Becoming a Great Leader in the 21st Century

In class we briefly discussed the big question of whether leaders are born or made, with reasoning for both sides of the argument. Is this question important at all? Or is it, as some researchers feel, a redundant question to ask?


As we have seen in the discussion on the IVLE forum, the general opinion is that knowing whether leadership ability emerges out of nature or nurture will bear implications on how organisations select, recruit, or train their employees.

The belief that “some leaders are born, others can be made” has resulted in many companies turning to leadership development programmes, which typically involve a myriad of activities: corporate training programmes; off-site assessments; and coaching for example, to help develop great leaders for the company. It is usually within these programmes that individuals are exposed to theories of leadership and its measures e.g. The Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire to measure the 4 “I”s of Transformational Leadership.

Many have debated the effectiveness of such leadership development programmes, one of whom is Rosalinde Torres. She conducted a study across 4000 companies, and found that despite the Leadership Programmes in place, 58% of the companies cited significant talent gaps for critical leadership roles i.e. they failed to develop enough great leaders.


Torres then argues that this is because of the reliance of said programmes on outdated performance criteria and narrow 360 surveys, which no longer hold up, given that the 21st century is now global, digitally enabled, and transparent, with faster speeds of information flow and innovation.

So then comes the question.

What does this mean for us (students of OB, about to enter the workforce within the next few years and eager to develop our leadership capabilities)? Given our limited resources, how can we as individuals better prepare ourselves to take up leadership roles in 21st century organisations?

Here I have set out a few pointers that I believe can help us in our personal leadership development journey:

1)    Anticipate Change & Be Ready When It Comes

The 21st century is known to be synonymous with change. Great leaders need to be able to see the change that is coming before it arrives and be prepared and well-equipped to deal with it when it does.  This sounds more complicated then it actually is. What many of us fail to realise is that inspiration can lie in what surrounds us. Here are some tips on how we can go about understanding the art of anticipation.

  • Read widely
  • Converse with people of different backgrounds
  • Be insatiably curious on various topics
  • Identify trends that impact you & trends that impact others
  • Remain observant and vigilant of what is happening in the world

The last thing any leader wants is to be taken by surprise by a change he or she did not see coming – and change comes often in the 21st century.


2)    Grow a Diverse Personal Network

We all have a group of people we are comfortable with. We tend to turn to this group when we need help or advice, or just a different perspective on issues. What we all need to do now is to grow our network beyond our comfort zone. Engaging and developing relationships with individuals who come from different biological, physical, geographical, political, cultural, socioeconomic backgrounds from us will allow us to grow our cultural intelligence (CQ), a necessity given the diverse workforce in 21st century organisations. On top of that, conversing and interacting with individuals from different backgrounds can help us develop new solutions and approaches, some of which we would never have thought of ourselves, when dealing with problems in the future.

3)    Be Courageous & Dare to Be Different

A big part of being a leader is being courageous as it involves doing things that might be personally uncomfortable for you. Human nature is such that if a method works, we would stick by it. However, the nature of the 21st century means that what might have worked for you previously, may no longer work today. Are you courageous enough to abandon this practice you have adopted, and step out of your comfort zone? Develop your courage:

  • Be more patient
  • Don’t take feedback or criticism personally
  • Listen and delay judgement
  • Don’t just talk risk-taking, do it

These pointers I have set out above are meant to help us, resource-poor students, to start off our leadership development journey in the 21st century. Hope you have found it useful.



How Transformational Leadership Transforms.

A leader who rises to the occasion and displays transformational leadership, without a doubt, leaves a lasting legacy not only for his followers, but the world.

Extensive research has been conducted on how leadership influences others to effect a change. Transformational leadership in the workplace, in particular, has been a well-expounded topic. This then beckons the question for me – How has transformational leadership led to an organisation transformation in the real world?

Fuelled by that question, I focus on Steve Jobs and the remarkable ways in which his organisation was transformed by his transformational leadership.

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) – ex CEO & co-founder of Apple

A thought provoking thought on TEDx by Simon Sinek reveals how great leaders inspire actions and draws direct reference to Apple’s great and inspiring leadership.

