آیا کسب و کار الکترونیک نیاز به ویژگی های مختلف رهبری دارد؟ : یک بررسی تجربی
|کد مقاله||سال انتشار||تعداد صفحات مقاله انگلیسی||ترجمه فارسی|
|3667||2002||9 صفحه PDF||سفارش دهید|
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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : European Management Journal, Volume 20, Issue 6, December 2002, Pages 611–619
Universal theories of leadership argue that all effective leaders share an identifiable set of common attributes. This suggests that the characteristics that have defined leadership in traditional bricks and mortar organisations are equally applicable to e-business. In contrast, contingency theories argue that a leader must match their environmental and organisational settings, suggesting that the different situational context of e-business will dictate a distinctive set of leadership characteristics. This paper empirically explores these opposing arguments. Data on the traits, behaviours and skills possessed by leaders of both e-businesses and traditional bricks and mortar companies were collected using a combination of questionnaire surveys and semi-structured interviews. Analysis of the data provides a degree of support for both arguments. The majority of characteristics possessed by leaders of traditional bricks and mortar organisations are found to be equally valued in the digital economy. There are, however, a certain number of characteristics that are emphasised within e-businesses. These include a propensity for risk taking, entrepreneurialism, networking ability, as well as the requisite technical skills.
Research into the characteristics of effective leaders has generated two contrasting theories. Universal theories of leadership contend that there is ‘one best way’ of exercising leadership and that leaders share an identifiable set of common attributes. It is argued that leaders are discernibly different from other individuals and that the generic set of leadership traits and behaviours which sets them apart is universally applicable to all organisations and business environments (e.g. Lord et al., 1986 and Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1991). Contingency theories contest this view arguing that there is no one best way. Rather, effective leadership requires an executive to use a style and behaviours that match the context. The most appropriate leadership characteristics will be dependent upon the unique requirements of each organisation’s personnel, life stage and environmental setting (e.g. Tannenbaum and Schmidt, 1973 and Goleman, 2000). The debate regarding these contrasting leadership theories has taken on a strong practical relevance with the emergence of e-commerce and the new business models and organisational forms it has heralded. At the peak of the Internet bubble, many commentators argued that the complex and rapidly changing demands of the e-world necessitated significantly different leadership characteristics from those of traditional bricks and mortar companies (e.g. Hagel and Armstrong, 1997). Rising levels of e-commerce activity and several high profile IPOs gave rise to a popular view that successful e-leaders needed to be innovative, risk-taking, if not maverick, individuals. Others claimed that e-world leaders were further distinguished by an obsession with creating new wealth and by being more charismatic, passionate and imaginative than those that lead traditional business (Hamel, 1999). The premise underlying these observations is consistent with contingency theory in that e-business leaders are seen to require a set of characteristics that are tailored to their distinctive environment. More recently, there has been a dramatic devaluation of internet stock prices and a shake-out of dot.com companies. In some quarters this has been partially attributed to the failure of ‘e-world’ leadership and concerns have been raised regarding the lack of ‘traditional’ management experience within many e-businesses (see for example, Financial Times, 30th March, 2001). As a result, there have been calls for greater representation of ‘traditional, grey hair’ experience within e-business leadership teams. The assumption here is in line with universal theories of leadership; the characteristics that define leadership in traditional bricks and mortar organisations are equally applicable to the e-world environment. This paper sets out to empirically explore these opposing arguments. Data on the traits, behaviours and skills possessed by leaders of both e-businesses and traditional bricks and mortar businesses were collected using a combination of questionnaire surveys and semi-structured interviews. Analysis of the data allows us to explore the similarities and differences in leadership characteristics in these two different environmental contexts at the same point in time. Does e-business require a different leadership profile compared to traditional bricks and mortar organisations? In addition to addressing this practical question, the paper also provides an empirical contribution to the debate concerning universal versus contingency theories of leadership.
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
We set out to investigate whether the leadership characteristics required for e-business differed from those needed by traditional bricks and mortar organisations. Overall, our results suggest that the majority of leadership characteristics are equally valued regardless of the context in which they operate. These include personal traits such as being adaptable, energetic, decisive and inspiring. All respondents acknowledged the importance of motivational behaviours and the ability to inspire a shared vision, as well as the capacity to anticipate new opportunities. In addition there was universal consensus as to the need for strong communication and strategy analysis skills. There are, however, certain characteristics that distinguish e-world leaders from their bricks and mortar counterparts. Leaders of e-businesses were noted as being significantly more entrepreneurial, risk-taking and less conservative than traditional leaders, who were rated as more collaborative and as having greater integrity. Respondents also highlighted the ability to network extensively and prioritise activities as particularly important competencies for e-business leaders. Similarly, information technology and project management skills were viewed as defining features for e-leaders. Overall, our findings give no clear direction to the universalist versus contingency debate regarding leadership characteristics. The majority of the traits, behaviours and skills we investigated were viewed as equally important in both e-businesses and bricks and mortar organisations, providing support for those who argue that a universal set of characteristics are required to lead in any environment. Yet, a number of characteristics did have significantly different values attached to them across the two environments studied here, endorsing the alternative argument that the characteristics needed of leaders will be contingent on the exact context. As we have outlined above, the digital environment emphasises certain leadership attributes, including a propensity for risk taking, entrepreneurialism, networking ability, as well as the requisite technical skills. As one might expect, the average size of the e-businesses in our study proved to be markedly smaller than that of the traditional bricks and mortar businesses. Indeed, all of the e-world respondents came from companies that could be classified as relatively recent start-ups. Ninety percent of these employed fewer than 50 staff. In contrast, all of the bricks and mortar CEOs were from mature businesses that, in eighty percent of cases, had more than 500 employees. Many of the distinctive characteristics of e-world leaders identified in this study may reflect the earlier lifecycle stage of their organisations. For example, the traits of entrepreneurship and risk-taking, and the need to prioritise and network, are strongly associated with the requirements of the start-up phase of an organisation’s lifecycle (Norburn et al., 1986). Furthermore, the differing lifecycle positions of the two sets of organisations are reflected in differing corporate governance structures. While all the bricks and mortar companies possessed a stockmarket listing, the e-businesses were privately owned. These alternative governance arrangements may influence, for example, the finding that bricks and mortar leaders require greater integrity as they strive to balance their broader stakeholder and regulatory responsibilities. Of course, the presence of these possible lifecycle effects does not dilute the partial support we have found for contingency theories of leadership. Rather, it adds empirical evidence that the attributes required of a leader may be contingent, to a degree, on the evolutionary stage of the organisation. Given this, the differences in leadership characteristics that we did observe between the e-world and bricks and mortar environments need to be interpreted with some caution. The observed differences may be rooted in the particular lifecycle stage of the two sets of businesses as much as other, more fundamental, differences between the two environments. Our data have also provided insights into how leadership profiles may change as we move into the future, with implications for executive selection. In many respects, the characteristics of e-world leaders today appear set to become valued more generally. Information technology and project management skills, the ability to exploit technology and an aptitude for risk-taking are all forecast to increase in importance by the senior executives surveyed. These findings suggest resurgence in the value attached to technical skills, reflecting the heightened pressures faced by all types of organisation as a result of the unprecedented advances in the Internet and other digital technologies. The humanistic focus of 1980s and 1990s management, inspired in part by Peters and Waterman’s (1982) influential book ‘In Search of Excellence’, appears to be shifting towards a more balanced outlook where leaders in all types of organisation will be valued for their technological competence as well as their motivational and organisational orientations.