fair hire practices like hiring everyone regardless of age or gender, encourage interaction between employees through activities like annual dinner events or team building events. They can also encourage employees to voice their opinions and be receptive to hear alternative views. This allows everyone to respect each other regardless of differences. When new employees join the organisation, their managers could help them integrate into the organisation by conducting some activities within their business units so employees can bond with each other.

When was the last time you encouraged a new parent to go home earlier to care for his/her children? When organisations recognize their employees’ differences and cater to them, it promotes a friendly workplace.


The Slow Demise of Candour in the Workplace

Workplace bureaucracy creates a stifling environment throwing organizations into the sinking depths of mediocrity. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, pushes for more candour in the workplace, calling it the biggest “dirty little secret” in business to succeed.

Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

In the large and ambiguous middle ground of organizational life—where the facts don’t speak for themselves, the lack of candour also fuel politics in the workplace. Superiors or colleagues may shy away from providing candid feedback for fear of upsetting each other. In my last internship, my supervisor told me that she would praise me less as another intern had voiced unhappiness in not being praised as much. That left me perplexed, as I always thought that good work should be recognized. Failing to differentiate employees for fear of negative feelings would be detrimental in the long-term, with good employees feeling they have not been given due recognition, and the remaining employees not able to develop to their full potential.

GE implemented a forced ranking system dividing employees into three distinct segments: the top 20 percent of performers, the middle 70 percent, and the bottom 10 percent. Even though GE’s “20-70-10” system methodologically weeds out the bottom 10 per cent of employees yearly, which could lead to some controversy, I do see the merit in such a system.

What is of particular importance to employees is for them to know where they stand. No sugar coating and no brutality, but the necessary truth. When tough decisions must be made and people have to be let go, the last thing I want is for my faults to be made known only then, when it could have been done so earlier for me to take the necessary corrective action. That said, such a system raises legitimate concerns. For one, this “zero-sum” system inadvertently leads to cut-throat competition, where one perceives that to succeed someone has to take the fall.

However, this would very much depend on the values and behaviour espoused by the organization. Consider star players like Steven Gerrard as opposed to others like Raheem Sterling. Are these players paid the same? Of course not! Gerrard’s salary is more than three times that of Sterling’s. Yet, as a team, they command victory. The idea then, is to entrench the behaviour desired in the organization’s culture to guide employees. So if you have in place remuneration systems and policies that reward cut-throat behaviour that is what you get.

The idea is for the middle 70 per cent and the bottom 10 per cent to realize they could be rewarded if they raise their performance. This then boils down to motivation. It is important that these employees do not feel disgraced by their labels, but instead, have the self-efficacy that they can deliver much more to the table. To fuel better performance, expectancy that effort will lead to good performance is but one factor to the equation of Vroom’s expectancy theory. Instrumentality also comes into play, which relies on systems and policies to assure employees that good performance will lead to rewards. To facilitate candour in the workplace, these systems and policies must be communicated in a transparent manner. Lastly, valence comes to play, in which the rewards must be aligned to the values of the individual.  Leaders have a key role to play here, as the right combination of rewards and recognition (or — as Welch puts it — the appropriate mix of “cash and plaques”) could very well foster a high-performance work environment. It is important for leaders to be aware of the right mix of “cash and plaques” for each of their team members, as the desired balance varies across individuals.

There are some specific strategies leaders can adopt to reward excellence in the workplace. Having small celebrations for every little victory on the way to reaching goals is one way of exciting people on what’s to come. Send them to training and make them feel like worthy investments. These strategies serve to make people feel valued and inspired to work that much harder!

All in all, candour is meeting its slow demise in the workplace, as employees engage in “false kindness” to prevent upsetting others. The idea of providing honest feedback has been misconstrued to be offensive, and the idea of adopting a forced ranking system has been likened to a zero-sum game. Yet, such systems and policies do not exist in silos. Espoused values and behaviours as entrenched in the organization’s culture could determine the difference between a toxic workplace environment and an effective one. When you enter the organization, it tends to be all about ‘you’. But, the day you become a leader, it then becomes all about ‘them’. Your job is to take people who are already great and make them exceptional.



Arshad, S. (2014, August 9). Liverpool Players Salaries List 2014-15 (Contracts). Retrieved from TSM Plug:

Vollmer, L. (2005, April 1). Jack Welch: Create Candor in the Workplace. Retrieved from Stanford Graduate School of Business:



I am an exchange student from Canada, and it is during my studies here at NUS that the death of the first Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew happened (1923-2015). Intrigued by the important respect that Singaporeans seemed to pay him during the week of mourning, I decided to do some research on him and his accomplishment. This is how I learned that this leader served this country from 1959 to1990, making him the longest-serving PM of history and it is during this long period of ruling that he helped Singapore become the most prosperous nation in Southeast Asia. Indeed, he catapulted Singapore from a Third World backwater to the front ranks of the first World. To do so, I think that you have to demonstrate an important amount of leadership. Hence, I will dedicate this paper to explain how, in my opinion, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has done so.

