Leadership Behaviours and Approaches


The nature and leadership is considered as pivotal in modern day business environment as it ultimately influences the overall workforce performance. In the context of the above statement, the current paper has been presented analysing a range of UK based organisations and particularly Tesco, the leading retail supermarket chain across the country. At the outset, the report reflects on the leadership behaviour and approaches concerning Tesco. Accordingly, a range of leadership theories has been compared in the context of Tesco’s business. Gradually the report discusses a critical incident that has occurred in the workplace. Finally the report ends with showcasing a reflection on the learning outcomes and self leadership skill development of the author.

1.0 Leadership behaviours and approaches:

Leadership behaviours and approaches are likely to alter in organisations based on the nature of business. According to Leonard (2013), different business context would require different leadership criteria and the organisational leaders are needed to act accordingly. For instance, an autocratic style of leadership is more common in manufacturing sectors while a participative style of leadership is prioritised in service industry. Nature of organisation, corporate governance, operating and external business environment are considered as some of the crucial factors that could influence the leadership and management style in business organisations.

Nature of organisation:

Tesco is a household name in the retail industry of the UK and is ranked second when it comes of global retail sector. The rapid growth of the enterprise within the past two decades have seen the organisation expanding over 12 different countries, employing over 500,000 employees. Currently, Tesco is considered as one of the top 3 employers across the UK and has managed to develop a trusted brand name in the UK’s retail sector. However, the continuous enhancement of the business has affected the nature of leadership within the organisation as the organisational workforce needs to undergo rapid transformation by time. Marquis and Huston (2009) supported the fact by acknowledging that leading organisations in the service industry are bound to prioritise quick alterations in leadership schemes in order to remain competent in the industry.

Tesco has followed a flexible working environment in order to maintain a dynamic workforce. As a consequence, the leaders are directed to follow a participative leadership and act as a middle man between the workforce and the management. However, Caligiuri et al. (2010) argued that leaders, who are supposed to act as middle man between workforce and authority, would experience a dilemma whether to prioritise the management directions or to focus on the workforce conflicts. Tesco being a ‘customer oriented’ business prioritise customers’ perception and therefore, the leaders are provided specific targets regarding customer conversion rate which often creates workforce burden.   

Corporate governance:

The overall corporate governance policy followed at Tesco is supposed to influence the nature of leadership within the organisation. The corporate governance framework is segregated in two segments. The Tesco PLC Board is comprised of five committees. The Nominations Committee, Audit Committee, Remuneration Committee, Corporate Responsibility Committee and Disclosure Committee assist the board taking management decisions (refer to Exhibit 1 in appendix). Adding to that, an Executive Committee has been established seven different committees (refer to Exhibit 1 in appendix). In reference to Tesco’s corporate governance framework, the brand has been prioritising a flat organisational structure and the leaders are given more responsibilities in dealing with the workforce affairs.

Since Tesco prioritise customers’ perceived values, employees are empowered to desired extent so that a dynamic workforce could be able to address the customers’ expectations. In order to do that, the leaders are directed to follow a participative leadership while a two way communication process is prioritised by the leaders. As mentioned by Yoder-Wise and Kowalski (2010), establishing a two way communication process can help organisations empowering employees and as a result, a dynamic workforce could be formed. However, the top priority for Tesco’s leaders is addressing the long term organisational vision that is not trying harder for customers, treating people as per perceived policy and using own scale for good. Maintaining such benchmark often creates complexities regarding leadership approaches particularly during contingent decision making.  

Operating context:

When it comes to operational priorities, Tesco has established a set of core values and a range of strategic priorities.

The core values concerning Tesco’s business are as followed:

  • Wanted and needed around the world
  • A growing business, full of opportunities
  • Modern, innovative and full of ideas
  • Winners locally whilst applying skills globally
  • Inspiring and earning trust and loyalty of various stakeholders

In reference to the strategic vision of Tesco, the brand is focusing towards a sustainable business prioritising a continuous learning and development process. However, the feasibility of the strategic approach is critical particularly with the alterations in the internal business environments. As cited by Flinders (2012), establishing a steady leadership approach can be a challenge for modern day business organisations as the internal business environment is likely to alter in time. Tesco however, has focused on a range of strategic initiatives (highlighted below) to address the core values of the brand.