SimonSinekTEDTalk (1)


(Click on image to watch video)

Sinek describes how the leadership of Jobs caused Apple to reinvent the traditional order of communication to the consumers and reinvents the way marketing was conducted. When such exceptional leaders helm the organisations, every business and functional unit in an organisation will “think, act and communicate from the inside out”. It is when you “reverse the order of the information” that reveals how “people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it”.

What kind of transformational leadership did Jobs exhibit in creating and reviving Apple? The following are instances where he proved himself to be a transformational leader through idealized influence and inspirational motivation.

Idealized Influence

Jobs was a man driven by high standard of moral and ethical conduct, especially in his stance of piracy in the music industry. He championed the protection of intellectual property, disregarding the fact that free downloadable music could boost the sales of the iPod. His conviction for protecting copyrights saw him pioneering the iTunes Store that allowed record companies to sell their digital versions of the songs, that eventually took the world by storm. Apart from this, he displayed high levels of determination, evident in his love for the company he built from scratch. The resilience he displayed was illustrated in how he envisioned collaboration with record companies to sell their digital version of songs on the iTunes store. With his heart set on accomplishing that vision, he “set about cajoling various top musicians” and “met with almost two dozen major artists”, calling them relentlessly to convince the artists to go along with the iTunes plan. His determination was witnessed by all when he continued to spend significant amounts of time on store projects, especially one in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, despite his battle with cancer during that period.

Inspirational Motivation

Being a futuristic man, Jobs had the innate ability to articulate a compelling vision for the future. He constantly challenged his Macintosh team to put “a dent in the universe” which saw him articulating his desire for a “brand image campaign” instead of “a set of advertisements featuring products” that was “designed to celebrate not what the computers could do, but what creative people could do with computers”. Such vision of communication of redefining how marketing was done draws links back to Sinek’s TEDx Talk on how Apple communicated to their consumers through marketing campaigns that “reversed the order of information”.

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This ultimately led to the “Think Different” campaign, where the message resonated not just with the consumers but the Apply employees themselves and can be seen in the words of the campaign itself:

Here’s to the crazy ones — the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Beyond and above being able to articulate a compelling vision, Jobs showed the capacity of showing exactly how his vision could be achieved. Upon taking reins at Apple, he discovered two months worth of inventory in the warehouses and adopted a management mantra of “Focus”. This was executed through the elimination of excess product lines and removal of unnecessary features in the operating system that Apple managed to “halve the inventory” within a short span of time.

Taking a step back and looking at how far Apple has come, these qualities that Jobs has shown in his life and his leadership at the world renowned company is truly testament to how transformational leadership can transform your organisation and in the case of Job, transform the world.


Biography of Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson) –

Lead Like the Great Conductors

The greatest conductors actually do not conduct; they just keep time and allow their orchestra to play.

Similarly, leadership can be about the process, rather than people.

TED Itay Talgam: Lead Like the Great Conductors

In this TED video, Itay Talgam played eight different clips of conductors and their techniques. Borrowing an analogy from the orchestras, he showed how management could in fact learn something about organizational leadership from these great musical conductors. Effective leaders are like orchestra conductors: just as the conductor is tasked with optimizing and harmonizing the efforts of each musician to create something greater than discrete individual performances, leaders are expected to do the same.


Develop clarity through vision

The primary responsibility of both leaders and conductors is to make sure everyone is on the same page, knows the part they are expected to play, and have the skills to perform. They ensure that people know what is expected of them, are given the opportunity to practice to their part, and receive feedback to improve individual and collective success. This is leadership at its best.

Similar with company mission statements, the conductor treats the score as sacred, using it to guide his ensemble to successful performances. Although he may slightly adapt it to fit his interpretation or vision, the score essentially remains true to its original form and intent. The conductor’s then must balance the interplay between the collective orchestra and the individual musicians to produce a unified sound. Although the instruments vary in tone, color & playing technique, the conductor blends their unique timbres together into a single musical sound while giving each instrument the opportunity to shine on its own. Similar to the leader mobilizing others through a shared mission, the successful conductor uses communication and vision to unite the musicians through a collective purpose – to deliver exceptional musical performances.


