The Impact of Leadership Style in the 21st Century

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Part I: Reflective Statement

1.1 VUCA Business Environment

Running a business in the 21st century involves critical analysis of the market environment. The contemporary VUCA environment integrates the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that exist in the technological, economic, social and political sectors. The technologies are changing rapidly, therefore organizations that are not proactive end up succumbing to competition pressure because they will be using archaic machines and technologies.

It is critical for an organization to be proactive in analysing the current and future complexities in the macro and micro environments (Rodriguez & Rodrigue, 2015, 855). VUCA brings unprecedented challenges for the contemporary leaders in their quest to ensure organizational sustainability and achieving a competitive edge since they constantly have to mitigate risks through the disaster recovery and risk management plans. The contemporary leadership model adopted in the 21st century includes servant leadership, authentic leadership, transformational, charismatic and participatory leadership style. A survey targeting the top executives revealed that visionary, coaching, pacesetting, commanding, and democratic leadership styles were the most appropriate leadership styles in the contemporary VUCA environment (Goleman, 2017, 14).

Figure 1: Daniel Goleman Six Contemporary leadership Style

1.2 Balancing Management in the 21st


The contemporary leadership renders that the high level of employee engagement is essential for creating high-level performance, creativity and innovation that is required for sustainability and competitive advantage. Therefore the contemporary leaders have devised different ways such as establishing teams, providing incentive and undertaking extensive training and development programs to enhance the competencies of their employees.

It is critical for leaders to consistently engage in learning and development in order to sharpen and enhance their competencies, to facilitate the effectiveness and efficiency of their operation. Learning facilitates systems thinking which is critical for the adopting of the big picture and how a change in one organisational function might affect the whole system (Shafritz et al., 2018, 221).

Amidst great expectations by the stakeholders to provide exceptional results, leaders in the 21st-century have to sacrifice their personal time to ensure that the organization achieves sustainability. The leaders end ups straining and suffering from work burnout and depression because the leader engages in an inappropriate work-life balance (Armstrong & Taylor, 2014, 505). The organization can establish team-building activities to reduce the workplace pressure and expose employees to the tranquil environment, develop flexible work schedules and also undertake virtualization of some tasks to enhance the wellbeing of their leaders.

1.3 Amazon

I am aspiring to work in a multi-national corporation that is highly technologically driven. I have developed the passion for working with technology over the time. Working in a technological firm will offer the opportunity to enhance my competency in Management Information system, HRIS, and use of Decision Support Device (Ravarini & Strada, 2018, 105). I, therefore, hope to work at Amazon incorporation in future, because the institution will provide me with the opportunity to increase my knowledge in the practical application in international HR practices, HRIS, MIS and using the Decision Support System (DSS).

Amazon leadership has adopted the transformative style of leadership. Amazon has specialised in online large-scale retailing with the business ventures in almost all continents in the world. The leaders within the organisation have to ensure that they achieve high customers’ satisfaction, provide quality welfare for the employees and constant innovation to enhance the internal operations of the institution. The leadership style adopted by the CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos is a transformational leadership model. He institutionalised the term ‘customer is King’ as a means of motivating the staff towards engaging in continuous innovation to satisfy the consumer’s needs (Durbin, 2015,113).

Amazon has been proactive in attending to the wellbeing of the employees through encouraging teamwork, advocating for stress management, resilience, and work-life balance. Amazon is keen on giving value to the employee’s life. This is done through the regular team building activities and rewarding employees that had shown stellar performance (Ogbonnaya et al., 2016, 67). Amazon has created a team culture which has created rapport between the management and the employees (Amazon, 2018).

Amazon adopted the robot technology to reduce the cases of burnout and work depression that they were experiencing due to the high order request. Most of the employees experienced high-level fatigue which affected their health because of referring to numerous online orders. Therefore, the acquisition of robots enabled the organization to reply to customer online request on time and reducing the level of burnouts and poor work-life balance. The provision of robots was a strategy towards enhancing their competitive advantage in the VUCA environment. Amazon faces stiff competition from other global corporation such as eBay, Walmart, and Ikea (Budzinski & Köhler, 2015, 14).