  • Continuous investment in the UK
  • Establishing multichannel leadership
  • Prioritising disciplined international growth

The strategic priorities of the enterprise are focusing on the business development planning process that is supposed to impose added job pressure on the workforce. Littlepage and Silbiger (2005) acknowledged that enhanced business expansion is likely to increase job responsibilities. That is exactly the case for Tesco currently as the leaders in the organisation need to ensure employees manage to deliver desired productivity in stringent deadlines.

External environment:

Tesco’s leadership and management initiative are influenced significantly based on the changing external business environment. Since the brand prioritises a dynamic workforce, the organisational leaders are directed to mentor employees to develop a dynamic nature so that the changing trend in the business sector might not influence workforce productivity. In the words of Zhu et al. (2013), global retail industry is of the frequently changing industries and therefore, organisations having a dynamic workforce would only manage to thrive in the sector. Hence, Tesco’s leaders most often, need to rely on contingent decision making process to tackle the alteration in external environment and at the same time ensuring desired workforce productivity.

Addressing the changing trend in the industry remains a significant challenge for Tesco’s leaders. Considering the context of the UK’s retail sector, customers now prefer the online shopping more compared to offline shopping and prioritise brands that prefer one stop shopping solutions. In this context, Doyle et al. (2009) stated that, the perception of the Generation Y customers are changing all the time and brands managing to address similar can experience a competitive edge over the rivals. Similarly, Tesco’s management team has prioritised the perception of the Generation Y customers to retain market competency. A flat organisational structure has been followed for greater employee empowerment. However, such an approach has come at the cost of Tesco’s traditional values.   

2.0 Validity and utility of leadership theories within organisational context:

Several leadership theories are used in today’s contemporary business organisations based on the nature of the business. As stated by Dackert et al.  (2004), trait theories, behavioural theories, contingency theories, transactional theories and transformational theories are used in organisations. As a matter of fact, all these theories are used depending on the validity and its utility in organisational context. Considering the fact, Hambrick (2004) stated that implementation of potential leadership theories depends on the relevance with ethics, values, knowledge, skills and behaviours required from effective leaders in the organisation.

Ethical prominence:

Tesco being a largest retail manufacturer brand in the UK follows participative leadership style and contingency approaches in order to maintain ethical integrity within the organisation. Considering the fact, Einstein and Humphreys (2006) stated that transformational leadership theory could become best possible approach to validate and utilise organisational requirements. As Tesco follows contingency leadership practices, it involves almost zero participation from the end of the employee. As a matter of fact, manufacturing industry need not to alter leadership changes frequently as very slow alterations are found in these segments. Hence, a potential leadership needs to be selected in order to maintain integrity among the firm and the workforce (Jason, 2005).

Transactional leadership theory creates higher level of motivation and it can be considered as effective leadership theories. Transactional leadership theories allow leaders to prioritise creating pleasurable experiences and diminishing non pleasurable experiences (Khunia and Suar, 2007). While following transformational leadership theories, Tesco would employ employee participation for creating flexible and guidable group norms. It would create mutual trust and all ethical prominence can be highly maintaining by using the same. Furthermore, Louis and Robinson (2012) cited that transformational leadership would help Tesco transforming followers by implementing inspirational nature and charismatic personalities.  Participative style followed by Tesco allows employee participation in decision making process, but to some extent it acts as autocratic as majority decision is taken by the management itself. On the other hand, transformational leadership theories could make employee able to share and implement their ideas in the work platform and it would enhance the ethical prominence of the Tesco.

Value creation:

Resources are treated as heart of the organisations as the overall growth depends on the collective performance and commitment of the overall workforce. As cited by Schminke et al. (2002), effective leaders are those who can easily create higher value to the management as well as to the workforce also. As per the present scenario, Tesco is allowing leaders to receive inputs from their sub ordinates and majority decisions are being taken on the behalf of the management. As stated by Conner (2007), transformational leadership approach could be stated as the model of fairness and integrity. It enhances supportive level and recognition benefit of the workforce which creates higher leadership values towards the workforce and it would require bureaucratic efficiency within a leader. It is very much needed in order to command a scientific management and create higher value among the workforce and the management (Tenbrunsel, 2008). It can be achieved by utilising transformational leadership as it employs higher level of employee empowerment each time organisational changes are occurring.

