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Contrasting Leadership Theories


Subject Administration Pages 5 Style APA



The increasingly dynamic nature of the local and international business environment has forced firms to evaluate and apply a range of leadership theories critically. According to Varadarajan (2019), this trend has been exhibited across all business sections, including the marketing department. Marketing has proven essential in differentiating organizations and boosting their sales volume. Because of these successes, organizations invest in strategic marketing, which is described as the forward-looking and long-term approach to understanding customer wants and needs and creating sustainable competitive advantages. There is a need to evaluate different leadership approaches, models, and theories and outline how they could best support strategic marketing. Three leaders are identified, where Barack Obama represents a political leader, Tim Tebow is a sports leader, while Jeff Bezos is a leader in the business world (Coggins, 2020, Boyle, 2020 & Blazek, 2016). Guided by this background, this essay evaluates different leadership approaches, compares and contrasts leadership styles used by the three leaders, and discusses their ineffective and unsuccessful leadership strategies concerning marketing implementation in their professions. Besides, the paper assesses personal leadership attributes about the three leaders and reflects on how I can improve my leadership skills.

Range of Approaches to Leadership

There is no predetermined combination of traits and characteristics that make successful and unsuccessful leaders. However, there are recommended approaches to leadership that could enhance the effectiveness of a leader. These approaches are summarized using core leadership theories, which provide the backbone for understanding leadership. The four main groups of leadership theories include trait theory (Dugan & Komives, 2011). This theory evaluates the types of personalities that make good leaders. It theorizes that successful leaders exhibit common traits namely; assertiveness, empathy, integrity, upright decision-making skills and likeability. Unlike trait theory, behavioral theory assesses how leaders should behave. Kurt Lewin provides a framework summarizing three common behaviors of leaders. First, autocratic leaders behave independently as they autonomously make decisions without the input of the teams. Second, democratic leaders solicit input from the followers. Third, laissez-faire leaders give full autonomy to their followers. Depending on external factors such as the nature of the job and motivation of the leader and the employee, the three behaviors will attract varied results. This statement is seconded by Manktelow et al. (2018), who acknowledges that the three leadership behaviors can be appropriate in different situations. Therefore, the best leader is the one who can easily switch and align their behavior in different situations.

The third approach to leadership is elaborated using contingency theories. These theories answer the question of how situations influence the selection of the most applicable leadership style. This approach is grounded on the realization that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. For instance, a leader who wants to make a quick decision on marketing might have to adopt a different approach or leadership style compared to a leader implementing a long-term marketing plan. Another instance where a leader might apply the contingency theory is when seeking varied levels of involvement and support from the followers. In such a case, the leader might decide on either a task-oriented or a people-oriented approach. The two-common contingency-based models are Fiedler’s contingency model and House’s path-goal theory. Dugan and Komives (2011) add that the leadership process model can equally be used to understand how situations affect other factors pertinent to influencing the effectiveness of a leadership approach. In turn, the interplay of factors affects the selection of a suitable leadership approach. The fourth approach to leadership is power and influence theories. These theories answer the question on the sources of power possessed by a leader, and how they use it to get results. The most popular power theories are Raven and French’s five forms of power. These forms are; referent, reward, legitimate, coercive and expert power. Out of the five, personal power is described as the most effective. This power should, however, be complemented by expert power.

In addition to these approaches, Odumeru and Ogbonna (2013) identify transactional and transformational approaches to leadership. The transactional approach to leadership encourages leaders to complement tasks with reward structures. It is not the best approach to developing relationships and highly motivated workplaces, but it gets work done. Transformational leadership is considered the best approach to leadership in business. Leaders using this approach have to show integrity and develop inspiring visions. They have to share the vision and motivate their followers to reach a given goal. Leaders using this approach can build strong and successful teams.

Comparison and Contrast of Leadership Styles by the Three Leaders

Barack Obama is an American attorney and politician. He was the 44th president of the U.S.A, from 2009 – 2017. He previously worked as a civil rights attorney, after which he joined elective politics and served the state of Illinois in different capacities from 1997 to 2008. According to Coggins (2020), politics is a multi-faceted occupation that demands a leader to adopt different kinds of leadership approaches and styles. For instance, Obama applied three broad approaches to leadership. The first style was transformational – charismatic. The other style was cross-cultural, while the third style was contingency – situational leadership. His most common approach was transformational charismatic. This style is evident before and during his tenure as a president. He used charisma and speeches advocating for the transformation of the society and the nation, which endeared him to supporters, both locally and internationally. Through his public addresses, he proved to have an uncanny ability to attract and convince his audiences into collective action. He then used the charisma to motivate people to support his long-term vision of a more inclusive country accommodating different races. He also used his charism to promote both foreign and domestic affairs. As a cross-cultural leader, Obama adopted ethnocentric foreign policies, contrary to his predecessors, especially George Bush. He took a reconciliatory stance in uniting the world. As much as Obama was successful in uniting some countries, he used charisma and power to contribute to the internal affairs of countries like Syria, Iraq, and Libya, thus destabilizing their territories (Coggins, 2020). He also applied the contingency-situational approach. Obama was both humble and aggressive, depending on the situation. For instance, he could make imposing policies while at times, he could adopt a reconciliatory stance.

