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Assessment Task 2

Leadership is an area that has numerous approaches and definitions. As far back
as 1974, Stogdill states “there are almost as many different definitions of leadership
as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept”. (Stogdill, 1974,
p. 7) Key theorist approaches vary from Kotter seeing leadership as a concept of
influence, "the process of moving a group (or groups) in some direction through
mostly non-coercive means".(Kotter, 1988, p. 16). Whereas Joseph Rost highlights
that “Kouzes and Posner never gave a succinct and clear definition of leadership.”
(Rost, 1991, p. 81) He argues that their definition of, “Leadership is a relationship
between leader and follower” is “fairly innocuous”. (Rost, 1991, p. 81) Peter
Drucker who defines a leader in relation to them having followers also provides too
simple a definition. (Hesselbein et al., 1996). A more recent approach from Kruse
believes that “Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the
efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal. (Kruse, 2013)
Given the range of definitions available it could be said that defining leadership is
a task of it’s own, particularly as modern concepts influence our understanding.
(Silva, 2016)
James O’Brien is the Victorian State Manager for National Disability Services
(NDS). NDS is an Australian peak body that represents non-government disability
organisations. Established in 1945 due to the need for national representation
and coordination to Government. (NDS, 2018)
NDS is a company limited by guarantee with a charitable status. As a not-for
profit membership organisation its full voting members are not-for-profit
organisations in the disability sector who have paid an annual subscription fee. It
is governed by a national elected board. The board is elected by members, with
directly elected members and representation by an elected chair of each state
and territory advisory committee. Advisory committees are also elected directly
by members. (NDS, 2018, ACNC, 2018)
An independently audited financial statement for 2016-2017 financial year
indicates NDS has
Total revenue
Net surplus after tax
Cash on hand
(ACNC, 2018)
The NDS State Manager role centres on the leadership and management of
operations within the relevant state. Leadership is required in the following areas
and contexts
 Influence public policy and programs
 Development and dissemination of information
 Membership growth
 Supporting membership and sector networking
While the role is a state based role, leadership also extends to national issues
and being a part of a cohesive national organisation. (NDS, 2017)
James O’Brien brings over 20 years’ experience spanning the areas of
community development, political advisory and campaign management. James
was the NDS Victorian State Manager from 2013 to 2015, having previously
coordinated the Victorian State Campaigns, inclusive of the Every Australian
Counts campaign for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) at NDS.
James brought significant political experience and networks to the role of State
Manager. (O'Brien, 2018)
With an educational background incorporating a Bachelor of Arts, Media and
Politics, Graduate Certificate in International and Community development and
having recently completed the Cranlana Programme, a leadership program for
senior leaders from the Private, Government and the Not-for-profit sectors,
James brings a solid educational background to the roles of NDS Stat Manager.
(O'Brien, 2018)
Given the disability sector is undergoing significant transformational change that
is now also being cited as ‘disruptive change’, of which James has a clear
mandate to provide leadership to their members and influence policy and
The interdependency on leadership and change management is well
documented, a focus upon disruptive change by Christensen identifies the
disruptive impact upon mainstream values and critical importance of leadership.
“..we have never seen a company succeed in addressing a change that disrupts
it mainstream values without the personal, attentive oversight of the CEOprecisely because of the power of values in shaping the normal resource
allocation process.” (Christensen and Overdorf, 2000, p. 74)
A values centred leadership approach within the context of a disruptive change
environment would provide a critical element in managing and leading through
change. There are several value centred leadership models such as ethical
leadership, authentic leadership, servant leadership and transformational
leadership. Given Christensen’s focus upon understanding organisational
capabilities and values and their disabling nature during disruptive change,
transformational leadership appears the most fitting value centred leadership
Transformational leadership has an “emphasis on intrinsic motivation and on the
positive development of followers”. (Bass, 2012, p. xi) Achieving extraordinary
outcomes though the stimulation and inspiring followers while also evolving their
own leadership capability is core to the transformational leadership model.
Individual followers goals and objectives are realigned by the leader to the larger
organisations, creating a group of followers who experience high levels of
satisfaction and commitment to the organisation. (Bass, 2012)
Bass identified key components of transformational leadership on which analyses
of Mr ‘Brien’s’ leadership style will be based.