As we have seen in the module, there are four key behaviours to transformational leadership, which is the model we have the most support across countries. This approach of leading aims to enhance the motivation, morale, and performances of followers through a variety of mechanisms. We refer to the four vectors of this type of leadership as the 4 “I”s, which are “Individual Consideration”, “Intellectual Stimulation”, “Inspirational Motivation” and finally “Idealised attributes & behaviours”. I will define each of those vectors individually and give examples that show how our main character has demonstrated them during his ruling. First, individual consideration is given to followers by paying attention to them and meeting their needs. This was one of his main focus during his life-carrier and a perfect example of it would be the set up of the Housing and Development Board in the early 1960’s that permitted to defeat the high level of homelessness in Singapore.  Secondly, intellectual stimulation is about stimulating ideas and creativity from followers by creating a safe environment to challenge the status quo. A simple proof of this is the implementation of air conditioning. As Mr. Lee Kuan Yew stated in an interview “Without air conditioning you can work only in the cool early-morning hours or at dusk. The first thing I did upon becoming prime minister was to install air conditioners in buildings where the civil service worked. This was key to public efficiency.”[1] Thirdly, transformational leaders have a vision that inspires and motivates followers to achieve important goals. The greatest example is was his vision for a new and improve Singapore that he was able to integrate within his followers and made this vision concretise. Finally, idealised attributes & behaviours is all about how the leader serves as a role model and how he allow them to identify with a shared vision and provide a sense of meaning and achievement. For this last one, it is quite obvious that the founding father of our modern city-state has shown a sense of ambition, responsibility, compassion, creativity, intelligence, and of course leadership.

To conclude this blog, I will let you with a quote of 2011 from this honorable man “I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. There’s nothing more that I need to do. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life,”[2]

Adjani Dumas



Embracing Workplace Naps

In an adrenaline-charged world, napping might seem like the ultimate taboo, perhaps even grounds for dismissal, instead of an acceptable alternative to coffee and five-hour energy drinks for employees seeking a mid-afternoon lift. Moreover, with increased work-hours, nearly one-third of us are not getting enough sleep.

The Nap Culture

Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans are sleeping an average of six hours and 32 minutes daily, making it the 3rd most sleep-deprived city in the world. Tokyo, Japan was the city found to sleep the least, with an average of five hours and 44 minutes per night. Drowsiness on the job actually costs U.S. businesses $18 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a recent report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Clearly, our workplaces are fueled by sleep deprivation in today’s corporate world.

Studies are showing that naps can restore our attention, the quality of our work, while also helping us reduce our mistakes. It also improves our ability to learn while on the job. What’s more, the effects of napping extend a few hours into the day.

The concept of workplace napping is attributed to former Harvard researcher Sara C. Mednick. She advanced the idea in her book, “Take a Nap! Change Your Life!”, where  employees who are afforded the opportunity to snooze at work said it was so much better than a cup of coffee in the afternoon or a snickers bar. In her video: Give It Up for the Down State, she discussed the need for everyone to take more breaks to increase engagement, creativity and performance. She goes on to argue that a mid-afternoon nap can:

1) Result in increased memory and productivity among workforce.
2) Workplace naps restore proficiency in a variety of critical skills… and can produce improvements previously observed only after a full night of sleep.
3) 51% of the workforce report that sleepiness on the job interferes with the volume of work they can do.

Engagement and Productivity

Just 30 percent of American workers are engaged at work, according to Gallup, costing the nation $450 billion to $550 billion per year in lost productivity. If you are disengaged, Leah Gibbs on Lifestyle Careers suggests that sleeping on the job might be good for your productivity. Power naps and relaxation breaks can restore energy and focus during the workday, even during the dreaded mid-afternoon slump, allowing employees to be more focused and . Daytime drowsiness can affect mood, productivity, and creativity, but a brief nap may provide greater alertness for several hours to help improve attention, concentration and accuracy, according to David Neubauer, associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center

The benefits of a daytime nap range from increasing creativity and productivity to lifting your spirits. Although taking a midday snooze is frowned upon in most workplaces, Sleep Review reported in July that office “nap pods” are on the rise.