Encourage trust by developing synergies

Talgam explains that the great conductors were successful because they enabled players to tell their own musical “stories” simultaneously, as a community. As Talgam puts it, the best conductors are “doing without doing it”, acting as Theory Y enablers rather than Theory X controllers. Trusting that their players know how to play their music correctly, the great conductors refrain from controlling 100%. They focus on optimizing the efforts of the group rather than trying to manage each section or monitor specific notes played by individual performers. Similarly, effective leaders should assume a coordinating role. This enabling process creates conditions in the organization where employees are engaged to become partners.


Non-verbal influence over the process

Conductors communicate musicality and direction through their gait, facial expressions, posture, breathing, and gestures. This non-verbal communication illustrates Hackman & Johnson’s[1] view of leadership as an interactive process through which leaders and followers develop a strategy to achieve shared goals. By matching their behaviors with their goals, successful conductors use goal-driven communication to benefit the collective orchestra and better reach their performance goal. Leaders should gain inspiration from the conductor’s ability to lead non-verbally. Similarly, leaders should remember not only to communicate vision but also to embody their vision and goals. To engage followers in their overall vision and, at the same time, offer them the independence to use their creativity and expertise to achieve that vision.

As the future of leadership lies ahead in networks and especially so of highly educated individuals, I feel that leaders should look to rely on collaborative leadership styles in order to fully tap on the talents of each individual. Compared to the traditional types of leadership, collaborative leadership focuses on the process, not the people. Leaders should learn to take a step back to create the conditions in the organization for processes to take place, thereby enabling employees as partners of the goal outcome.

Before I leave you to enjoy the video once more, here is some food for thought:

How would leading an organisation entirely comprised of “creative types,” such as musicians, be different and/or more challenging than leading a broadly diverse group of people?

What other theories and concepts does the conducting analogy bring to mind?

I hope you managed to learn something valuable from my sharing! 🙂



[1] Hackman, Michael Z & Johnson, Craig E. (Craig Edward), 1952- (1996). Leadership: a communication perspective (2nd ed)Waveland Press, Prospect Heights III

[2] TED Talks

Innate and acquired work engagement

Work engagement is trending right now in organisational behaviour since most studies and researches claim that engagement is correlated to work performance. But there are so many things that we haven’t found out yet about work engagement and need further studies to clarify it.

As work engagement is recognised its importance, employers and employees are trying to acquire it but how…?  I came across a lot of tips of building or getting work engagement in workplace. Here are some of them:

Show people a future

The easiest way to make people focus on something is setting a goal or a finish line. People would feel desperate if they think they are on never-ending road. They have no idea what’s waiting at the end of the road. Setting attractive and beautiful career path is the way to make employees feel more engaged and put more effort to the work to achieve that goal.

Give people autonomy

Now that everyone has their own goal to achieve, then give them trust and power to get things done. Employees feel not engaged when their employers tell or force them to do something they are not willing to do it because it is not their ideas. Giving people autonomy not only makes employees happier but also makes them understand what they are working towards (since they work on their own) that lead to better work performance.

Make people see their importance

Some employees feel not engaged with their works and even their workplace because they think that their duties is not important. For example, a janitor feels that he is just a person who clean up the workplace but actually his duty makes better work atmosphere for everyone and keeps the business going on.

Although it seems like work engagement can be built and developed over time, there is one controversial dilemma regarding work engagement is that “Is engagement innate or acquired?” It’s still inconclusive and I think it is hard to conclude it. I personally think that engagement could be both innate and acquired. The engagement building tips and the controversial dilemma I mentioned earlier bring me to the question “Is there any difference between innate and acquired engagement?”

In my opinion, I think innate engagement is better and more effective than acquired one because I don’t think that you can force people to feel engaged for long period of time if they don’t really feel it. Acquired engagement only makes people focus or concentrate to get something done or achieve the goal and they tend to be more tense than people that born with engagement. On the other hand, people that born with engagement have passion, energy, involvement and enthusiasm. They tend to feel free and happy to work hard on something without getting tense and are willing to contribute to business success and these people are feel engaged for longer period of time.

Therefore, the big difference between innate and acquired is the reason why people feel engaged. Engaged just to achieve goal or genuinely engaged because of their subconscious. In conclusion, feeling engaged is good either innate or acquired. It shows that you are focusing on something and contributing something to your workplace.



– Arnold B. Bakker, Michael P. Leite, Work Engagement, A handbook of essential theory and research, 2010, P. 10-14

– Richard Bevan, 10 Steps to Build Employee Engagement,

– Matthew Partovi, 8 tips for improving employee (or customer) engagement,

How do Leaders deal with Crisis?