As Tesco is the largest retail manufacturing unit in the UK, it would not require rapid organisational changes and eventually it would not always require higher level of employee participation. Considering the fact, it can be stated that employing transformational leadership would allow leaders to welcome their followers in the decision making and change management process. As cited by Anderson et al. (2007), it would create higher leadership values and similarly it can maintain core values of the leadership across the organisation. Higher value leader could become effective making higher organisational growth for Tesco by improving employee productivity as a result of higher motivational parameters (Langer and Rodin, 2006). It would serve both validation of Tesco’s operational efficiency as well as it would create higher utility creating more employee commitment towards the organisation.

Knowledge enhancement:

Core participative leadership or autocratic leadership style alone cannot create inspiring vision for the future in the manufacturing industry, while it can create satisfactory amount in the service industry. Considering the case of Tesco, a manufacturing firm, transformational leadership theories could significantly enhance the future judgement of the leaders that would create higher organisational growth. As stated by Mintzberg (2004), leadership knowledge can be improved by transferring the responsibility of creating future inspiration within the workforce.  Transformational leadership theory would help leaders understanding core values of the resources and the existing capacities between the resources.  

Transformational leadership style could help leaders of Tesco improving the knowledge and it would act as utility parameter achieving higher business growth in the competitive market. As mentioned by Vroom and Jago (2004), transformational leaders need to analyse the environmental intelligence and choosing appropriate option is done accordingly. By implementing this style, leaders could effectively enhance their knowledge about the market scenario and execution of the necessary steps in accordance with the same. However, Bruhn et al. (2007) argued that transformational leadership theory can be assumed better than participative leadership theory as it does not involve analysing future vision of the organisation by involving leaders. Hence, transformational leadership theories could be assumed better than participative leadership style considering the case of Tesco in order to improve the leadership knowledge within the organisation.

Skill enhancement:

One of the most advantageous factors of transformational leadership is the improvement of leadership skills within the organisation. As stated by Anderson et al. (2007), transformational leadership theory employs motivating people by delivering transparent vision to the employees.  It makes leaders able to understand nothing significant can happen until the firm holds empowered workforce towards its operational unit. Considering the fact, Littlepage et al. (2007) cited that different kind’s motivational techniques are used by the transformational leaders to maintain proper workflow process. As a matter of fact, transformational leadership theory trains their employees to acquire skills on the execution of each and every step in order to make the organisational change management process successful in the global business environment.

Tesco would improve leader’s managing skills by implementing transformational leadership theories.  Transformational leaders become responsible to set SMART goals for every employee and it helps employees to win organisational goals. Furthermore, Littlepage et al. (2007) mentioned that transformational leadership theory is based on managing self discipline and stamina which could prevent doing any major mistake in the operational process. Similarly, leaders of Tesco can significantly enhance skill set on making goal agenda, managing workforce discipline and on the areas of project management and change management scenario. Furthermore, transformational leaders could significantly enhance their leading skills that could be executed in any type of complex situation.

Additionally, transformational leader sets higher level of expectation from themselves and it follows “walks the walk” process. As cited by Doyle et al. (2009), “Walks the walk” process would help leaders knowing all problem issues and the parameters that are needed to improve for reaching overall goal. This approach allows leaders to understand each and every steps of the process and the skills to execute each step are also improved. Hence, it can be stated that Tesco’s leaders can improve their skill set by involving transformational leadership styles.

Behavioural changes:

Transformational leadership theory involves higher level of employee encouragement and providing extreme support and recognition to the workforce. Leader’s behaviour holds significant value improving workforce performance and motivation towards the workforce. As cited by Vroom and Jago (2004), good leaders always achieve higher goals as compared to others. As a matter of fact, higher level of employee encouragement creates higher motivation which eventually improves the overall performance of organisation. Transformational leaders become liable to change their behaviour and attitude for improving workforce performance. Furthermore, Zhu et al. (2013) cited that transformational leadership theory is based on providing recognition to the subordinates. This might create a situation of recognising more and more employee which might eventually improve overall commitment of the workforce towards the organisation. Tesco is following participative style in the context of leadership. On the other hand, employing transformational leadership style could significantly alter little behaviour of leaders and it could create higher level of workforce flexibility in the organisation. It would help the leaders of Tesco to get people look beyond their self interest and it would inspire people ready to reach every goal of the organisation.

