The new leadership genre: A qualitative study of the practice of transformational, servant and charismatic leadership in a Danish context

Anders Hyldelund & Hans Christian Fogtmann

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

Leadership is a highly contested theoretical field where opposing views on what constitutes good leadership exist. The leadership field was expanded in the aftermath of the financial crisis, when much debate started to flourish as to how leaders could become more ethical and responsible and how better leadership could increase organizational performance. The theories of transformational, servant and charismatic leadership have been suggested to be remedies for such a challenge. These three theories have in this thesis been grouped together under the umbrella term The New Leadership Genre. They have been described as moral pursuits where leaders‟ abilities to motivate and stimulate followers can lead to increased follower satisfaction, motivation and ultimately performance. Based on this assumption, the purpose of this thesis is to investigate whether the three theories of the new leadership genre are being practiced in contemporary Danish businesses and how it is visible. Through qualitative interviews with twelve business managers in four large Danish businesses (COWI, ISS, Nomeco and Nordea), we have been able to identify signs of the new leadership genre. We saw that organizations have installed drivers which can act as catalysts for desired leadership values. Through tailored leadership training programmes, career tracks and evaluation surveys, organizations can communicate which values they deem as constituting good leadership. We argue that some of the values communicated within the organizations resemble the notions of the new leadership genre. We also noted transformational leadership in the business managers‟ discussions of how to communicate visions and motivate and stimulate employees. This was done by providing meaning and creating emotional attachments with followers. The concept of servant-leadership was also seen, particularly in the lower levels of management. Here employee attention and development seemed to be prioritized above strategic goals. Charismatic leadership was noted in the sense that business managers viewed the aspects of communication, enthusiasm and the ability to empower followers as representing good leadership. Furthermore, we noted that despite the new leadership genre claiming to take the moral highroad, it was still seen by business managers as a subtle way of gaining legitimacy and power and improving organizational performance. The findings of this thesis are based on the leaders‟ points of view and a limit, therefore, exists as to how much these findings can be applied in a general discussion of the presence of the new leadership genre. We found that leadership behaviour fluctuates in practice and that although we identified signs of the new leadership genre, other leadership behaviours were also present. This brings forward the notion that leadership is an intricate subject and it is unlikely that one approach will fit with all contexts in today‟s complex organizations and societies.

EducationsMSc in Strategy, Organization and Leadership, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageEnglish
Publication date2011
Number of pages128