In both the private and public sector, organizational leadership is a very complex element to the structure of any agency or company. The attributes a leader should have within an organization can vary from one situation to another. In addition, there may be many leaders within an organization with each having very different roles and responsibilities. Also, the boss, subordinate relationship is a delicate one and that dynamic is often compromised by circumstances that occur in everyday business throughout an organization. In all organizations, the aspect of leadership has its benefits as well as its problems.

Different Types of Leadership

Leadership is characteristic that means different things to different people. For example, according to Kurt Lewin who was the founder of social psychology and the Group Dynamics School at the University of Iowa, there are three different types of leaders: (1) authoritarian – a threatening, coercive and intimidating individual; (2) laissez-fair – a hands off type of leader who does not give much direction; (3) democratic – a leader that focuses on the “we” of the organization and how to achieve goals together, as a group. Lewin’s study of these types of leaders concluded that productivity was maximized under the authoritarian and interpersonal connection and team work was at its highest under the democratic leader. Not surprisingly, the laissez-fair leader had the least impact on any of the workers in the study.

According to this study, organizational leadership is approached differently by different managers. There are good and bad things about all. For example, at first look, and authoritarian may seem like a negative leader who focuses to much on intimidation and coercive measures. However, productivity is at its highest under that type of leadership. A laissez-fair leader my look weak and uninterested in organizational goals, however, this leader may foster worker independence within an organization.

The Complexity of Leadership

Leadership is a multifarious part of organizational structure. Today, the environment that leaders must operate under is rapidly changing. For example, in the past, leaders did not have to deal with the intense scrutiny and examination that is present today. In the public sector, leadership can be even more complicated. Existing research and observation indicate that strategic decision making in public agencies takes place under conditions like policy ambiguity, greater openness of media participation in issues, artificial time constraints due to political turnover, and shaky coalitions due to political relationships (Rainey 2003). All of these situations and circumstances make effective leadership a difficult task.

Leadership and Motivation

Although there are different types of leaders, the ultimate organizational goal is to increase productivity through motivation. Motivating employees involves meeting their needs as well as the organization’s production goals. Abraham Maslow's theory of self-actualization is often referenced by successful leaders. This theory outlines a worker’s hierarchy of needs which have to be met in order for that person to be fully motivated. The workers highest need is self-actualization and personal fulfillment. A good leader, according to Maslow must foster those feelings.

Characteristics of a Good Leader

A leader must develop integrative, targeted strategies. The issues or concern of an organization must be continually identified. Also, a good leader must develop broad coalitions. He or she must foster an environment of teamwork among subordinates and other leaders. A good leader must have strong interpersonal skills. Finally, qualities such as honesty, integrity, and uncompromising commitment to one’s work and agency mission significantly affect a leader’s ability to be successful (Stillman 2005).

Further Reading

For more information on organizational leadership, checkout "Reflections on Public Administration" by John Gaus. Also, Hal Rainy’s book "Understanding and Managing Public Organizations" is a great resource for understanding organizational theory and leadership.