Tim Tebow is an accomplished American professional baseball player. He currently plays in Major League Baseball for the New York Mets. Tebow was a former football quarterback, a broadcaster, and a former player for the University of Florida. Tebow and his team was awarded the 2007 Heisman Trophy. He also featured in the BCS National and the National Football League where he played for two teams; Denver Broncos and the New York Boyle, 2020). He is known for being an outspoken Christian who has been associated with a practice known as Tebowing (a special kind of prayer he makes on the football field). Tim Tebow is a team captain who uses the democratic leadership approach. O’Boyle, Murray, and Cummins (2015) note that for athletes and sportspeople, their behavior and attitude outside competitions have an equal impact on their teammates as their athletic abilities.

For this reason, coaches emphasize that athletes should exhibit good character in and outside the training ground. In the same breath, Tebow emphasizes the need for his teammates to do the right things and not what is easy for them. His use of democratic leadership has attracted several advantages. First, using this approach, Tebow has empowered and bettered the decision-making capabilities of his teammates. By involving them in making decisions, he nurtures confidence and self-efficacy, which is an important attribute for team players (Boyle, 2020). Secondly, democratic leaders provide feedback and guide their followers by reinforcing positive traits. By doing this, Tebow challenges his followers to improve their leadership approaches. He does this by delegating responsibilities. He always hopes that one of his followers will step up and take up leadership roles soon.

The third leader, Jeff Bezos, applies the transformational leadership style. Bezos owns Amazon in addition to other businesses including Blue Origin, a sub-orbital spaceflight company. He is a charismatic leader, driven by a vision to take Amazon and his other business venture to new heights (Blazek, 2016). Bezos maintains committed relationships with his followers. He is unlike a transactional leader who believes in give and take. Instead, Bezos uses his ability to motivate and guide his followers through self-improvement and transformation. By doing this, he creates big shifts in the thinking of his followers, and in return, he transforms their behaviors and encourages them to achieve extraordinary results. Bezos often exhibits the four qualities of transformational leadership. First, he is charismatic. Second, Bezos inspires confidence and motivates his followers towards a common goal. Third, he stimulates the followers intellectually, and fourth, he uses individualized consideration to accommodate the different needs of his followers. One shortcoming of Bezos’s leadership style is that he is, at times, imposing. He has used his charismatic nature in the past to force employees into overworking. According to reports, the company overstretches the followers’ abilities, which has both positive and negative outcomes (Blazek, 2016). A comparison of Bezos’s leadership style shows a lot of similarities with that of Barack Obama, who also uses the transformational style. Unlike these two leaders, Tebow applies democratic leadership.

Assessment of Personal Leadership Style

All the three leaders have been very successful in their areas of specialty. To begin with, Obama is still regarded among the best presidents to lead the USA. Tim Tebow is one of the most decorated and accomplished sportsmen in the USA because of his famous ‘immortalized promise speech’ which he presented after his team ‘the Gator’ lost to Ole Miss. Jeff Bezos has been very successful in steering Amazon towards the highest possible performance, and this has enabled him to amass fortunes, thus making him the richest man in the world. I consider myself a transformational leader. I often work with my teammates to identify a need for change, introduce a vision to guide the team through change, inspire the team and identify committed followers to help execute the changes.

Furthermore, I believe that I possess the four essential elements of transformational leadership, as described by Bernard Bass. These are; inspirational motivation, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, and idealized influence (Browning, 2018). Because of my mastery of these four tenets, my leadership is more similar to Jeff Bezos’ than to former President Barrack Obama’s. However, my leadership approach is closer to Obamas than it is to Tim Tebow. As much as I am democratic at times, especially when I need the input of the followers, I prefer being charismatic and sharing my vision with the whole team rather than allowing the followers to come up with ideas and implement them autonomously.

