- June 13, 2020
Leadership Great Leaders Don`t Need Experience Unit
Leadership:Great Leaders Don`t Need Experience
Astudy carried out by Gautam Mukunda, an assistant professor atHarvard Business School, revealed that great leaders do not needexperience. His research cited several great and not-so-great leadersin history such as Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He opinesthat new leaders are capable of thinking outside the box and presenta new perspective of doing things and thus achieve significantresults. On the contrary, experienced leaders are keen to retain thesame thinking approach and status quo. Their experience trims theirambitions thereby making them suitable for stable environments only.While inexperienced leaders make great leaders, they also present ahigh risk to the organization. Mukunda`s views have elicited a lot ofinterest with many scholars eager to compare today`s businessleaders, including those who have registered impressive results andthose who have failed, to either support or oppose his claim. Thispaper analyzes the supporting view that great leaders need not beexperienced to achieve greatness but rather have adequate skills asargued by various authors.
Firstof all, before embarking on understanding what makes great leaders,it is important to understand leadership in practical and theoreticalways. In writing his book, Scouller (2011) says that leadership isnot equitable to occupying the senior management position in anorganization. He says that leadership comprises a blend of skills andcapabilities, both honed and intuitive, which come in handy indecision-making and relating with other people. Ideally, leadershipentails specific roles as opposed to just occupying a senior title inan organization. Crawshaw (2010) adds that leaders have to inspireothers, act as a principal, and play the role of the commander. Withsuch complex roles to play in an organization, there is no definitiveway to assess one`s capability of fulfilling these tasks efficiently,whether as an outsider or an insider of an organization.
Varyingleadership approaches differ on what makes great leaders. The traitapproach views leadership as an innate attribute. Popular theoriesdeveloped from this view are the Katz`s three-skill approach andMumford`s skills model of leadership (Mumford et al., 2000). Thesecond is the style approach that says leadership is hinged on whatleaders do and how they behave i.e. task-oriented behavior andrelationship-oriented behaviors (Crawshaw 2010). The third view isthe situation approach that contends that leadership depends on howindividuals manage certain situations. The fourth view is theskill-based approach. This view posits that leadership skills can betrained to willing people. The view identifies three classes ofskills namely: technical, human and conceptual skills. As leadersmove from the lower to upper levels of an organization, skillimportance evolves from technical to human and conceptual skills(Scouller 2011). In the context of Mukunda`s discussion of leadershipskills, of interest in this study are the conceptual skillsapplicable at the top-most levels.
Accordingto Katz’s theory, conceptual skills are relevant to leadership asthey pertain to the ability to work with ideas and concepts. Bypossessing such skills, individuals can see the larger picture andunderstand the relationship between abstract developing ideas invarious situations facing an organization (Yukl & Lepsinger2004). They have also tended to solve problems in a creative manner.Conceptual skills can be learned while experience in utilizing themcreates proficiency. Ideally, leaders with experience at toppositions have higher chances of demonstrating superior leadershipskills as opposed to those without (Kotter 2013). The notion thatvery limited skills are required to see the bigger picture and thinkcreatively according to this approach, it would suggest that leaderscan serve in different industries as leaders or lead organizationsthat they have never worked for.
However,business leaders are not solely responsible for the success orfailure of organizations. There is a popular myth that organizationalleaders are exclusively responsible for corporate failure or success.On the contrary, as per the role of leaders mentioned above, theircore purpose is to be imaginative and create a vision and motivateother people towards pursuing that vision. That leader is oftenviewed as a hero and savior. Consequently, "today`s employeesreally want to be led by a figure on a white horse, except perhaps ina dire emergency that requires a decisive leader who knows how toprevent a looming disaster" (Yukl & Lepsinger 2004, p.6).That would mean that leaders must portray the right image to theirsubordinates to achieve their objectives.
Besides,how other employees respond to the recruitment process in anorganization is likely to affect the success of a leader. In mostcases, internal recruitment can evoke a positive or negativeresponse. According to Crawshaw (2010), many psychologists havelooked at the various ways that employees are likely to respond to achange in organizational leadership. In the case of internallyrecruited leaders, unhealthy competition among leaders can fuelsabotage. In such a case, employees respond in accordance withDarwin`s theory of fight or flight. For the flight, major talents mayquit and leave the organization in protest. For the fight, someemployees may result to sabotage to ensure the new leader does notsucceed or fight by increasing productivity to demonstrate theircompetence. For inexperienced `outsider leaders,` there are highchances of failure resulting from employee sabotage if they have noproven track record.