Leadership is charismatic, a follower wants to follow their leader and be more lie
them, to aspire to develop the qualities that they appreciate. Mr O’Brien was a
quiet leader, who spoke softly and took time to make decisions He rarely
engaged in heated conversations or debate and exuded a confidence that his
responses were well thought out. While this was a trait that some followers would
seek to develop in their own approaches, during times requiring quick decisions
and decisive actions followers may felt frustrated and perceive a lack of
confidence. The approach reduced follower input into decision making and often
meant the reasoning behind decisions were not transparent, creating the
opportunity for distrust particularly given the importance in stakeholder
management within the role. (Bass, 2012)
A transformational leader inspires its followers, followers feel challenged and
understand the meaning to their work. There is a shared team atmosphere. Mr
O’Brien was able to articulate the need for the NDIS and the positive impact on
people with a disability however providing the challenges to his membership
group and gaining a shared atmosphere in achieving the change required under
the scheme was challenging and difficult to navigate. At an operational level
project support provided by NDS to members also reinforced this lack of
understanding of the work. The disruptive change was not internalised by
members who continue to want to operate as normal. (Bass, 2012)
Stimulating followers by creating an environment where followers are encouraged
to problem solve, take risks and make mistakes to take on challenging issues.
Ensuring that different angles are explored, eliminated or encouraged. Mr
O’Brien’ political experience provided a level of comfort in representing NDS at a
that level, however that was only one angle that challenges could be addressed.
The bulk of his followers are members who had grater resources and capacity to
be innovative and creative in finding solutions if they were encouraged and
supported to do so. The focus upon a political angle led to a top down approach
and attempts to ‘quieten’ members, stifling their intellectual stimulation and
creating an environment of criticism. At an operational level staff were expected
to assist in this approach, crating difficult situations with members. (Bass, 2012)
Leadership is coaching and mentoring to enable growth and achievement of
followers. Demonstrating the capacity to view followers as individuals with
different strengths and weaknesses and manage and lead them taking those into
consideration. Mr O’Brien rarely engaged in any performance develop discussion
with his operational staff nor did he take an interest in their areas of expertise of
weaknesses when allocating projects. Work was allocated based on how it had
always been done, during a time when the work needed to be challenged and
approached differently to meet the needs of members.
Historically the NDS has predominately been a conduit for information from
Government to the sector and for the sector to raise issues of concern. Little
collaborative work was done to enable staff to facilitate a more collaboratively codesigned process, as Mr O’Brien relied solely on his political relationships. This in
turn created a risk for Mr O’Brien as he had a self-interest in ensuring those
relationships were not damaged, therefore he avoided highly conflicted issues. It
created considerable questioning from members and new staff who wanted to
utilise different approaches. (Bass, 2012)
Laissez-faire leadership is also commonly referred to as delegative leadership, it
encapsulates a ‘hands-off’ approach to leadership that enables group members
to make their own decisions. This type of leadership is suitable in instances when
the leader has less knowledge than other experienced team members. Team
members must have established skills to succeed, be self-motivates and can
work independently. Team members who like this style of working will feel
satisfied with their work and relish in the autonomy. (Faraci et al., 2013, Cherry,
2018, Joseph, 2015)
The downside to this leadership approach is that where there is a lack of
expertise or knowledge, team members may struggle to achieve the task. Their
work performance may come into question and they ay experience poor job
satisfaction. Self-management of timelines and projects can lead to scope and
time creep if there is a lack of input from leaders. Laissez-faire leaders may
appear to be disinterested in the work and team members which can contribute to
low morale and transference of the same approach. (Faraci et al., 2013, Cherry,
2018, Joseph, 2015)
Accountability can come into question, with responsibility being shifted from the
leader to team members, due to the distance the leader has taken from the
project. There are concerns that this approach actually shows no leadership or
passivity and develops into a lack of respect from team members. (Faraci et al.,
2013, Cherry, 2018, Joseph, 2015)
While Mr O’Brien best fits this approach to leadership due to his lack of direction
and involvement, it is unclear how his management at a political level fits, as in
this space he appears to take responsibility. Mr O’Brien’s approach at a political
level is not informed by team members knowledge nor does Mr O’Brien articulate
or inform his approach to other team members to demonstrate his achievement
of goals. An additional factor is the lack of placing responsibility on team
members when a goal or vision is not clearly defined by Mr O’Brien as their
Providing leadership during a significant period of disruptive change is
challenging. Mr O’Brien has an opportunity to utilise this period to increase his
organisations creativity and adopt a more transformational leadership approach.
