Contemporary Leadership Styles: With great power comes great responsibility!

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Leadership has been prevalent as long as the existence of mankind. Taoism highlights leadership qualities as cultivating and directing followers. Nevertheless, traditional styles of leadership that were practiced in the earlier days in the form of dictatorial control are rarely relevant and carried out due to the changing mindsets of the workforce in the 21st century (Saee, 2005).

What is the real definition of leadership? What are the best ways to evaluate a great leader? Are there different approaches to leadership in various cultures? These questions are imperative and have had many in-depth researches by scholars but the debate is ongoing. Uhl bien et al (2007) advocates that the theories from the 20th century are reliable for economies established on physical manufacturing and not for knowledge based ones.

Scholarly theories and arguments

In the early days, the trait theory was considered relevant as it assumed that leaders are born and not trained (Colbert, 2012:1) which can be argued as there is no clarity on who is said to be a ‘successful’ leader or even if there are certain qualities which are inherited, these innate talents require nurturing and encouragement (Mullins, 2016:314). On the other hand, Adair strongly believes that leadership can be instilled by the needs (task, team maintenance & individual) that a particular task requires its members to do (Adair, 1973). This seems more practical as it understands what motivates individuals and their inner needs rather than just qualities they are born with.

During a terror attack at Taj Hotel in Mumbai, a 22 year old lady guided a few people to safety even though she was not a trained leader but the way she managed to respond to the situation portrays a lesson that with the right mind set, you can lead in the moment (Mullins, 2016:  317). In a horrific situation like this, no theory comes into play. It is usually the quick and smart reflexes that determine leadership.

Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s theory of leadership depicts the correlation between the degree of freedom given to its employees and the authority shown by the manager (Harvard Business Review, 1973:5).  It identifies tells, sells, consults and joins as four major styles of leadership demonstrated by the manager and suggests that forces of manager, subordinates and situations all decide the type of leadership qualities desired to be used as managers understand themselves and the individuals present in the group (Mullins, 2016: 318).

In today’s world

Even after fifty years of independence, Africa still faces development challenges like poverty, corruption, weak infrastructure etc. and this is primarily due to cruel leadership and trying to replicate western based models which possibly don’t fit its economy. The society has been destroyed by its own leaders and their autocratic rule where the citizens were made to be passive and major control was in their own hands. Poverty was given more significance than development along with ego which was placed high above the worries of the people (Poncian J, Mgaya E 2015).  The most common factor that relates all leaders is said to be that they all have followers and without them they are nothing (Bennis 2007:3). Seeing the dominant rule in the African continent, leaders must try and build rapport with its people and work towards their empowerment. As the saying, “with great power, comes great responsibility” is true and should be obeyed across all types of knowledge or production based economies.

The rise of Vogue-ism

There has always been a minimum discussion of women and their actions when the topic of leadership has arisen (Eklund, Barry, Grunberg 2017).anna wintour.jpg

Anna Wintour has been one of  fashion industry’s acknowledged entities as the artistic director acquiring the possessions of Conde Naste including the ever so famous Vogue. Her key management styles were being decisive and following her instinct. She would delegate work and never show her insecurities in her course of action. Always learning from mistakes and being inspired from failure taught her the importance of her own actions as a leader and helped in growth of herself and her employees (Feloni, 2016).

Burberry and its rise

Leadership in Burberry has changed over the years in great response to business needs. Cultural demand has made its Asian and Middle Eastern allocation departments to be led by their respective host nations. In 2013, Angela appointed Christopher Bailey as a the global creative director as there were different products being designed in various parts of the world and she as a leader wanted creativity to be compressed and led single handedly. This helped in streamlining the company (HBR 2013).


I believe leadership strongly revolves around one self. If a manager has a clear sense of self and a vision, they will give the employees or followers the respect and confidence to take decisions and challenge opinions on their own. Using Cutler’s leadership jigsaw which helps in the measurement and development of leadership qualities, every manager can undergo training and use self observation to bring out the best in others.(Mullins 2016: 338). In the modern times, theories should be converted to practical sessions and leaders must be given workshops based on the environment the business operates in. As we observed with Angela, she was clear that Burberry needed an entity to handle the creative aspect across all borders. Clarity is utmost important and future theories should be developed on how the employees would want their leader to perform and behave.