Often, there are jokes with regards to leadership in an organization. We have, at least once in our lifetime, had the perception of what a leader’s role was – having a title that aggrandizes oneself and having a pool of minions working under you.

blogpicture 1


However, we have also learnt from this module, the importance of the role of a leader in an organization. Leaders are responsible for leading their employees towards a desired organization goal. In addition, we have covered several organizational behavior challenges one would have to manage in the workplace. Notably, such challenges involve around the issue of employee engagement and satisfaction, managing conflicts arising due to cross-cultural behaviors, integrating employees from different age groups etc. These examples, however, are mostly manageable, dealt with and kept within the confines of the office building. fdUitWFL


On the contrary, the scale and intensity of a crisis is tenfold in comparison to the usual conflicts that we observe in the workplace. Crisis management needs to be reactive and lead by the events and subsequent demands and response from the stakeholders. With reference to this pyramid diagram created by Tony Ridley, a seasoned crisis management/leadership professional educator, we see that employees and leaders alike are often faced with general conflicts in the workplace – ranked under “routine exposure”. In the “crisis” level, however, is the pinnacle of disruption in an organization.pyramid

Calamites strike when we least expect it. To name a few, we have the famous 9/11 terrorist attack, the great Mumbai flood in 2005 and recently, the controversial case of MH370 Malaysian aircraft. We also witness both the downfall and triumph of leaders in handling a crisis. Tony Hayward fell into the ditch and had to leave his post as BP’s chief after taking much of the flak for BP’s poor public handling of the disastrous Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. He left BP company in a dire state, with low investor confidence and prospects, translating to unmotivated employees. On the other hand, Rudy Junilai, New York’s mayor, remained in the guard rails and was nominated as the “Person of the Year” in Times Magazine. He was applauded for his efforts to consolidate and rebuilt the remains of the city, after the 9/11 terrorist bombing.

Tony Hayward

Rudy Junilai

This leads us to the golden question that we should all be asking: How do leaders handle such crisis? Since the stress faced from this situation is beyond normal coping capabilities, how exactly can a leader practice strategic crisis leadership?

According to works studied by academia Gary Yukl, there are several guidelines in place when it comes to dealing with crisis.

  • Anticipate problems and prepare them
  • Learn to recognize early warning signs for an impending problem
  • Quickly identify the nature and scope of the problem
  • Direct and response by the unit or team in a confident and decisive way
  • Keep people informed about a major problem and what is being done to resolve it
  • Use a crisis as an opportunity to make necessary changes

In addition, there are programs and trainings available for crisis management, on websites like  or Tony Ridley’s website

Nonetheless, it is unsurprising that the silver lining of crisis management comes from how the leader exhibits humility and compassion that conveys a strong sense of assurance and comfort to stricken victims of the crisis. Here are a few pointers which I feel that are critical for an effective crisis management from a leader:

1) Prioritize the people’s safety first as they are your immediate responsibility
2) Assume appropriate responsibility to reduce the damage caused by the crisis at all means.
3) Address the needs of all stakeholder (internally or externally) in a timely manner to uphold corporate reputation
4) All decisions and actions must be ethical and integrity must not be compromised.

The successful handling of a crisis is paramount for the leader of an organization. As studied in previous Organizational Behaviour topics, the personal and positional power of the leader, more specifically referent and legitimate, will increase tremendously in the eyes of the employees. These will translate to greater commitment and loyalty from the employees towards the organization, making recovery efforts more effective and efficient in the long run.


Gary Yukl:  Leaderships in Organizations (8th edition)

Newcomer Woes

tumblr_mo162sDqoL1s2sa9ho1_1280Like many other graduating students who will be joining the workforce, we will soon face the common predicament of integrating into our new workplace. This is a phase of our work life that can be quite daunting. Let us explore why.

leadIntegrating into a new workplace… why is it weird?

new_guy-770358First of all, it requires one to negotiate a new identity. Coming into a new office where nobody really knows who you are or who you claim to be and vice versa, you don’t know who anybody else claims to be means that other people don’t know what to expect from you and you don’t know what to expect from them. Trust is not yet established and therefore the ability to predict each others’ behaviour is low. This makes the process interesting yet alienating at the same time.

new-employeeAdditionally, there are the unwritten rules that manifest themselves over time and form part of the culture or subculture of the organisation. They underscore the ways of doing things in a manner that you have possibly not encountered before. It might seem bizarre to you but normal to the rest of your colleagues who are already accustomed to such established norms. The implication is that this could make it difficult for one to respond or behave in a way that is sensible to your new colleagues even though you may find the opposite much more obvious.

