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Styles of Leadership and their effectiveness in a crisis

By Molly Haymen

Many different leaders, from prime ministers to CEOs, approach their positions of leadership with different styles. An effective leader will demonstrate common desirable characteristics and carry out similar tasks. Evidently, it is important to analyse the different leadership styles that our current world leaders have undertaken, in order to understand the most effective ways to approach certain events, especially in a crisis.

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style characterised by an individual who controls, is demanding, and involves little input from group members. Autocratic leaders typically make choices based on their ideas and judgments, and rarely accept advice from followers. This style involves absolute, authoritarian control over a group.

An example of recent autocratic leadership is when on Monday, 30th March 2020, Hungary’s parliament passed a law that will let their nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orbán, rule by decree for an indefinite period due to COVID-19. This ultimately means that he can arbitrarily edit law, without approval by a legislative assembly. With this power, Orban placed a new set of coronavirus measures that include jail terms of up to five years for spreading misinformation that hinders the government response to the pandemic. In neighbouring Serbia, soldiers patrol the streets, and authorities are reportedly contemplating putting measures in place that would require everyone who wants to go outside to submit the reasons online, and then be tracked via their smartphones as part of Orban’s coronavirus response plan.

According to David Vig, Amnesty International’s Hungary director, the ruling by decree position would “give Viktor Orbán and his government carte blanche to restrict human rights”, as his power erodes the standards of government behaviour that are essential for the continuation of a democratic policy. People of the nation fear that their rights are being taken away as they feel constantly monitored and controlled by the government. Rights groups and government critics say that while it is clear coronavirus brings extraordinary challenges, checks and balances should be placed on the government response, instead of Orban’s immediate autocratic power for an indefinite period of time that negatively affects the people and the nation.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a leadership style in which a leader works with other people to identify needed change, by encouraging, inspiring and motivating them, creating a vision to guide and execute change in collaboration with committed members of a group, stimulating and praising their efforts and contributions.

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, displays transformational leadership styles, in every challenge she faces, whether it be from COVID-19, to terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Jacinda has the exceptional ability to identify her personal goals and the importance of her relationships with her colleagues, family and people of the country of New Zealand. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacinda has shown her genuine sympathy in many different ways, including her live streaming from her home on Facebook to citizens of New Zealand. She introduced helpful concepts such as the "bubble" where people must act as if they already have COVID-19 in order to prevent physical contact with those outside their life consistently over the period of time. By doing this, she displayed her transformational leadership by identifying her goals and visions for the country in combating the virus in the most safe and calm way possible. According to Helen Clark, former PM of New Zealand, Jacinda "chose a meaningful path of kindness and inclusivity. She has shown that not only is she deeply empathetic, but she has nerves of steel – and can lead in times of chaos and tragedy." Her style of leadership has increased the people of the nation’s self-worth and building mutual respect and trust.

She has also shown her exceptional transformational leadership by being adaptable and communicative even in the most difficult times during the 2019 Christchurch Mosque mass shooting. Jacinda wore a Hijab at a ceremony for those who died from the attack, being an inspirational figure and effectively communicating her respect and empathy for the Muslim community. In addition to this, she immediately took action, banning military-style weapons, including the type of firearms that the gunman used in the attack. By doing this, Jacinda quickly adapted to the prevalent issue of weak gun laws and was able to emphasise her passion and vision for a safer country.


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