Additionally,internal promotions can result in failure by other reasons. Accordingto Tsoulouhas, Knoeber and Agrawal (2007), internal recruitmentprograms are highly recommended by HR management experts andtransition planners. Under HR management, internal recruitments areembedded in incentive and reward programs to motivate employees (Daft2014). As such, there is a tendency to reward mediocrity in the hopeof impressing employees. Again internal recruitment provides a smalltalent pool and the most qualified person may not be the best-suitedperson for the job (Virkus 2009). However, these individuals may bewell acquainted with the organizational culture and thus offer bettercontinuity and stability (Kotter 2013).
Onthe contrary, external recruitment offers a relatively broader talentpool from which organizations can hire. In that regard, there is ahigher chance of landing a relatively more qualified andbetter-suited person for a given position than in the case ofinternal recruitment. Outsiders are also likely to possessdiversified experience working in different organizations or evenhaving worked in competing firms (Daft 2014). For instance, Yahoohired a former Google executive, Merissa Mayer, in the position ofCEO to try and turn around the company`s dwindling fortunes. Althoughher reign was not that successful as Verizon acquired the firm`soperational business, she succeeded in directing the company towardsa new market of mobile users (Solomon 2016). Her failure could be dueto failed relationships. The relationships leadership approach isdominant in many countries (Özer & Tınaztepe 2014).
Regardlessof recruitment approaches, various leadership theories assert thatskills and personal attributes are more relevant in influencingleadership outcomes than experience (Khan & Ahmad 2012). None ofthe leadership theories mentions organizational experience as aprerequisite. The SHL`s Great Eight leadership competencies modelidentifies core skills namely: Creating and conceptualizingAnalyzing and interpreting Leading and deciding Interacting andpresenting Adapting and coping Supporting and cooperatingEnterprising and performing and Organizing and executing (Özer &Tınaztepe 2014). Based on such theories, some authors argue thatthese skills or attributes need to be put into use so as to beperfected. The President and Founding Director of IMRCo., AntonyJay, once said that "The only real training for leadership isleadership" (King Leadership 2016). By that, he meant thatleadership skills can only be developed through experiences inleading positions. According to Mukunda, the only meaningfulexperience needed is having acted as a leader to exercise leadershipskills and attributes but not work in that organization.
Onthe contrary, there are arguments opposed to Mukunda`s views thatposit that internally recruited leaders with organizationalexperience are the most suited for corporate heads. Style-basedtheories such as the path-goal theory and others based on differentapproaches contend that leadership depends on skills, traits,behavior, and situations (Fairholm 2009). Although these theoriesassert that leadership should be practiced to develop someconsistency and experience in thinking big, all agree that technicalskills about an organization play a minimal role in the upperechelons of management. Thus, the core function of a leader is tobring people together towards a common goal.
Asthe paper has demonstrated, leadership is a broad issue in themanagement of organizations. Various concepts and problems must bebalanced and strategically positioned to have a mutual impact on oneanother for efficiency throughout. Empirical data as presented byMukunda and through simple observation has shown that externallyrecruited leaders and without much organizational experience tend tochallenge the status quo and introduce new ways of doing business.Such changes present high rewards and risks depending on how it ismanaged. The consistent view is that leadership qualities arenecessary for all leaders. However, it is evident that organizationalexperience that would lean towards internal recruitment is not arequirement. In fact, it is possible that the risks that externallyrecruited leadership pose to organizations are based on employees’attitude towards `outsider leaders.` Thus, there is a need forfurther research to comprehend employees’ attitudes and perceptionstowards externally recruited leaders and how they influence corporateperformance. At the same time, internally recruited leaders withorganizational experience may be victims of sabotage emanating fromhostile internal competition. Nonetheless, it is clear that corporateexperience is not necessary to make great leaders. Possessingleadership capabilities, having knack to drive change through a newperspective, and providing creative solutions to problems are mostimportant. 1605 words.
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