Here, I would like to emphasise that I am coming from the perspective of the individual (ie. not how organisations can better help newcomers to integrate). The focus is on how, we, as prospective newcomers in a highly demanding workforce, settle into our new environment where the employer may not help us to inculturate, for instance, by telling you about the organisation’s values and vision. This post is not going to be a set of tips on how you should learn as much as possible about who hired you. Rather, I would like to touch on something a little more delicate.

How to figure out what you’re not being told?

efeff4edb5210ab70b546c57fb507d5312d8e3c5cb13d8f93e391be6f2dc99a1How many of us have made mistakes at work because we were not informed of a specific detail? It is often extremely tempting to cry out “Hey! Nobody told me I couldn’t do this… or that…” but you very well know it in your best interest to keep this to yourself, keep your head down, lest other people judge this even more so as a sign of incapability. Understandably, what you don’t know would not logically cross your mind so that your brain can tell you to attend to the mysterious and elusive matter in question. Yet this is a tricky and touchy problem that many people face… including myself of course.

I recently chanced upon an interesting article written by Art Markman who is a professor of Psychology and Marketing at the University of Texas at Austin. He reveals how can you know what you don’t know? A little preparation and reading between the lines reveals the truths you aren’t being told.

He claims that important information is often omitted in everyday conversations and sometimes, complex problems. I would also like to add that sometimes we may not take note of this because we are preoccupied with other concerns. As such, we need to learn to recognise if important information is missing and that there are some measures we can take to detect what is not being said.

1.       Prepare for conversations

Similar to having a sense of the appropriate solutions to problems, we also tend to cultivate an understanding of the scope of conversations with other co-workers. For instance, you begin to get a sense of what information you need and when you can offer back similar information. To prepare for conversations, prepare a mental checklist of the information you need and consider who you will be talking to. Could they possibly have any motives for holding back any of the information you need? Or if it just so happens to slip his or her mind, prompt the other party by asking questions or steer the conversation in directions that get you what you need.

2.       Bring a list

It can be hard to remember to get all the information you need in the heat of conversations. A physical checklist of questions to be asked and matters to deliberate will be useful. Take notes and ensure all the issues have been covered. This ensures that the key points of the discussion will not be forgotten after the meeting or conversation.

3.       Bring a friend or a colleague

Sometimes we might fail to pick up on information being omitted as we tend to focus on fitting the information being given in ways that align with our agenda. Bringing a neutral third party such as a colleague gives you the advantage of a second opinion from an objective viewpoint.

4.       Ask what else you need to know

People who omit information intentionally typically believe that it is more ethical than lying about it. At the end of an unproductive conversation, ask the other person whether there is anything they have left out or anything that you really need to know. This simple question could potentially change the person’s mind and fill you in on what has been left out.

At the end of the day, we can only strive to keep in mind that sometimes information is omitted. We can do this by making it a part of our work processes to find out what we are not being told and subsequently take the necessary measures.


Helping newcomers integrate into a workplace, Dan Cable:

What is the most effective leadership style?

I refer to the article dated 16 March 2014 on Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski aka Coach K, who congratulates the Mercers for winning a game against his team. It struck me because it takes alot of courage to congratulate the team who has defeated his own team. This has made me think about leadership in the organization, where leadership is defined as the “ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of goals” (Robbins & Judge, 2012).  I will explore the effectiveness of the leadership styles of Coach K and Coach Knight, one of college basketball’s most successful coaches in the context of an organization.

Here is the link on the readings on both Coaches.