1.3.1 Impact of Amazon Leadership Style and Wellbeing Approach

Amazon Company has perfectly embodied the success of transformational leadership style. The leadership model has made them to be proactive in managing the VUCA in the business environment and the world leaders. Therefore, the leadership approach used in Amazon has convinced me beyond reasonable doubt that organisation growth and sustainability significantly depend on the headship approach of the leaders. Employees’ rapport, work autonomy and flexibility, and continuous learning are the critical factor that enhances the success and realisation of the organisation’s goal.

1.4 Participatory leadership Self-Assessment

The table 1 below indicates the finding on self-assessment survey which revealed my potential leadership style as a participatory one. After a rigorous exploration of my performance based on Kurt Lewin’s Leadership Style Framework (check Appendices), I realized that I am inclined towards the nurturement and augmentation of my people’s skills and abilities. Such a bold sentiment is grounded on the facts that I find it easier to communicate and resolve issues with my subordinates than avoiding wrangles or punishing them. For now, it suffices to state that I scored 21 on this test. According to the theorist, a score ranging between 21 and 27 implies that one is naturally inclined towards participatory readership style. This style has been linked with positive human resource trends including creativity, accountability/trust, and employee engagement.

Table 1: Self-Assessment: Participatory Leadership


My strength

My weakness

Further Development


Physically fit



Interpersonal skills

Influenced by peoples decision thus personal judgement is difficult

More focus on personal confidence


Time management

Emotional Intelligence

Personal organization

Rigidity to schedule

Embracing diversity

Learning to deal with different personality



Role model in work-life balance


Get emotionally attached to people easily

Reduce emotional control during the decision-making

Part II: Management Report

2.1 Introduction

This report seeks to develop a critical understanding of different contemporary leadership models observed in the organisations. Businesses globally are tried to overcome the uncertainty and high competitions that are observed in the marketplace. One of the strategies most companies are employing includes the adoption of different leadership model to motivate their workforce towards achieving the institution’s goal. This management report will explore the contemporary leadership skills, the suitability of contemporary leadership style in a VUCA environment and ends with critical analysis of the concept of leadership style and employee wellbeing based on the Elon Musk’s Tesla case study.

2.2 Contemporary leadership

Contemporary leadership refers to the leadership model adopted by leaders in the 21st

century to overcome, adapt and deal with the VUCA environment (Rosenbach, 2018, 87). Leaders in the modern world apply different techniques to ensure that their business operations are not negatively affected by the VUCA environment, but rather they sustain the employees’ enthusiasm to achieve the organization's goals. The three basic characteristic of contemporary leadership includes charismatic, servant, and transformational leadership style. However, the contemporary leadership models used by modern executive officers are visionary, pacesetting, affiliative, commanding, coaching and democratic (Goleman, 2004, 152).

2.2.1 Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership involves influencing people towards the realization of both individual's team and organization goals. Thus it is team based and greatly relied on mutual understanding and rapport between the team members (Goleman, 2004, 16). The transformational leadership relies on the charisma, intellect and the keenness of the leader. The greatest critique of this model is that it creates change fatigue. Therefore the leader becomes obsessed, frustrated and depressed on the realization of the given target.

2.2.2 Participatory leadership Model

Participatory leadership model is based on engaging people during the decision-making process. This model assumes that engaging people increase the quality of decision made while reducing the probability of resistance during the implementation of strategy because everyone's input was considered. However, the challenge of this method is that it takes a lot of time to get the opinion from everyone. Thus, the decision-making process becomes slower and costlier (Goleman, 2017, 54).