As a transformational leader, I believe I can improve my leadership skills in many ways. Considering my future role as a strategic marketer, I must possess some traits that will position me for success. The first trait is being knowledgeable about the technologies used in marketing. Dugan and Komives (2011) explain that technology is a convenient solution to most of the marketing challenges. Therefore, a strategy is imperative for anyone who wants to lead comfortably in the digital age. The second trait is to gain experience in making strategic decisions. This trait requires a deep mastery and application of marketing and business strategy theories. Being a strategic decision-maker means that the leader improves the company’s revenue generation and makes it better. To become a strategic decision-maker, it is necessary that the leader has skills in assessing situations and selecting the best possible solution that improves the business growth cycle. The third trait is working with trusted and trustworthy team players. For a leader to successfully share and implement a strategic vision, the followers must be trustworthy. As a strategist, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all the team members. Having such knowledge ensures that work is assigned efficiently. The fourth requirement is being conversant in analytics. Data is an important ingredient in strategic marketing. The fifth trait is being passionate and, lastly, taking a customer-centric/ revenue-first approach. An analysis of the three leaders shows that Jeff Bezos applies all these traits, thus the reason for his success.

In addition to these guidelines, which highlight the key traits to possess to be a successful strategic marketer, I understand the need to learn from the three leaders’ failures and inefficiencies. To begin with, Obama is a leader who held a dynamic office that required a range of leadership approaches that suited different situations. The key lesson from his leadership style is that I should be flexible and be ready to apply different styles and approaches to leadership, depending on the situation. Backed by Obama’s approach, I should practice the contingency theory of leadership. The theory emphasizes the need for different approaches to different situations. Tim Tebow applies democratic leadership. His use of this style is suitable in the sports industry because all the players are professionals with independent minds and personal goals. It is more uniting to use the democratic approach because it empowers the other team members and makes it easier to unite and direct their personal goals towards realizing the team’s goal. I could use the democratic style in situations where I need the team’s input and cooperation to achieve a common goal. I would emulate a lot more from Jeff Bezos than from the other two leaders. This is because his approach to leadership is best suited to the business world. Despite this, I would avoid his shortcoming of using his charisma to overwork his followers.


This paper analyzes different approaches to leadership. These approaches are summarized under the four theories of leadership–trait theory, behavioral theory, contingency, and power theories. The three leaders considered across the fields of politics, sports, and business are Barack Obama, Tim Tebow, and Jeff Bezos. Obama uses three theories, namely, transformational-charismatic, cross-cultural, and contingency-situational approaches. Tim Tebow uses the democratic approach while Jeff Bezos is a transformational leader. All the leaders have achieved success in their respective fields of specialization. I consider my leadership style to be transformational, which aligns partially with Obama’s, but more with Bezos’. Considering their shortcomings and inefficiencies in some aspects, I would gladly complement my transformational leadership approach with the situational approach to achieve the best possible outcome from leading strategic marketing initiatives at my place of work.Sewdas et al.’s (2017) study employed, there are very little room for generalizing the study’s findings.  


Blazek, K., 2016. Jeff Bezos: How his unique leadership style set Amazon apart. Retrieved from: https://www.truscore.com/resources/jeff-bezos-leadership-style/

Boyle, A., 2020. Democratic Leadership in Sport: Action and Example. Retrieved from: https://kinefusion.com/coaching/culture/leadership-action-and-example-not-a-position-or-a-title/

Browning, M., 2018. Self-leadership: Why it matters. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 9(2), pp.14-18.

Coggins, E., 2020. President Barack Obama’s Leadership Styles. Retrieved from: https://toughnickel.com/business/Barack-Obamas-Leadership-Styles

Dugan, J.P. and Komives, S.R., 2011. Leadership theories. The handbook for student leadership development, pp.35-57.

Hatfield, R., 2017. Transformational Leadership Style. Retrieved from: https://hrssconsultinggroup.com/transformational-leadership-style/

Manktelow, J., Jackson, K., Swift, C., Edwards, S., Bishop, L., Mugridge, T. and Robinson, R., 2018. Core Leadership Theories–Learning the Foundations of Leadership. Mind Tools. [Online]. Available: http://www. mindtools. com/pages/article/leadership-theories. html. [Accessed: 2015, August 5].

O’Boyle, I., Murray, D. and Cummins, P., 2015. Leadership in sport. Routledge.

Odumeru, J.A. and Ogbonna, I.G., 2013. Transformational vs. transactional leadership theories: Evidence in literature. International review of management and business research, 2(2), p.355.

Varadarajan, R., 2019. Theoretical underpinnings of research in strategic marketing: a commentary. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 47(1), pp.30-36.

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