Developing hypothesis:

Transformational leadership styles are found many organisations it employs improving higher level of employee commitment and improved workforce performance. Although transformational leadership style improves overall workforce performance, it is not necessary that it would be similar effective in all types of business organisation.  Transformational leadership style is found higher effective rather than participative style in manufacturing industry, while participative style is much convenient in the service industry (Anderson et al. 2007). As a matter of fact, transformational leadership style allows leaders to create a transparent communication across the organisation. It is highly effective in manufacturing firm where frequent changes are found very nominal (Zhu et al. 2013). Increased communication would be required in cases where extreme organisational changes are required and then comes the requirement of implementing transformational leadership style into the organisation.

Additionally, in the service industry the overall organisational process and systems are getting changed due to the changing behaviour of the customers. As cited by Littlepage et al. (2007), service industry requires participative leadership style in order to understand changing customer requirements and executing necessary steps accordingly. However, it is a proven fact that transformational leadership process could effectively bring higher skill set, knowledge and behavioural improvements of the leaders. The main reason behind this improvement is it involves several workforce handing skills to manage turbulent situation during the organisational change process.  The leaders who are successful handing complex organisational situation are found most dynamic and charismatic in their work places. Furthermore, Zhu et al. (2013) stated that transformational leadership style could be highly implemented in all type of organisational process along with its own specification. It would successfully make employees more dynamic and committed towards the organisation. Analysing all above scenario, the hypothesis can be divided into two segments as follows:

H0: The leadership strategy would positively influence Tesco’s workforce performance

H1: The leadership strategy would have negative influence on Tesco’s workforce performance

3.0 Application of analysis to a critical incident:

Whether the proposed change in leadership approach (as highlighted in the previous section) would influence Tesco’s workforce performance is yet to be analysed but is it assumed that an effective change management in the organisation is needed. According to Zohar (2002), the retail sector across the UK has become increasingly volatile which is why, the retail brands in the sector need to prioritise intense research and development activities in order to retail competency in the industry. In this context, the foretold hypothesis can be tested in the context of Tesco, taking into consideration the change management initiatives proposed by Dave Lewis recently.

Dave Lewis, Tesco’s new chief executive has recently unveiled the change initiative the organisation is looking to implement, in a recently conducted press conference. The former Unilever executive and a turnaround specialist had reflected the fact that the brand is focusing on a change management policy in order to comply with the changing trend in the industry. Clegg and Bradley (2006) proposed that it is turning out to be a significant challenge for business organisations to deal with the constant external business environmental changes. In this context, Dave Lewis had highlighted the fact that the primary approach that the organisation is going to emphasise is modification in the existing leadership approach. Since Tesco is currently prioritising a participative leadership approach, it is assumed that following a transformational leadership approach at the time of change management, could be an effective option.

Transformational leadership is supposed to be relevant in the context of Tesco’s business as such an initiative involves fairness and integrity. Considering the words of Fairholm and Fairholm (2010), employees would likely to resist change at the time of new strategy deployment. Therefore, following a transformation leadership initiative is a viable option in this type of scenario as it could convince employees to complement the change management process. On the other hand, Ford (2005) attributed that transformational leaders can bring the best out of the employees following optimum resource utilisation policy. Employees are likely to be influenced more under the supervision of transformational leaders. Therefore, Tesco can expect greater motivation among the employees and a goal driven workforce.

