Leadership is the process of influencing a group of people towards achieving a certain definite goal. It involves setting the vision of the group of people and inspiring them to maximize their efforts towards achieving that vision. Although management and leadership are often used interchangeably especially in present-day corporations, management is very different from leadership. Leaders focus on motivation, and inspiration (Algahtani, 2014). Leaders focus on creating passion to follow their vision, and aim to achieve long haul objectives as well as go out on a limb to attain common goals (Bennis and Nanus, 1997). In addition, leadership styles can be mainly categorized as autocratic, democratic and laissez faire. Other styles include transformational, strategic, situational and transactional. However, transformational leadership has been one of the most debated and studied concept in the field of leadership (McCleskey, 2014).
Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, for instance, has been an outstanding leader and a perfect example of a transformational leader. Fernandes was born to a Malaysian-Portuguese mother and an Indian father in Malaysia. At age 12, he was sent to study in the UK at Epsom College and could not visit home frequently due to the high airfares. An idea then sparked into Fernandes’ mind; he aspired to one day operate a low-cost carrier of his own and offer affordable flight tickets across Asia (Izadi, 2014). As he grew up, he has grasped the opportunity to realize his dreams when he transformed an ailing government-linked airline, Air Asia, to a highly successful low-cost budget airline. Mr. Fernandes bought Air Asia in September 2001 at a mere 1 Malaysian Ringgit when it was heavily indebted (Smith, 2014). He overhauled the Airline reforming it as a low-cost carrier and in the process rapidly expanded the business while revolutionizing short-haul flights in Asia.
Tony Fernandes is seen to be a dynamic leader with many aspects from the majority of the various leadership styles. He however emerges strongly as a transformational business leader. His transformational leadership qualities are best exemplified during his transformation of the airline as the CEO of Air Asia Berhad. He was able to transform his workforce and his business towards great success and business heights to emerge as the leading budget airline in Asia (King, 2013). He was able to do so by maintaining focus on his workforce, tightening the relationship between himself and his employees with a close supervisory relationship. He was able to not only to create the vision for his followers but also share it with them, making it their vision as well, thus motivating them to become self-motivated (Jens Rowold, Anette Rohmann, 2009). Like a truly transformational leader, he set their targets and pushed his team to high performance while allowing for professional and personal improvement for the members.
He convinced his employees to unite in his project and considers them as the main component of the company. He has been quoted stating that in his firm the employees come 1st and then clients 2nd as when the employees are well taken care of they will take care of the customers. This highly relational and open nature has been highly successful in employee productivity as he aims to make Air Asia the best company to work for where employees are considered as part of one big happy family. Happy employees leads to more productive employees (AIR ASIA BHD). This, if further amplified by the fact where employees are offered stock options to be fully part of the company, they are also for internal training and advancement in the firm thus spurring growth, creativity and cohesiveness (PIEW, M. C. T.). His leadership emphasizes the importance of healthy interface among all the employees as he maintains a non-hierarchy practice at the work place
2. Transformational Leadership: Strength and Weaknesses
Transformational leadership has emerged as the most effective leadership style, especially in corporate organizations. This is because transformational leaders inspire employees by helping them find self-worth in the work they do.
Transformational leaders have charm, give inspiration, and boost intellectual incentives. These qualities aid correspondence processes and organizational learning which empower organizations to be more inventive. Provided, via the communication process, transformational leadership thus contributes towards innovation indirectly as well as the development of organizational intellectual creation (Garcia-Morales, Barrionuevo and Gutierrez, 2012). Furthermore, in view of the presence of both strategic influences (communication and organizational learning) and the interrelation between them, transformational leadership has an indirect impact on innovation.
This transformational leadership style has not only helped Fernandes transform Air Asia but the airline industry in South East Asia as well (Janeo, 2016). He managed to negotiate with the surrounding nations and opened up the countries to new low-cost carriers which did not have any prior open skies agreements. As a result of his lobbying in 2003, Air Asia and other discount carriers were granted landing rights by the nations. He has also invested in the new type fuel-efficient Airbus 320 that lowered maintenance costs for the airline and convinced his suppliers to let him purchase the aircrafts at lower prices than other companies.
Several characteristics of transformational leadership style are vital for innovation (Gumusluoglu and ?lsev, 2009). Transformational leaders have an interactional vision; they give careful consideration and maximum effort to cultivating effective communication and sharing values (Adair, 1990) as well as supporting a suitable environment for innovative teams. They encourage cooperative procedures of organizational learning, mutual trust between organization’s individuals and leaders, and positive states of mind toward proactivity, risks, as well as creative imaginations. Combined, all of these features may empower a better comprehension of the solid connections between transformational authority and the factors positively impacting the hierarchical advancement (Garcia-Morales, Barrionuevo and Gutierrez, 2012).
Fernandes has invested a lot in innovation and new ideas then such as travel insurance and online booking. He has also changed the concept of the airline and replaced with low-cost and no-frills strategy, which led to low marketing costs and increased profitability. This coupled with his ability to effectively allocate channels and routes effectively endeared him to his employees as a leader for the airline.
