This paper serves three purposes: the synthesis of current leadership theory literature, the application of leadership theory, and a personal reflection on leadership theory. The application of leadership theory will apply leadership theory to an effective leader within my organization, Dr. Scott Borderud, and my observation of his leadership style. A personal reflection will follow in which I will discuss how a deeper understanding of this specific leader can make me a more effective leader.
Synthesis of Leadership Resources
Leaders transform the expectation and reality of followers
Leaders who serve others make the most effectual leaders
Leaders possess a charisma which is visionary and inspiring
Leaders motivate followers through reward/punishment incentives
Offermann, Kennedy, & Wirtz
Leadership is a conceptualization of leadership traits and behaviors
Gerth & Mills
Leadership is a combination of an individual and their leadership in unique situations
Leadership is contingent upon relational and task-oriented situational demands
Great men bring about great changes in society
Trait Theory of Leadership
Kohs & Irle
Leadership is defined by inherent traits and personality characteristics
Thought processes of a leader must be understood in relation to their situation
Exchange Leadership Theory
A leader is only as effective as the behavior he/she changes in their followers
Bolden & Gosling
Leadership is impactful only a collective and not only and individual scale
Boal & Hooijberg
A “top-down” approach to leadership where an organization is aligned with strategic goals
Zaccaro, Rittman, & Marks
Leadership emerges in team performance and team building
Leadership surfaces in those with altruistic behaviors
Leadership includes self-concept and social identity frameworks
Leaders behave contrary to the well-being of followers and the organization
Avolio et al
Leadership encompasses virtual space and virtual workplaces and communication
Cogliser & Brigham
Leadership emerges in entrepreneurial vision and behaviors
Application of Leadership Theory
For the purposes of this paper, my leadership profile will focus on Dr. Scott Borderud. Dr. Borderud is a leader within my organization who serves simultaneously at multiple echelons of leadership. Dr. Borderud serves as a local pastor of a church of approximately 500 congregants as well as the treasurer of our district (three states and approximately one-hundred churches). Previously, I served for three years under Dr. Borderud as an Associate Pastor before departing in 2013 to lead my own congregation.
Dr. Borderud immediately stuck out to me because of his unique leadership behavior and traits which positively impacted my life. Dr. Borderud was a graduate of the Naval Academy and spent time as both a Marine Infantry Officer as well as an Army Chaplain. Consequently, he was thoroughly trained and well-versed in a variety of leadership styles. He always spoke very directly and easily commanded the room in which he was present. However, despite this training and presence, his leadership behavior and traits were consistent with two dominant leadership theories: spiritual leadership and servant leadership. He effortlessly combined these two theories to produce effective leadership.
Dr. Borderud’s spiritual leadership – a fitting characteristic for a pastor – was evident in his consistency in directing his followers to the Almighty and sacred texts for wisdom and guidance, not to himself. Rather than a dependence on himself and his strengths (which are more emphasized in transformational, charismatic, and strategic leadership theories), Dr. Borderud consistently directed his followers to look beyond him and to a greater and higher power. I remember once when I was facing a problem and looked to him for the answer. Rather than provide me with the answer, he directed me first to pray about it, search the Bible, and then come and talk to him again. I took his advice and, while he still guided my thoughts and actions, it was to a much lesser degree than if he were to immediately provide me with his solution to my problem. In this way, he exhibited great spiritual leadership.
Dr. Borderud’s other great leadership style was his embodiment of servant leadership. Washington, Sutton, and Sauser (2014) define servant leadership as a distinct leadership style in which the leader values the good of the follower above their own self-interest. He told me numerous times that while he valued my contributions to the team, that it would be self-serving of him not to acknowledge my strengths and the future potential available. He selflessly took time to develop my skills and talents and went out of his way to expose me to greater opportunities for service and leadership. One instance in which this was evident was when I confronted him about an opportunity to serve on my own as a pastor, and asked him again for guidance and wisdom. He then advocated for me to candidate for the position, which is a large part of the reason why I am in my present position. He selflessly placed my needs – and the needs of others – above his own for the betterment of the organization and the individuals comprising the organization.
Reflection of Leadership Theory
My time spent serving under the tutelage of Dr. Borderud was a great lesson in developing my own personal leadership theory and style. As a graduate of a military college, an officer in the United States Army Reserves, and a graduate of seminary in preparation to serve as a leader in the church, I had already explored and been exposed to a variety of leadership theories and ideals. However, as Latham (2014) noted, while there exist numerous theories on leadership, there is very little consensus on what constitutes an effective leader. In observing Dr. Borderud, however, I was afforded the opportunity to observe a leadership style and characteristics which not only directly impacted my own life, but also positively impacted an entire organization and the individuals within.
Dr. Borderud also showed me the importance of not only developing certain individuals into leaders, but having a process whereby multiple individuals are able to grow and flourish into leaders. Schyns et al (2011) contrasted “leader development” with “leadership development” which expands the focus to a process of development as opposed to the development of a specific individual. This idea of “leadership development” or “mentorship” was a key component of his spiritual and servant leadership which continues to shape and develop me into a more effective leader. With his example and model, I have been able to likewise develop a leadership development process and develop several men into leaders using his same model of spiritual and servant leadership.
Dr. Borderud has often echoed to me the sentiments of Landis et al (2014) that the leadership traits of Moses are still just as cherished today as they were thousands of years ago. These traits of spiritual leadership and servant leadership are invaluable and have historical precedent for their effectiveness. Unfortunately, this does not seem to have translated to more scholarly research on this subject. For example, Dinh et al (2014) discovered that transformational leadership occupied the largest percentage of leadership literature (twenty percent), while spiritual leadership occupied just two percent of leadership literature. Servant leadership received even less, occupying only one percent of leadership literature.
Leadership is often measured not necessarily by production or result, but rather the qualities embodied by the leader. Antonakis & House (2014) cited the alignment of follower motivation and resource mobilization with organizational mission as the two most important qualities of leadership. In these two qualities, spiritual and servant leadership provide perhaps the most compelling leadership style as the leader willingly surrenders their own position and interest for the larger mission of the organization. They not only verbalize leadership, but they model it by investing in their followers and empowering them to succeed, thereby providing the greatest motivation for success. They also, if necessary, mobilize their own personal resources in order to achieve mission fulfillment.
Antonakis, J., & House, R. J. (2014). “Instrumental leadership: Measurement and extension of transformational–transactional leadership theory”. The Leadership Quarterly, 25, 746-771. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
Dinh et al. (2014). “Leadership theory and research in the new millennium: Current theoretical trends and changing perspectives”. The Leadership Quarterly, Vol. 25, 36-62. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
Landis, E. A., Hill, D., & Harvey, M. R. (2014). “A synthesis of leadership theories and styles”. Journal of Management Policy and Practice, 15(2). Retrieved January 14, 2018.
Latham, J. R. (2014). “Leadership for quality and innovation: Challenges, theories, and a framework for future research”. Quality Management Journal, 21(1), 11-15. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
Meuser et al. (2016). “A Network Analysis of Leadership Theory: The Infancy of Integration”. Journal of Management, 42(5), 1374-1403. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
Schyns B., Kiefer, T., Kerschreiter, R., & Tymon, A. (2016). “Teaching Implicit Leadership Theories to Develop Leaders and Leadership: How and Why It Can Make a Difference”. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 10(3), 397-408. Retrieved January 14, 2018.
Washington, R. R., Sutton, C. D., & Sauser, J. I. (2014). “How distinct is servant leadership theory? Empirical comparisons with competing theories”. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 11(1). Retrieved January 14, 2018.
NG, LR, NCU, USAR
My collection of personal papers written over the years