2.2.3 Charismatic Leadership

In the charismatic leadership model, the leader generates high-level inspiration, commitment and trust to win the heart and mind of the people. Through this, people become enthusiastic about achieving their goals (Abbasiyannejad &Silong, 2015, 330). The disadvantage of this style is that the organizations tend to rely on a single leader which could be risky especially when the charismatic leader is a control freak or manipulative.

2.2.4 Coercive Leadership style

Coercive leadership style is based on the ideology that the leader has the expertise, authority, and competency to make the decision affecting the organization. The leader demands immediate compliance with the orders and instruction given (Goleman, 2017, 14). The effect of this model is that employees lack intrinsic motivation to perform a given work, which can lead to work depression or low stability to cope with the impending VUCA environment. Coercive leadership model is highly manipulative and underestimates the role of employees in the organization.

Table 2: Contemporary leadership style

Contemporary Leadership Style

Main Advantage

Main Disadvantage

Transformational Leadership Style

Advocate for both personal, team and organizational growth

Creates change fatigue

Charismatic Leadership

Wins heart and mind through inspiration, commitment and trust

Risky if the leader is manipulative/ control freak

Participatory Leadership

Quality decision due to high people engagement

Slow decision making


Immediate compliance

Highly Manipulative.

2.3 Distributed Leadership

All the above forms of leadership stand for coercive leadership style and have some aspect of distributed leadership. The merit of the distributed leadership is that it enhances employee engagement through the brainstorming which increases the level of creativity and innovation within the organisation. It facilitates dispersed learning which fosters mutual learning within the organisation. The distributive leadership not only emphasises honesty and accountability amongst the leaders, but it also reduces internal leadership conflict as everyone is given a chance to serve and taste the corporate leadership (Armstrong & Taylor, 2014, 215).

2.4 Underpinning factors in VUCA business environment

Collaboration amongst the stakeholders: Leaders in the contemporary VUCA Business environment have to harness wide knowledge, competency, to inspire, and enhance enthusiasm amongst the employees to achieve the organisational goals (DuBrin, 2015, 109). Developing and sustaining agile organisational culture: the leaders within the establishment have to set the culture that enhances respect, innovation, and curiosity. Developing appropriate culture is a significant step towards ensuring the success of the organisation.

When the vision, goals, and mission are clear the organisation can overcome the market uncertainty and volatility through the rapid decision making that is in tandem with the vision (Armstrong &Taylor, 2014, 505). The leaders should also not be expected to have all the answers in the VUCA environment, but they should rather develop the strategy that would utilise the expertise, innovation and creativity of better-educated workforce. In the organization, there exist people with diverse competencies and educational qualifications who can be helpful when the leaders choose to engage them.

2.5 Elon Musk Leadership

The case study provides a detailed response to the essence of the leaders to have both soft skills and hard skills to manage the employees' wellbeing and also effectively steer the organization in the contemporary VUCA environment. The case study reveals that Musk's transformative leadership style has been instrumental in enhancing the growth and transformation observed in Tesla (Cunha, 2016, 372). However, there is a greater need for Musk to improve on his people skills through encouraging autonomy and team participation to reduce target pressure which causes burnout amongst the employees.

Elon Musk is known for his attentiveness to details and his desire to bring change in all the organization he operates in. Elon likes to be fully in control in all operations he undertakes. Through this, he has facilitated the growth of all the company he has co-founded and managed such as PayPal, Space X and Tesla. Therefore, Elon can be described as ambitious and innovative leaders whose desire and passion arise from seeing the transformation within the organization. Therefore the current Elon’s leadership style is the transformative leadership style. This can be seen on his great determination in spearheading for technological advancement to enhance financial sustainability and stability of the organization and stability in the VUCA environment (Brett, 2019. 148).

2.5.1. What Went Wrong

Through his quest to ensure perfection in the organisational transformation, Musk rarely involves others in decision making which has greatly affected his performance. From the case study, Elon’s worst trait is the lack of loyalty or human connection. In his quest to ensure that the organization realizes its goal, he makes the employees work tirelessly yet their contributions are neither recognized nor appreciated. For instance, he unceremoniously fired his assistants, who had served him for more than a decade, for asking a pay rise (Westbrook, 2017).