The future

I believe leadership theories should take a more holistic approach. Many researchers scrutinize leadership and its dynamism. Integrating psychology and strategy with leadership can help in determining how the process of leading can take place and its effect on various individuals. As we can see in our day to day world, intense competition has led to greater research on this topic and organizations are seeking ways to speed up positive leadership expansion to be ahead in the global market (AVOLIO, B.J., WALUMBWA, F.O. and WEBER, T.J., 2009). I also think that theories from the 20th century are not appropriate as times have changed and the future requires to look at this topic on a different and fresh perspective.


  • John Saee (2005) Effecitve leadership for the global economy in the 21ST century, Journal of Business Economics and Management, 6:1, 3-11
  • Mullins, L., 2013. Management and Organisational Behaviour. 10th ed. Harlow: Peasrson Education.
  • (2018). [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2018].
  • Adair, J.E., 1973. Action-centred leadership (pp. 07-084428). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
  • (2018). Course: Free Online Team Management Training | [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2018].
  • Tannenbaum, R. and Schmidt, W.H., 1973. How to choose a leadership pattern (pp. 3-12). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review.
  • Colbert, A.E., Judge, T.A., Choi, D. and Wang, G., 2012. Assessing the trait theory of leadership using self and observer ratings of personality: The mediating role of contributions to group success. The Leadership Quarterly, 23(4), pp.670-685.
  • Poncian, J. and Mgaya, E.S., 2015. Africa’s Leadership Challenges in the 21st Century: What Can Leaders Learn from Africa’s Pre-Colonial Leadership and Governance. Int’l J. Soc. Sci. Stud., 3, p.106.
  • Eklund, K.E., Barry, E.S. and Grunberg, N.E., 2017. Gender and leadership. In Gender Differences in Different Contexts. InTech.
  • The Challenges of Leadership in the Modern World Introduction to the Special Issue Warren Bennis University of Southern California 2007
  • empire, 6. (2018). 6 strategies Vogue editor Anna Wintour uses to run her empire. [online] Business Insider. Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2018].
  • AVOLIO, B.J., WALUMBWA, F.O. and WEBER, T.J., 2009. Leadership: Current Theories, Research, and Future Directions. Annual review of psychology, 60, pp.421-449.
  • (2018). …loading. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Apr. 2018].



22 Comments Add yours

  1. Abhishek says:

    I think this blog is very helpful and explains leadership theories very well and also how the future should look ! Good going Harleen.

    Thank you


    1. Thanks Abhishek. I hope I can contribute positively to the future.


  2. Very articulately written, in terms of giving examples of various situations and analysing whether ‘leadership’ is inherent or can be honed by an individual depending on a certain situation, or the relationship with the team. I would love to see more examples of how leadership styles are evolving in the fashion world, as you have rightly said in the end about having a fresh perspective in today’s time as well as overseeing the future. Also have a quick read of this article-, as I found it effective in terms of showcasing good leadership qualities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for you comment. I will surely read the article and try and uplift the blog with more examples on how leadership has evolved in the fashion world. I was just trying to keep it balanced with situations from diverse backgrounds. Thanks much 🙂


  3. Abhinav Sharma says:

    The paradigm shift from explaining the basics of leadership as more of a political and historical phenomenon to a sudden dive into the fashion world has a positive bearing on this article. The introduction should have been concerned with the form of leadership in the fashion world.
    As whole it portrays a way to take on the reigns of an organisation making it a one man show at some points. It streamlines the process of power sharing and employees’ freedom.
    At last it’s a great attempt.
    All the best .


    1. Thanks Abhinav. I am still in the process of learning and this is my first attempt. I am sure with your valuable comments I can improve along the journey and process of blog writing. I just wanted to show the relevance of leadership in all forms from historical, political and fashion. I will keep your advice in mind! Thanks much 🙂


  4. culcgalupari says:

    Nice write up about leadership! I like when you said that psychology and strategy should be integrated in discussing leadership!


    1. Thanks! I’m glad you liked the connection. I think it is important to understand human beings and how to strategize and deal with them when discussing leadership. It is a debatable topic!!


  5. Vijay Rajasekar says:

    My best wishes Harleen!!

    I would say that the Leader would be like a superior in a group. Indeed there are exceptions to it, we have seen Mahendra Singh Dhoni the former cricket captain of Indian cricket team used to say that he would take the responsibility for the loss and when the team wins he would give credits to the fellow players. I would say that attitude of Dhoni is the hallmark of a good leader.


    1. I too like Dhoni’s leadership style but sometimes he can be taken for granted with this attitude. People can misuse the way he blames himself and praises his players. I feel he empowers his team and the loss should be shared as they all are a part of it too ! This is my view point. Thanks Vijay for your wishes!