When Dave Lewis succeeded the former chief executive, Philip Clarke, a certain degree of insecurity had been observed among the employees of Tesco. The employees feared the alterations in management could affect the workforce and a certain degree of conflicts is still experienced nowadays. In this context, following a transformational leadership could help resolving a considerable number of workforce issues. Pearce and Sims (2002) cited that employees are often influenced by the immediate supervisors and any alterations in management could affect the workforce in the long run. Since, Tesco is opting for a change in management team with the inclusion of a new chief executive, this particular issue is needed to be assessed and the workforce sentiment is involved in the process. In this context, a transformational leadership approach could be followed. Thus, even if new team leaders or supervisors are introduced, transformational leaders could ensure desired workforce productivity following effective project management procedure.

During the press conference, Dave Lewis pointed out the fact that, the current business trend is not compatible for addressing the changing trend of the UK’s retail sector. Although Tesco is considered as the largest retail supermarket chain across the UK, Dave Lewis believes that the current brand practices might not be effective in the long run. As per Ross and Gray (2006), the retail sector across the UK is turning out to be a perfect competition and brands with a certain degree of innovation can only thrive in the sector. However, considering the current business context of Tesco, although the brand is one of the most preferred option among the customers in the region, lack of research and development activities could affect the business in the near future. As mentioned by Peterson and Luthans (2012), organisations could only establish an effective research and development module if there is a strong learning culture. Past literatures suggest that a transformational leadership is compatible for a learning work culture. Therefore, following such an initiative could help Tesco forming an innovative retail business.

Considering the current context, employees at Tesco are concerned about the self goals and job responsibilities. This particular workforce mentality can cause problematic situation in the future. The management needs to make sure there is a strategic fit and that organisational goal and the individual employees’ job responsibilities are aligned with each other. Achieving such strategic fit could be feasible with the application of a transformational leadership as Mumford et al. (2010) discussed that transformational leadership inspires employees to look beyond the self interests. Dave Lewis acknowledged that there are ‘lots of ideas’ and ‘lots of thoughts’ regarding the loss of market share and it is assumed that a transformational leadership approach could improve the workforce performance leading to resolving the current situation.

In reference to the findings from the previous section, the null hypothesis was that the transformational leadership strategy would positively influence Tesco’s workforce performance. On the other hand, the alternate hypothesis was that the transformational leadership would impose no impact on Tesco’s workforce performance. Analysing the findings from the above discussion, it can be assumed that transformational leadership could be an effective strategic option for Tesco as the brand is looking forward to a change management process. Dave Lewis is trying to develop recovery strategy to improve Tesco’s market share and findings from the current section promote the fact that the transformational leadership could influence Tesco to establish a dynamic workforce that would be capable of thriving during change management initiative. 

Finally, considering the above context, it can be concluded that the findings satisfy the null hypothesis that is transformational leadership strategy could positively influence Tesco’s workforce performance. The transformational leadership strategy has turned out to be an effective option for the brand during change management and conflicts are likely to be less within the work environment. As a result, Dave Lewis could expect desired workforce performance even during the change management scenario at Tesco.

4.0 Reflection:

I have been exposed to several practical situations where a certain degree of leadership skills was needed to solve a range of contingent issues. For instance, I was once appointed the captain of a football team and I was given the authority to manage a team of eleven players including myself. Although it was an armature team of a bunch of teenagers, a strong leadership approach was required in order to manage the diver crop of players. Before then I was not exposed to any practical scenario where I could have applied self leadership skills but fortunately, being a management student had helped me in this context. I attempted to link the leadership theories and practical implementations in order to solve various on field problems and during live matches. Comparing the situation with the situation of Tesco, the team members were a bit uncomfortable with the assigning of my captaincy. When Dave Lewis was first introduced as the new CEO of Tesco, the organisational employees were found to be a bit uncomfortable. Similarly, I found several uncomfortable players in my team who were not convinced with my captaincy. Therefore, like Dave Lewis, I thought Transformational leadership could be an effective option in this context.   

Among my major roles as captain of a football team, I needed to establish effective co-ordination and teamwork so that the team could perform well during matches. The roles can be compared with that of maintaining employee relations within the work environment. Such as organisational leaders are responsible for maintaining effective employee relations within the work environment, I needed to ensure the team morale remained high so that better team performance could have been expected at the field. I also needed to streamline particular authorities to the team members. Similar strategy could be applied in the work environment of Tesco as well. Since Dave Lewis is prioritising a transformational leadership during the change management, employees are needed to be inspired to ensure effective team morale. As mentioned by Abrahamson (2006), team chemistry depends on the delegation of authorities to particular team players assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each member. Likewise, I used to make the players aware of the positional disciplines so that the desired formation could be maintained during matches.