Firstly, different leadership styles may yield the same results in different contexts. Coach K and Coach Knight has vastly different leadership styles. Coach K uses affiliative and democratic leadership. Through affiliative leadership, he creates harmony and builds emotional bonds with his players through two-way communication. This is seen when he would communicate up close and personal with his players by maintaining eye contact and showing them he cared. He would also invite them over to his place for dinner and treated them like family. He also used democratic leadership by getting valuable input from his players and get them to share with one another. Through this, he has managed to foster strong bonds with and within the team and his leadership approach can be seen as authentic leadership, where “leaders know who they are, know what they believe in and value, and act on those values and beliefs openly and candidly” (Robbins & Judge, 2012). In the case of Coach K, family and love are one of his personal core values and he clearly demonstrates this to his players.

Coach K’s affiliative and democratic leadership is vital in developing and maintain strong interpersonal relationships with employees in the organization. When employees feel like their managers care about them, they are more likely to be motivated to work. In addition, studies have shown that employees have greater allegiance to a company which they believe cares for their well-being. However, this leadership style is not effective in all situations. The focus on cultivating strong relationships may divert the leader from keeping tabs on the team’s performance, leading to a deterioration in team performance.

In contrast, Coach Knight uses coercive leadership. He demands immediate compliance from his players and is highly driven to achieve. For instance, he demanded discipline and would throw players out for not working hard enough. He would also hurl vulgarities at his team players. Despite his harsh methods, players still respected him as he was a great coach who led the team to victory. Hence, despite the extreme leadership styles of both coaches, there is no one single approach that would determine success in an organization. In my opinion, leadership is subjective and dynamic and the adoption of specific leadership styles would depend on the situation and context.

In my opinion, the use of coercive leadership would not be effective in getting people to work with you and is only effective when there is a crisis that needs immediate attention. It will hurt the morale of the employees and they will not be motivated to work. It could make employees feel like commodities where their emotional and mental well-being are neglected. Human beings are emotional creatures and we seek emotional balance in various aspects of our lives. Employees will hence find that this leadership style overbearing, thus causing the turnover rate for the firm to increase.

The question I now pose is: Which is the most effective leadership style?

There is no clear answer to this and it really depends on the situation. In my opinion, a leader leads his team toward achieving a common goal. He will work with different people with a myriad of personalities and thus a leader needs to have a high level of social intelligence to determine what is needed for leadership in a particular situation and select an appropriate response. He would need to have behavioural flexibility to vary his leadership behaviour to accommodate situational requirements. Thus, it is important for a leader to be flexible in their leadership approach to ensure favourable outcomes.


Robbins, S., & Judge, T. (2012). Organizational Behavior. Prentice Hall.





When Bad Leadership Kills Morale and Culture

During the research for a task I found several information about the Smartphone manufacturer HTC who was and still is in a crisis. HTC had numerous problems, originating form different, internal and external sources. One of the reasons for the crisis was a tarnished company culture and employee morale. Confidential information were declassified and leaked, not only by low level employees but even by high ranking managers. Further, employees colluded with suppliers to make false expense claims and had in general little to no loyalty towards the HTC.

So where did these cultural and loyalty problems originate from? The main reason was the leadership approach HTC’s CEO Peter Chou was following. From internal sources one hears a lot of criticism on his abrasive management style. If others did not agree with his strategy he “openly berated manager and overrode their decisions, often with little discussion,” as insiders told Reuters. The fact that Chou is neither willing to change, nor to step down, and that there is no successor to replace him as CEO is additionally pushing down the morale within HTC. In HTC’s case this further led to poor performance.

This is a real world example of the negative consequences and implications of bad leadership and management on employee morale and on company culture. I would like to present some explanations for the loss of morale, culture and performance due to bad leadership.

Firstly, one needs to define what is considered bad leadership. We need to distinguish it from so called “Toxic Leadership” where the manager or leader of a group or company consciously abuses his position for his own advantage. Rather, managers  practicing bad leadership actually try to do the very best for their company, they are just not aware of their mistakes or the fact that their managerial style is the wrong one, at least for their specific company.

Leaders are role models which should set their employees an example of dedication to their work. As soon as employees see that their employer is not acting rational and effective, they lose trust into the leaders skills and his vision and reduce their work effort.