Effective leaders are often characterized by traits such as emotional intelligence, integrity, self-drive, leadership motivation and knowledge of the business or field in which they are leaders, irrespective of leadership style. While transformational leadership has several advantages such as clear and strategic vision, ability to communicate and model the vision and commitment the vision, this form of leadership style also has its weaknesses. A transformational leader is often charismatic with the ability to influence many to his cause (Dionne, Yammarino, Atwater, & Spangler, 2004). However, if the visions are not well thought and planned, they often backfire due to misinformed or emotional decision making. This form of leadership also puts a lot of pressure and expectation on the followers or employees in a business environment and may lead to burning out among the followers due to extremely high expectations of the leader. There is also the change of assumed motivation, transformational leaders at times fail to incorporate situational dynamics and assume that followers will automatically agree with the idea. This is not always the case as sometimes decisions may not be well-timed, not well informed or even staff, employees or group members may not be well trained, have the skills or have the experience to complete the demanded task.
Transformational leadership is also largely dependent on an individual; it is largely dependent on the personality and charisma of the leader and his ability to persuade others of his vision. Transformational leadership’s high viability in leaders’ vision makes it undemocratic; the leader’s motivation is unchallenged to a great extent, thus at risk to be abused by the leader. There is a lot of recorded confirmation supporting its abuse (Suresh and Rajini, 2013), as in the case of Mao Zedong of China, which has caused millions of unnecessary deaths (Nye, 2008). This form of leadership is effective but may at times be time consuming as it requires the leaders to invest time and energy in enhancing relationships and building trust to be able to convince others on the shared vision. This may take time and prove ineffective.
3. Women as Leaders
Research has proven that men have the tendency to possess qualities that make for a greater leader than women. This can be supported by the survey that has been conducted by the Pew Research Center (2008), with 21% of respondents in the poll of 2,250 adults agreeing that, overall, men make better leaders than women and a mere 6% have stated otherwise. In addition, Harvard business review has reported that as of 2017, women makes up of only 6.4% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and just over 5% of executives in Fortune 500 companies are female (Stevenson and Orr, 2017). However, over the years, women have attained qualities and attributes that arise in leadership practices that are not quite the same as the conventional competitive, aggressive and controlling leadership practices of men. Provided, while the leadership styles between men and women are inarguably similar, there are slight differences in terms of communication, reward systems and self-branding.
Men acclimated more toward the social generalizations of being more task-oriented, self-assured and propelled to adapt to their situations, while ladies conformed more toward social generalization of being more interpersonal, magnanimous and concerned about other people (Chin, 2011). When rewarding employees, women use more qualitative techniques that ensure appreciation and self-worth. Men on the other hand, tend to use transactional leadership approach where incentives are given for success while failure is rewarded by penalties (Garfinkle, 2016). According to the American Psychological Association, in terms of communication, men provide their employees with directions, while women push their employees to find directions of their own.
Despite the differences, leadership style is by no means dependent of gender. Carless (1998), has attracted consideration regarding the sexual orientation congeniality viewpoint that spotlights on the fit between gender and specific influential positions. It might be that some leadership circumstances, for instance the military, require leadership characterized in masculine term and thus more congenial to men. Similarly, the leadership of medical centers or educational management setting might be characterized substantially more in feminine terms and consequently may be more congenial to women.
These minor differences in leadership styles between the genders however do not suggest that any particular gender make better leaders. They in fact widen a company’s pool of leadership, innovation and creativity. This heavily contributes to the success of any firm when both men and women are promoted to high-level positions.
4. Personal Leadership Style
Referring to a leadership test, my leadership style is predominantly participative, which implies that I am equipped for working with individuals who comprehend the targets and their part of the task. My greatest quality is diligent work, sharing the sense of liabilities, timeliness, time management and the ability to meet due dates. I am an exceptionally reliable individual with the ability to participate as a cooperative person or as a person which helps me to get by in various sort of situations.
In order to make the team more efficient and productive, a participative leader empowers team members to use their imagination and generate ideas that may contribute to the whole process (Root III, n.d). As a participative leader of the student council in high school, instead of taking autocratic decisions, I have involved my peers in the process of decision making, to make them personally responsible for the success of the team. With that, members are more inclined to keep a higher level of morale and motivation. Before executing any decisions, I would host a meeting with all the members of different roles and requested for their personal opinions that may contribute to the outcome. That way, representatives would likewise play a more dynamic part in enhancing the work conditions when they realize that they could directly influence the strategies that governed the council.
Looking at the future, I will make sure to become a successful participative leader whether in an office or an organization of my own. In my judgement, participative leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles as it is able to fulfill organizational members by satisfying their essential human needs and desires. It is viewed as essential for an organization in order for it to be able to adapt with the dynamic changes of globalization and ensure its survival. Pursuing a career as a CEO, I am aware that working with different kinds of individuals is inevitable. Thus, I will be required to further specialize in the skills and qualities of a participative leader.
We can therefore conclude that Tony Fernandes is indeed a great leader. He is an exceptional transformational leader. Who not only gives instruction to juniors but works with them to inspire them to maximum productivity. He has demonstrated his abilities even in times of crisis such as the loss of Air Asia QZ8051. He put the concerns of his staff and passengers as a priority while communicating to the world of any news on the matter, and he remained accountable and kept to facts.
Like any other effective leader, his style is not limited to transformational but also authoritative and autocratic when needed to be as well as consultative especially in matters of new ideas and approaches. He has also positioned himself as an accessible leader that is available to his team. Transformation leadership therefore emerges as the most effective form of leadership as it a hybrid of the 3 main leadership styles.
We also see the differences between women and men leadership that are equally relevant and add value to any group of people due to the diversity and wealth of creativity and innovation. For any individual to be effective as a leader, there has to be core values and principles that they subscribe to that regulates his conduct.