A number of leading companies, in an effort to keep employees engaged and focused, now offer nap rooms or encourage an afternoon break away from the desk. Procter & Gamble and Google, too, have installed ‘EnergyPods’, specifically designed for napping in the workplace, while Nike workers have access to nap-friendly ‘quiet rooms’ that can also be used for meditation. Ben & Jerry’s has a less formal policy on sleeping on the job, providing ‘unofficial’ space for the practice.

Finding a quiet place to rest during half of your lunch break may ensure you’re a happier and more engaged team member, especially when it comes to undertaking a challenging task later in the afternoon.

The Downsides

Scheduling nap time at work requires a huge shift in the way we think about work. While this may be applicable in the tech industry where employees tend to work long hours, others are equating naps with slacking off. The argument is that there are many other ways to improve employee’s engagement and productivity such as using their gym facilities to exercise and refresh yourself, or simply asking their employees to sleep earlier.

Not everyone wakes up from a snooze able to bounce back to their previous energy levels. And not all employees who leave their workstation for a “quick” walk or game of table football or table tennis return promptly. This means that power naps may or may not work for some people and companies need to take caution with this.

What do you think? Should napping at the workplace be adopted?

Transformational Leadership and the Flat Hierarchies of Holacracy

Hi everyone! I was intrigued by what Prof Audrey said during our class on Leadership and OB; it was a comment about transformational leadership and how it is usually associated with central positioning within social networks. This makes sense, since to have the combination of the four factors transformational leadership (idealised influence, individualised consideration, intellectual stimulation, and inspirational motivation) you would need to have a wide reach, and a sufficient amount of influence. That got me thinking: with a flatter hierarchy in organisations, and as “open concept” offices become more and more popular, can transformational leadership still work? Or does it have to change? On some reflection, I think it does.

That’s how I ended up looking up holacracy, a new kind of flat organisational structure invented by programmer Brian Robertson. Robertson’s explains holacracy as “regrouping around a 
profoundly deeper level of meaning and capability, so 
that we can more artfully navigate the increasing 
complexity and uncertainty in today’s world, while more
 fully finding and expressing our own highest potential” (Robertson, 2007). You can also try watching this video:

It flattens the tree-like hierarchical system that causes bottlenecks at leaders who are node points, and converts it to circular systems that overlap each other, called holons.

So, from this:

holacracy tree

To this:


Zappos, as Chek How has earlier noted in his blog post on flat hierarchies, has adopted holacracy. The great thing about this system is that individuals have more power to take initiative and to assume leadership. Ideally, organisations become more flexible and maximise their talent pool. The response has been good thus far in Zappos, although the controversy has been primarily over how difficult it is for an organisation to teach the rules and ideas behind holacracy, and restructure itself. There will be no more CEOs in a holacracy. Change is brought about organically, and not through the transformative or visionary force of one person. People who naturally practice the affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching leadership styles are more likely to do well in a holacracy than those who naturally practice coercive and authoritative leadership styles. Generally, though, and as we agreed in class, one should practise having a mix of several of these.

The main concern I raise is that transformational leadership may not be able to thrive because individuals will be less likely to hold central positions in social networks, and so cannot exercise the 4 I’s. On the one hand, intellectual stimulation does not require initialisation from a leader since the nature of circular systems is to encourage all to participate actively. However, on the other hand, idealised influence involves followers seeing a particular trait they admire embodied in their leader; or what we also call referent power, which is tied usually to the personality of a specific individual. In a holacracy, this is less possible since people will usually only see those in their own circle, and there is no one person who is in every circle (see diagram above). Furthermore, due to varying group dynamics across circles, it may be very difficult to enforce one set of unified inspirational values across the organisation as a result of different group dynamics. Individualised consideration is not guaranteed; although employees are more able to ask for help in smaller circles, if there are conflicting concerns and needs, there is no designated individual who is obligated to be impartial from the start, as roles are always switching in a holon.

We also have seen in the Haier case how transformational leadership can be essential in cases where companies need help being turned around for the better. The power of such a leader, however, can be diminished in a holacratic system for the reasons above, and also because of the danger of groupthink.

All that said, however, it is not all gloom and doom for transformational leadership in this era of flattening hierarchies. An organisation, I imagine, can take the important 4 I’s of transformational leadership and encourage all circles to practise at least the three that do not require a singular personality: intellectual stimulation, individualised consideration, and inspirational motivation. Circles appoint rotating leaders, keeping to a set of practices agreed upon and shared by all employees (e.g. all employees must collaboratively ensure that everyone’s needs are met; shared inspirational values are agreed upon). These values, when practised across circles, can still enable companies to make the sort of vital transformations when required, such as those catalysed by Zhang Ruimin in Haier. Idealised influence may have to go, but this is part and parcel of the network shifts in a flatter system.

