The role of a leader within an organisation has traditionally been to maintain task performance by
managing and coordinating staff. However, due to the advancement of post-bureaucratic
management styles, a newfound focus is being placed on employee participation, satisfaction and
transformation. While believed to be a purely positive change, situational and contingency theories
suggest that an organisation’s leadership approach should instead be dependent on context
(Meindl et al. 1985). Hybridised approaches to leadership are thus being utilised as post-
bureaucratic management approaches are not always ideal in certain situations (Josserand et al.
The bureaucratic era saw management approaching leadership in a transactional manner as in
1947, Weber describes that emphasis was placed significantly on task performance (Bass 1985).
Leadership was earned through strict ruling and discipline (Nikezic et al. 2012) and this autocratic
style thrives in environments where a large number of standardised operations are needed.
Productivity is valued over innovation and allows individuals to focus on performing specific tasks
without worrying about making complex decisions. This reduces the chance for error as it trains
employees at performing certain duties with great skill. Particularly in dangerous conditions, such
strict leadership is necessary to ensure safety. While still prevalent, such bureaucratic leadership
styles neglect to promote high levels of employee satisfaction and commitment, necessary to
obtain the realms of customary organisational objectives.
The switch to post-bureaucracy has seen the emergence of contemporary leadership theories,
placing greater emphasis on the empowerment of employees. Juxtaposed with transactional
leadership, transformational leadership involves re-aligning values and goals, and encouraging
innovation and commitment amongst employees (Bass & Steidlmeier 1999). Implemented
successfully in most businesses, it’s particularly crucial for long-term orientation as such
organisations are more likely to engage in institutional corporate social responsibility practices (Du
et al. 2013). Greenleaf’s work reiterates that leaders are “servants first” and must consider others
needs before their own (Greenleaf 1977). Such leaders will engage in communication with
employees, ultimately promoting higher levels of engagement, increased innovation and
productivity. The servant leadership style is best suited to non-government organisations that must
find the balance between their diverse group of stakeholders.
Authentic leadership is becoming increasingly popular as a post-bureaucratic management style.
Luthans and Avolio defined authentic leaders as possessing all the qualities of transformational
leaders, with the addition of ethical standards. Combining self-awareness with internalised moral
perspective, Avolio also developed the idea that bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic management
can possess both transactional and transformational qualities (full-range leadership) (Luthans &
Avolio 2003). These theories provide a new perspective, creating value for all stakeholders.
Contingency and situational theories emphasise the importance of considering context when
choosing leadership style. Both bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic leadership can have its merits;
therefore, the circumstances needs to be assessed in order to make an informed decision.
Northouse notes that situations can be determined with three essential factors: leader-member
relations; task structure; and position power (Northouse 2004). Using this framework while
considering external factors will allow organisations to find their optimum leadership style.
Ultimately, leaders should alter their approach to meet the needs of employees. While elements of
post-bureaucratic leadership styles can be advantageous; each organisation’s situation is unique
and requires a different approach to leadership. While authentic leadership is the most beneficial
for all stakeholders; analysing the contextual factors will allow the implementation of the most
appropriate leadership style.
Bass, B.M. 1985, ‘From transactional to transformational leadership: learning to share the vision’,
Journal of Organizational Dynamics, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 19-32.
Bass, B.M. & Steidlmeier, P. 1999, ‘Ethics, character, and authentic transformational leadership
behaviour’, Leadership Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 2. Pp. 204-208.
Clegg, S., Kornberger, M., & Pitsis, T. 2012, Managing & organisations: an introduction to theory
and practice, 3rd edn, Sage Publications, London.
Du, S., Swaen, V., Lindgreen, A., & Sen, S. 2013, ‘The roles of leadership styles in corporate
social responsibility’, Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 114, no.1, pp. 155-169.
Greenleaf, R.K. 1977, Servant leadership, Paulist Press, New York.
Josserand, E., Teo, S. & Clegg, S. 2006, ‘From bureaucratic to post-bureaucratic: the difficulties
of transition’, Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 54-64.
Luthans, F. & Avolio B.J. 2003, ‘Authentic leadership: a positive developmental approach’, in K.S.
Cameron, J.E. Dutton, R.E. Quinn (ed.), Positive Organisational Scholarship: Foundations of a
New Discipline, Berrett-Koehler, California
Meindl, J.R., Ehrlich, S.B. & Dukerich, J.M. 1985, ‘The romance of leadership’, Administrative
Science Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 78-102.
Nikezic, S., Puric, S. & Puric, J. 2012, ‘Transactional and transformational leadership:
development through changes’, International Journal for Quality Research, vol. 6, no. 3, pp.
Northouse, P.G. 2012, Leadership: theory and practice, 5th edn, Sage Publications, California.
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