An example of how he could begin this process is by inviting members in to
ascertain their key areas of concern in their changing environment and co-design
an approach to improve their skills through further training and peer support.
Mr O’Brien has a team of skilled staff, who engage with members and different
levels of Government on a consistent basis. He has the capacity to utilise this
knowledge and demonstrate its value by using it to inform his political approach
and most importantly articulate that approach with is team, share why he is doing
this and what he is aiming to achieve. It is important that his team feel valued and
share his vision. Creating visibility in this area will reduce the likelihood that team
members may feel he places those relationships above his role as leader.
NDS Victoria team members are highly skilled and self-motivated individuals who
are passionate about their work and ambitious. By developing an understanding
of each staff member (There are only 3) Mr O’Brien can enable them to further
develop, provide suitable challenges and engage with staff members at an
intellectual level thereby improving relationships and ensuring staff feel valued.
ACNC, A. C. a. N. F. P. C. (2018) Charity Name National Disability Services Limited: Australian,
Charities and Not For Profits Commission. Available at:
https://www.acnc.gov.au/RN52B75Q?ID=C9D520C7-A357-4170-97DE04E0ABAA3FDA&noleft=1#contentstart (Accessed: 17/6 2018).
Ahn, M. J., Adamson, J. S. A. and Dornbusch, D. (2004) 'From leaders to leadership: managing
change', Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 10(4), pp. 112.
Bass, B. M. 2012. Transformational Leadership. In: Riggio, R.E. & Ebook, L. (eds.) 2nd ed.. ed.
Hoboken: Hoboken : Taylor and Francis.
Cherry, K. (2018) What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership?: Very well mind (Accessed: 17/6 2018).
Christensen, C. and Overdorf, M. (2000) 'Meeting the challenge of disruptive change', Harvard
Business Review, 78(2), pp. 66-76.
Faraci, P., Lock, M. and Wheeler, R. (2013) 'Assessing leadership decision-making styles:
psychometric properties of the leadership judgement indicator.(ORIGINAL RESEARCH)',
Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 6, pp. 117.
Hesselbein, F., Goldsmith, M. and Beckhard, R. (1996) The leader of the future : new visions,
strategies, and practices for the next era. San Francisco: San Francisco : Jossey-Bass.
Joseph, C. (2015) 6 Delegating Leadership Style Examples: Joseph Chris Partners Executive Recruiting
Search Firm. Available at: http://www.josephchris.com/6-delegating-leadership-styleexamples (Accessed: 16/5 2018).
Kotter, J. P. (1988) The leadership factor. New York : London: New York : Free Press ; London : Collier
Kruse, K. (2013) What is Leadership?: Forbes. Available at:
(Accessed: 17/6 201).
NDS, N. D. S. (2017) State Manager, Tasmania at National Disability Services - Jobs: Probono
Australia. Available at: https://probonoaustralia.com.au/jobs/2017/10/state-managertasmania/ (Accessed: 10/;6 2018).
NDS, N. D. S. (2018) About: National Disability Services. Available at: https://www.nds.org.au/about
(Accessed: 15/6 2018).
O'Brien, J. (2018) James O'Brien | LinkedIn: LinkedIn. Available at:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-o-brien-33b2b420/ (Accessed: 14/6 2018).
Rost, J. C. (1991) Leadership for the twenty-first century. Leadership for the 21st century New York:
New York : Praeger.
Silva, A. (2016) 'What is Leadership?', Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 8(1), pp. 1-5.
Stogdill, R. M. (1974) Handbook of leadership : a survey of theory and research. New York: New York
: Macmillan.
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