Thus, as holacracy calls for groups to “lead themselves”, transformational leadership can evolve and be adapted to suit such systems. I guess that comes as a relief – our leadership theories remain relevant after all!

[800 words]

Reference Cited

Robertson, B. J. (2007). Organization at the Leading Edge: Introducing Holacracy™. Retrieved 04 02, 2015, from

Leadership – Not just about style

This blog post aims to reflect on leadership, through examining the leadership of Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

In class, we studied Goleman’s (2000) six leadership styles.


Fig. 1.0: Goleman’s (2000) six leadership styles

Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership style was characterised as being authoritative, which was crucial in the guiding Singapore’s nation building journey during the turbulent period of communism and racial riots, and separation from Malaysia. Through his leadership, clear directions were set and Singaporeans were motivated to work together with him towards a vision of turning Singapore into a metropolis within 10 years of independence. The standards to Singapore’s success was well articulated by Mr Lee to the civil service, private sector and people, that integrity, pragmatism and most of all, meritocracy for people of all races, religions and languages, are fundamental values for Singapore. As a result of his strong leadership, Mr Lee not only fulfilled but exceeded his promises and vision of Singapore to its people, building Singapore from a Third World country to a First World within a generation. The authoritative leadership style worked well in that context, as change and a clear vision was needed, and was seen to be the most effective leadership style of the six styles (Goleman, 2000).

However, great leadership is not dependent on different styles alone. What is more important is to know and fulfil the prerequisites of leadership before taking up a leadership role.

Prerequisites of Leadership  

El-Meligi (2005) states that the five prerequisites of leadership constitute a common denominator to any presumed style of leadership and without which, no leadership qualities can be put to good use. The five universal prerequisites are:

  1. The will to lead (motivational dimension): a conscious and voluntary choice “to lead or not to lead”. There is a significant difference between wanting to lead and needing the position or status associated with leadership.
  2. Clarity (cognitive state of mind): The leader needs to distinguish between what is essential and what is peripheral or irrelevant, between what is urgent and less urgent.
  3. Similar and yet different (social role): The leader must be similar with the group by sharing the essential core values and cherished aspirations, yet must also be different as an integrator, being in charge of the group, and as a vanguard.
  4. Ability to learn (developmental dimension): presupposes the willingness to learn. Some leaders stop learning when they reach a certain level of confidence engendered by success.
  5. Energy resources (psychobiological dimension): Leadership may be defined as the flow of energy from a leader to a follower. It is important to wisely deploy energy and ensure its availability at all times.

five prerequisites

Fig. 2.0: El-Meligi’s (2005) five prerequisites of leadership

Analysing these factors with Mr Lee, it is evident that he fulfils the prerequisites.

  1. The will to lead: Mr Lee has a high willingness and motivation to lead Singapore to achieve success and prosperity as he cares for the country deeply, rather than for personal glory and power.
  2. Clarity: Quoting Mrs Margret Thatcher, Mr Lee “had a way of penetrating the fog of propaganda and expressing with unique clarity the issues of our times and the way to tackle them. He was never wrong.”
  3. Similar and yet different: Mr Lee knew what Singaporeans needed and delivered it. Expressed in his own words, “[i]f I were in authority in Singapore indefinitely, without having to ask those who are governing whether they like what is being done, then I have not the slightest doubt that I could govern much more effectively in their own interests.”
  4. Ability to learn: Mr Lee knew to never rest on his laurels despite him leading a successful Singapore, and being a well-respected world leader. He embraced life-long learning such as learning the computer, bettering his Mandarin, and adapting to changes in society.
  5. Energy resources: Mr Lee knew that he had to keep himself healthy to have the energy to make important decisions. He was able to also ‘pass his energy’ to followers and ensure smooth leadership succession for Singapore.

Thus, it is not enough to simply examine leadership based on styles and personalities alone. As El-Meligi (2005) posits, no leadership potential or quality could work unless these five prerequisites (that transcends all cultures) are met. It is evident that Mr Lee is an extremely successful leader not only because of his leadership style in Singapore’s context, but also because he fulfilled these prerequisites which built a strong foundation for his leadership. Hence, as future leaders, I feel that it is essential to achieve these five prerequisites to construct a strong foundation to build our leadership upon – before thinking about other aspects of leadership – in order to become better leaders.

(787 words)


El-Meligi, A. (2005). Leading starts in the mind. Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific.

Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership That Gets Results. [online] Harvard Business Review. Available at: [Accessed 2 Apr. 2015].

Goleman, D. (2000). The Six Leadership Styles. [image] Available at: [Accessed 2 Apr. 2015].

Sunström, L. (2015). 9 Lessons You can Learn from Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) + Words of Wisdom. [online] StartGainingMomentum. Available at: [Accessed 2 Apr. 2015].

The New Paper, (2015). Lee Kuan Yew the statesman. [online] Asia One Singapore. Available at: [Accessed 2 Apr. 2015].

Realising Transformational Leadership In Business Reality

What do French luxury fashion house Hermès, Swedish public service television company Sveriges Television, and Finnish state-owned company Arctia Shipping all have in common? All of these organisations are led by leaders practicing transformational leadership. In this post I will reflect on the applicability of the transformational leadership theory in business organisations worldwide with interesting anecdotes. Specifically, I will attempt to show that transformational leadership remains feasible in the seemingly selfish and profit driven business arena.

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Comparison between Cultures

The Taj Hotel case is an interesting and amazing case to me. This is because despite of the knowledge of the hospitality and tourism industry cultivating their employees to go-the-extra-mile for the customers, I had never thought and expect that the employees of an organization will be willing to go all out for its customers even at the expense of their lives. As the case and theory have suggested, Taj’s culture was formed though the hiring criteria, top managers’ actions to set out the general climate, training employees’ with the organization’s values and providing incentive systems that supported the values to show appreciation. With these knowledge, it leads me to think about the important of an organization’s culture.

The thought of this leads me to the Enron case as it is in contrast with a strong, good, ethical and successful culture of the Taj, and instead is a strong, bad, unethical and unsuccessful culture that may had leads to the fall of Enron. When looking at Enron, I looked into the similar aspects of hiring, general climate of acceptable behaviors and rewards systems. Firstly, Enron typically hires employees based on merely the academic credentials, innovative ideas and raw ambition. In comparison with the Taj which looks for integrity in their supervisors and junior managers, Enron focus was more towards ability rather than character and virtues of the employees. Secondly, according to Sherron Watkins, Enron’s have an unspoken message that drives what is deemed to be acceptable behaviors in the organization. This message was to ‘Make the numbers, make the numbers, make the numbers—if you steal, if you cheat, just don’t get caught. If you do, beg for a second chance, and you’ll get one.’ This eventually promotes little integrity and instead promotes the value of profitmaking. Finally, Enron also have a performance review policy of “rank and yank”. Employees in Enron was rated 1 to 5, where 1 is the best and 5 is the worst, depending on how much money they had made. Additionally, Jeffrey Skilling mandated that 10 to 15 percent of the employees had to be rated 5 and get fired. Thus, this rewarding system had implies that profitmaking is valued by the organization. Ultimately, all of these contributed to the organization’s culture of risk-taking, entrepreneurial work culture which has led to the fall of Enron.

The contrasting culture between the Taj and Enron has enable me to understand that organizational culture is important for organization’s success and can be cultivated through selection of employees to the organization, development of values of acceptable behavior, training and rewarding systems, which is in line with the theory that I had learnt from this class. This means that the human resource department (HR) hold a very important responsibility to ensure that selection, training and reward systems are in line with what the organization values and to ensure that what the organization values are ethical. HR and other managers will also need to be observant so as to be able to detect any possible unethical behaviors or misbehaviors that may occur given the implementation of certain systems which have influence on the organization’s culture. Last but not least, the comparison between the two cases had allowed me to realize that strong culture may not always be a good thing as an organization may have unethical yet strong organization’s culture which can leads to employees within the organization sharing similar bad values and conforming to it without realizing it. Overall, these has provided me with insights and alertness to detect possible systems that may have bad influences on the organization’s culture.

Moreover, I have an additional thought about organizational culture. As organizational culture can be influenced by hiring of employees, this leads me to think about the Attraction-Selection-Attrition (ASA) model I had learnt from another module. As the ASA model suggested, people tends to be attracted by people who are similar to them. For the organization’s case, people may be keener to work in an organization’s culture that they find suitable for them, while the interviewers may tend to hire candidates who are more like them. Therefore, this leads me to the question of what an organization which is changing its culture do. Should they fire their current employees who might not fit the new culture? Or train them to adapt to the new culture? And if they are not fired, will they continue with the existing culture and influences the new hires through socialization? For me, I would think that there is possibility that the change in reward systems and general climate of acceptable behaviors may cause employees to adapt to the new culture. But are there anything besides these that can help employees change their values to adapt to a new culture?