Instead of working with other departments, Elon prefers to perform all the communication work on his own. For instance, he always writes and contacts the press instead of seeking guidance from the Public relation department when and before making press releases. Cases of workplace mistrust, depression is prone in the institution where collaboration and rapport between employees and leader is poor (Aielo, 2018). Elon has to learn the significance of workplace autonomy as a mean of reducing burnouts and poor work-life balance. By doing all the work by himself, he is affecting his wellbeing which results to him using pills and drugs to reduce the work pressure.

Elon is more concerned about the organization prosperity rather than employees wellbeing. Employee engagement in the organization takes the triune approach; that is intellectual/cognitive engagement, behavioural engagement and emotional engagement. Elon seems to have undermined all forms of employee engagement because though employees produce high-quality products they are less passionate about the company.

2.5.2 Elon’s Communication via Twitter

Because of his manner of communication the privatization of Tesla was not acceptable. Companies do not announce their plans for privatisation on twitter, but rather they follow some laid down procedures such as developing board resolution when sharing such delicate information. (Senge, 2017, 142). The twitter communication revealed lack of connection between the CEO, board and the shareholders. The reputation of Tesla was dented by the image that was immediately created by the twit, went viral online which caused its share to drop by 7%.

The credibility and cohesiveness of the organization became questionable when Elon decided to bypass the internal communication structures such as the PR department and the board to share such complex information on Twitter. Though like any other citizen he has the right to express his opinion, it is always wise to understand the magnitude and consequences of the information set. Furthermore, he is also accused of sending emails to the employee on Sunday night about extensive damaging sabotage within the institutions rank (Kolodny, 2018). Elon needs to understand that the employees have a private life and he should also create personal time for reflection, instead of emailing sensitive information at an inappropriate time without authentication by the board and all stakeholders (Karyluk et al., 2018).

2.5.3 Elon’s Behaviour and Personal Wellbeing

His behaviour has significantly impacted his personal wellbeing. His reputation has been soiled since the stakeholders now, have little trust in him (Vance, 2015). Elon behaviour affects both his wellbeing and those of his employees. Leaders that facilitate workplace autonomy achieve higher job satisfaction and proper work-life balance. Elon is known for micro-managing the employees in the organization by delegating duties to them less frequently, and when he does he expects their performance on a high level without missing a beat. As a result, most of the employees' end up getting fired or burned out. By constantly undertaking jobs that are supposed to be delegated, makes him spend more than 120 hours per week at work leading to poor work-life balance. This has significantly affected his social life, forcing him to take Ambien to solve him insomnia disorder (Associate, 2018).

Elon's lack of empathy and quirky traits has significantly caused him to send emails with typos which make it difficult to comprehend his messages. Furthermore, his behaviour affects his wellbeing because he is known for not making an explanation or polite request in dinner when standing to head outside because he is not willing to suffer a fool. He is also accused of sending emails to the employee on weekends and at odd hours which not a common practice to a leader who appreciates the work-life wellbeing of their employees.

Elon has to adopt a better communication strategy and ensure he consults before posting information online (Vance, 2015). He also has to learn how to completely engage employees' intellectually, emotionally and behaviorally in the workplace to earn their loyalty, trust and enthusiasm. He also has to learn the essence of autonomy and delegation of duties. Each department and employee in the organization has a role to play. For instance, he can leave the communication responsibility to the PR department and delegate duties to the junior employees to reduce and eliminate burnouts and poor work-life balance.

2.6 Musk Relationship Management

2.6.1 Perception of Musk’s Relationship with Key Stakeholders

The table below outlines the writer’s perception of Elon Musk’s relationships with his key stakeholders.

Table 3: Musk’s Relationship with Stakeholders








Employees have technical competencies.

High employee anxiety on organizational sustainability based on his recent communication and personal behaviour.