  6. Raunaq Chandak says:

    A very intrisic and informative blog laying down various factors and models about the fashion world. This was especially helpful to someone like me, who’s very unaware of the entire industry. Keep them coming. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Raunaq! I hope I can help in increasing your knowledge! 🙂 especially from a person who is well educated on many different things. I am happy I can pass my opinion and you will keep on enjoying reading my work!


  7. Prachi Jain says:

    Well written!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I hope my leadership blog can help you in your daily life. If there is anything I can improve, do let me know!!


  8. Shreya Kapoor says:

    Extremely informative and a wonderful read.. Very well articulated and expressive with some fresh ideas ! Keep em coming !


    1. I am happy it was informative and gave a fresh perspective. Thanks much:)


  9. Piyush says:

    Your views on old leadership vs contemporary is very realistic. Well written

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Bhanu says:

    Very well written Harleen. The write-up considers several important aspects of leadership – impact, style and importantly diversity (in gender, race and location).

    One crucial element that I’d have loved to read in the context of leadership would be – value system.

    In fact, I’d argue that in Africa and some other economies that are still struggling to develop, I attribute misaligned values as an equal if not bigger contributor than leadership. Some of the political bigwigs prefer staying in power rather than growing countries. In that sense, they are leaders for their own party but do not as leaders of the countries (barring photo-ops and holding office)

    When Nazis continued invading EU and continued to expand to UK, one autocrat/dictator that stood out clearly was Hitler. On the other hand, Winston Churchill took big bold decisions himself to win the war. Both leaders in this situation directed rest of his countrymen by channelling their patriotism and galvanizing their emotions, but one wanted invasion and another wanted self-respect and dignity. we are looking back to values in the context of leadership.

    Second, when we speak about a change of leadership styles over a period of time it may also be relevant to talk about exogenous macroeconomic factors. Some of the industrial businesses needed a top-down approach.

    Assuming some of the research focused purely on business leadership, industrial revolution in the need for “efficiency”. Business decisions were taken by the visionary leaders such as Henry Ford and Kiichiro Toyoda, who wanted efficiency and speed. Their leadership styles were mostly top-down for most of the company, but they had their close circles who offered advice and feedback. While I do not have data on businesses not impacted by the industrial revolution, I’d go ahead guess that the researchers offering definitions and views from those times should have seen the clear link between the need of the hour. Should the workers have “freedom” of working anytime, any hour (example “work-from-home” options like we enjoy today)? perhaps not.

    in today’s world, as you rightly said, we clearly moved out of the hard cycles of industrial revolution, and technology has taken away most of the physical constraints and businesses are booming more on innovation than efficient machinery. Such a context clearly needs the change in leadership styles.

    I enjoyed reading your blog! Keep them coming.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I empathize with your point of view and it has given me a new perspective. I agree as well that many industries require an autocratic leadership style. But in that we can add soft elements and not make the structure extremely rigid that it is difficult for the subordinates to survive in the environment. Balance is the key! Again, I think it depends a lot on cultures and backgrounds of individuals. Anyways, great insight. Thanks much 🙂


  11. Dr Ritu Rana says:

    Hello Ms. Dawar,
    Although I bumped into this blog accidentally but really enjoyed reading it (after all it’s rare to find academically oriented blogs ;))!
    A few points to highlight-
    -The theories you mentioned could have been arranged chronologically, for instance- Trait Theory of Leadership-Thomas Carlyle in the mid-1800s followed by Tannenbaum and Schmidt’s theory of leadership-1957 and lastly, John Adair Action-Centered Leadership-1973.
    -I won’t buy your arguments as the scale you mentioned is quite wide- “leading a few people-the Mumbai attacks” vs “leading a country/region-African context”, you can’t really compare these two. I believe each theory has its own importance depending on the scale of leadership required (team strength) and the context in which it is being implemented (history of leadership and team composition).
    -The statement “Even after fifty years of independence, Africa still faces development challenges like poverty, corruption, weak infrastructure etc. and this is primarily due to cruel leadership and trying to replicate western based models which possibly don’t fit its economy” is a very strong one and should have been referenced properly.

    Best wishes for your fashion management course, I am confident you will do exceptionally well!

    Ritu Rana

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I appreciate your critical analysis of my blog and will surely improvise. Well, coming to the scale/// I agree that it is wide but I wanted to show various aspects of leadership from being in intense situations such as Taj or in an economic environment. Thanks for your constructive comment. I will surely try to reference more strong and do better.


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