The employee morale is also lowered if the company  is situated in a bad position due to bad leadership. The organization failing not only because of wrong but poorly made decisions, makes it hard for employees to preserve a positive perspective on their work. Resulting from a domino effect, as soon one employees morale dropped, further usually follow. Low morale in an organization is like a cancerous ulcer and can destroy the company form within if it is now fought properly. Therefore, reasonable decision making is an important variable in this situation. A decision discussed properly in a productive and fair environment is easier to accept and to understand for an employee than a resolution just made by the manager himself. Even if the outcome is not as anticipated, due to reasoning the employees can see the managers idea behind his decision and are not just affected by the result.

HTC’s case shows incompetent leadership has far-reaching implications on the company, because immoral behavior is shaking the organizations very foundations and may crack the cultural unity into pieces. This effect is intensified by employees searching for new jobs as soon as they lose their trust in their leaders. Especially those members of an organization, who take pride out of their effort at work – mostly eager, well-performing employees – , are likely to be driven out of the company by bad leadership.

Summarizing, incompetent leadership has numerous negative effects on the company’s performance. Besides the direct influences on the effectiveness, bad leaders negatively affect employees mood, behavior and thereby performance, which not only reduces the overall company effectiveness further, but also drives organizations out of the market in the long run, due to brain drain.


Surviving Crises: Building a resilient organization

Some people bounce back time and time again from whatever hardships they may face. Others seem to take forever to recover from a single setback. The underlying difference between these two types of people often boils down to their individual resiliency in the face of difficulties. Our latest lesson on learning how to manage change through developing resiliency has been extremely helpful in shedding light on this concept, and I will attempt to delve more into this topic to highlight the importance of this often overlooked trait to organizations.

Factors influencing individual resilience

Resilience in organizations is a crucial part of enabling a firm to handle and adapt to a rapidly changing environment, yet so few employers seem to deem it part of their hiring requirements. More often than not, talent and experience are prized far above the abilities of employees to endure and adapt to change, but firms that are especially prone to rapidly changing circumstances should consider giving some added importance to resilience. After all, even the most talented, experienced professionals would not be of use to a fast-paced company if s/he was not sufficiently resilient, as functions could be swiftly made redundant and new skillsets coming into greater demand within a matter of months. Moreover, resilience is particularly crucial in times of crisis, when the survival of the organization is at stake. This was the situation for many firms during the recent Great Recession, but certain events may target a few specific companies along with their employees.


The recent unfortunate incident of MH370 is a case in point. The abilities of both Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian Government to handle an international crisis of this magnitude have been called into question after the botched handling of the incident, where repeated miscommunications led to precious time and resources being frittered away on fruitless searches. Relatives of passengers on the flight, along with rescuers, have had to remain resilient as they keep up the on-going search for survivors and remains of the plane, even in the face of dwindling hope.

Furthermore, in the long term, it remains to be seen how both the airline and the government will adapt their contingency policies and business continuity plans in order to handle future emergencies. Not only do Malaysian Airline employees have to resist the urge to quit while they bore the brunt of allegations directed at their employer, but they also have to persevere in carrying out routine operations on top of implementing new policy measures to prevent similar incidents in future.


What could Malaysian Airlines, as well as firms caught in the whirlwind of the Great Recession, have done to improve the resiliency of their employees? For a start, encouraging interpersonal support among employees, together with basic training on how to handle stress, would be very helpful. Many of the less resilient employees of Malaysian Airlines would likely be searching for new job opportunities at this point in time. With the immense amount of stress they are facing from the aforementioned factors, the company would do well to provide training and retreats to manage employee stress.

Managing stress


However, many of the measures to boost resiliency are naturally most effective if implemented before a crisis has occurred. Apart from hiring employees who have been identified to be more resilient and self-efficacious, firms should foster an environment where employees believe that they are successful and can succeed with the organization. Evidence shows that by creating this culture of success and by reinforcing people’s self-belief, this in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy which drives the actual success of the organization. Top universities and companies operate using this principle. Another method to build up this principle in new hires is to assign them to successful mentors who would willingly guide them onto this path of success.


Promoting employee health

In order to be successful, resilient firms should invest in promoting employee health and wellness. This leads to healthier, happier employees who are more loyal to the firm. Moreover, training their managers and leaders, particularly in methods to deal with contingencies, is another potential method. If Malaysian Airlines and certain branches of the Malaysian Government had invested more in business continuity, it is much less likely that their reputations would have been tarnished and quite possible that lives could have been saved.