Mixed message amongst employees which causes worry and confusion on the trajectory of the organization.


Improved features of the automobile

Poor company/ personal reputation

High customer confidence on product’s quality. The recent communication has the ability to dent his and the company’s reputation.


The increased premium of price stock by 20%

Signs of internal conflict. Uncertainty on the company's progress

Production of High-quality products. And reducing uncertainty by instilling leadership confidence.

The board/ Management

High confidence in organisations future

Lack of trust and coordination

Lack of trust and poor coordination.

2.6.2 Musk Relationship Management

Elon has to develop short-term, medium and long terms strategy on how he is going to effectively manage the VUCA environment and improve on his and his employees' wellbeing as indicated in table 4 below. The recommendation for the short-term action is to develop a training program for stress management, while the long-term course of action that is to develop an organizational strategy that encourages autonomy and delegation of tasks.

Table 4: Musk’s relationship with stakeholders


Short term




Stress management training

Work-life balance

Workplace autonomy & delegation of duty


Online branding

Develop quality products to improve Musk’s reputation as CEO

Customer engagement during decision making


Increase dividends to gain their trust and integrity as the leader

Better communication Structure

Financial sustainability


Team building program

Encourage better inter-department consultation, and interdependency

Collective engagement

2.6.3 Key element Musk should be concerned with personal wellbeing

The table below outlines the key element that Musk needs to be concerned with and how they affect his wellbeing.

Table 5: Why Musk should be concerned with personal wellbeing

Key elements of Musk’s

Personal Wellbeing

Why should Musk be concerned about these?

Poor work-life balance

Musk confessed spending more than 120 hours in the organization; this is a contributing factor to his insomnia disorder, fatigue and depression. He also needs to develop trust on people by delegating some duties to them and enhance autonomy to reduce the intensity of burnouts (Vance, 2017).

Lack of consultation

He should be able to integrate other people opinion before making a rash decision. If he would have consulted he would not have either posted about the privatisation of Tesla on Twitter or sending malicious email to employees at the inappropriate time.


Musk believes in perfectionism and ability to reach the highest quality possible. Musk, therefore, strains himself by taking everything under control without engaging other key stakeholders which results in burnout making him develop poor sleeping habits which forces him to take sleeping pills.

2.6.4 How Musk can manage his personal Wellbeing

Musk has to develop short-term and long-term strategies to develop effective personal wellbeing strategies. Table 5 indicates the techniques he will have to adopt to improve his wellbeing. The immediate action that the Musk is supposed to take is to apply for a leave. This will provide him with opportunity to reflect and rejuvenate him to overcome work depression and burnout incidences. On the other hand, the long term action is to provide him an executive coach to help him improve on his physical wellbeing.

Table 6: Musk’s Recommended Action

Short-term Actions

Mid-term Actions

Long-term Actions

Taking a break: Apply for leave to rejuvenate himself

Addressing dependency on sleeping pills and other drugs if the allegation is true

Personal training to provide him with a safe environment to deal with physical health

Executive coach to provide him with a safe environment to deal with physical health.


There are different forms of leadership that can be used in the contemporary world to enhance the success of the institution. Elon Musk embodies the result of dominantly using a single model of leadership. Transformational leadership is one of the contemporary leadership models that leaders use to foster the realisation of organisations goals. Leaders are also supposed to adopt proper communication channels when issuing sensitive information. Musk is a perfect embodiment of the effect of change fatigue. His constant desire for perfection, transformation and realization of the organizational vision makes him develop a poor work-life balance that affects his personal wellbeing. His over commitment to work causes insomnia making him take without taking sleeping pills frequently. He has a poor work relationship and low trust with other stakeholders which have significantly affected his reputation. Musk, therefore, needs to take a break from the work and enrol for personal training that will enable him to improve on his physical health.


Appendix A: Kurt Lewin’s Leadership Style Framework

Appendix B: Test Score

Appendix C: Score Interpretation


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January 19, 2024



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