Examples of resilient leaders

This post has largely focused on methods that organizations may use to generate resilient employees. However, would it be possible for each person, regardless of his/her upbringing and genes, to learn resilience? Ultimately, resilience may be born and bred into all of us. As the great moral philosopher Sir Bernard Williams once said: “Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.” May you uphold the human spirit in you, stand strong amidst the winds of change and build an enduring, resilient organization that is capable of surviving crises.




Age differences and employee engagement

During the last lesson on engagement, we covered some factors that encourage employee engagement in the workforce, such as task variety and significance and employee voice. However while researching more about employee engagement, I came across this research article by Zaniboni, Truxillo and Fraccaroli (2013) that noted the differences between younger and older workers in relation to task variety and skill variety in engaging employees. It occurred to me that the different ways to increase employee engagement tended to focus on the average employee, and not on age diversity. Many concepts are thus applied generally and the effects of age has not been looked at. It could be that different characteristics of jobs could benefit employees differently, depending on their stage in life.

Why should we bother age?

Well at the start of the module we noted that diversity in the workforce is changing, and this includes age diversity. The ageing workforce is becoming a reality, and it should be important to know the effects of these theories on age too because it has positive benefits on employees. As covered in class, employee engagement not only increases task and conceptual performance, but reduces stress and sick days and increases commitment to the organization. As such, I have looked at four different studies to see how some factors of employee engagement has different impacts on employee’s age.

Differences in perceptions of work

The reason for the distinction can be due to both psychological and practical differences regarding work for younger and older employees. Some researchers have found how younger workers are more future orientation and look for knowledge acquisition because this can further their careers. On the other hand, older workers (who has already acquired knowledge and experience in their years of working) are more present orientated and are more selective with their resources used (Zabiboni et al., 2013). Older workers also have some preconceived notions that they are not supposed to be working or are just simply waiting until they retire, and as such might be less engaged (James et al., 2011). Older workers are also more concerned with maximizing positive emotions and social experiences (Zabiboni et al., 2013).

Factors in engagement and age

Across the few studies I have looked at, there are significant differences in the factors of employee engagement and age. Firstly, I previously mentioned how task and skill variety has an effect. It was found that age is a moderating factor for the relationship between task variety and burnout/ turnover, the relationship between skill variety and turnover. This is summarized by the figures below.

1 2

Thus, younger employees prefer task variety and older employees prefer skill variety. Younger workers see task variety as a way to develop job skills to advance their career. On the other hand, older workers who have already acquired these skills want to be able to apply their skills. This will lead to better engagement and decrease in turnover and burnout.

The second paper by James et al., (2011) shows how some factors can effect employees more depending on their age. James looked at four influences: supervisor support and recognition, schedule satisfaction, job clarity and, career development and promotion. While all these promote engagement in employees, they have different consequences depending on age. While the first 3 factors have a significant influence on employees regardless of age, supervisor support and recognition has a bigger impact for those who are approaching or eligible for retirement. The last factor affects all age group except those who are eligible for retirement.

Summary of factors affecting employee engagement in older and younger employees

Summary of factors affecting employee engagement in older and younger employees



These studies have indeed shown how age diversity can have different effects on employee engagement, and there is a need for further distinction between engaging older employees and engaging younger employees. There might be no one size fits all approach to employee engagement. Employers need to have knowledge about the underlying differences in working conditions between younger and older workers in order to effectively engage their employees. It will also be useful to note some similarities in the factors. For example, supervisor support and recognition, schedule satisfaction and job clarity can increase engagement in both types of workers, leading to easier implementation of policies or practices for leaders. One can see the benefits of having these different distinctions in both a theoretical and practical way. It will be helpful to see other differences between younger and older workers in future research.

Thanks for reading!


James, J. B., Mckechnie, S., & Swanberg, J.   (2011). Predicting employee engagement in an age-diverse retail workforce. Journal   of Organizational Behavior, 173-196.

Pitt-Catsouphes, M., & Matz-Costa, C. (2008). The   multi-generational workforce: Workplace flexibility and engagement. Community,   Work & Family, 215-229.

Zaniboni, S., Truxillo, D. M., & Fraccaroli, F.   (2013). Differential effects of task variety and skill variety on burnout and   turnover intentions for older and younger workers. European Journal of   Work and Organizational Psychology, 306-317.