One of the major challenges I used to face during managing my team was the management of players’ ego. The situation is quite common in real life business scenario as leaders often experience various difficulties in managing egos within the workforce. Considering the words of Kim (2007), increasing employee ego could increase conflicts within the workforce. Since conflict within a team could affect the overall team performance, I needed to ensure there was transparency between the players and I needed to take authority at times to bring justice to resolve conflicts. McGuire et al. (2007) argued that maintaining transparency within team could be a challenge for team leaders although fair leadership strategy could help resolving the problem. Similar situation has been faced by Tesco recently as the brand has recently experienced several organisational conflicts after the drastic change in top management. Like my attempt to maintain transparency to avoid conflicts, Tesco is currently prioritising a transformational leadership to mitigate conflicts even during the change management.

In order to ensure fair and transparent leadership strategy, I used to let others to share thoughts and communicate feedback. Brainstorming was one of my preferred options in this context as it allows team members to share thoughts to resolve a common team issue. Nemeth and Staw (2009) appreciates the strategy of brainstorming by acknowledging that the process could bring innovative ideas following collective participation of the team members. The brainstorming used to be conducted during the halftime interval during a match. The coach used to conduct the brainstorming session and I used to assist the coach by engaging other players into the common conversation. The process used to help our team resolving several contingent problems during match time. Summarising the mentioned approaches, an application of transformational leadership can be seen. Since, Tesco has been prioritising a transformational leadership as well, the organisational leaders could emphasis on thought sharing, feedback communication and brainstorming for employee empowerment.   

Apart from the brainstorming process, we used to follow post match analysis which was a kind of brainstorming session as well. In this process, the players were supposed to critically evaluate each others’ performance and my role was to communicate the strengths and weaknesses of the players with the coach. Hambrick (2004) cited that team assessment is always an effective option to keep track of the ongoing procedures. We experienced similar results as the approach helped us continuously improving team performance assessing the strengths and weaknesses. As far as my leadership skills are concerned, I developed effective performance management skills along with group interactions. 

Reflecting my leadership skills during my time as a captain for the football team, I assumed there were several areas for improvement. Although I was an effective team player, I realise sometimes I needed better interpretation and communication skill to bring the best out of the players. Sometimes I failed to convince the team members about the self roles and responsibilities which was a major reason behind dip in team performance. Therefore, I believe I need to enhance my communication and interpretation skills so that I can further nurture my transformational leadership skills. Assessing my personal reflection it can be concluded that the null hypothesis mentioned previously for Tesco is established in the current situation as well. In this context, following a SMART objective would be an effective option as it would allow me to develop improved communication and interpretation skills with proper project management planning process.              

Plan for modification of own behaviour:

In order to modify self behaviour I have opted for following SMART objectives so that I can alter self behaviour within specific time limit. Following the SMART framework, I have evaluated the personal goal using five distinct criteria as followed.

Objectives Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time bound
Communication Improved communication  skills with colleagues and juniors Clarity of thought of the listener Understanding the listeners’ perception and communication accordingly Improvement of communication is feasible The skill can be developed within 3 months time period
Mutual participation Improved participation with colleagues and juniors Completion of assignments within deadlines Better co-operation with team members could help achieving the objective Participative leadership skill could be improved The skill is likely to be improved within 3 months
Project management Effective work delegation and contingent problem solving Timely project submission and ensuring quality Utilisation of available resources could help improving the skill Improved project management skills over time is feasible The skill can be improved over 3 months time period



Leadership behaviour and approaches have significant impact on the overall performance of organisation. Analysing the study, it is clear that leadership approaches such as participative style is mostly followed in organisations and choosing potential leadership approach depends on the nature, corporate governance and operating context of the organisation. However, several discussions have drawn the inference that transformational leadership could become a vital agenda for organisations making the workforce highly motivated and committed towards the organisation. Several factors such as increased communication and ethical integrity can also be maintained by utilising transformational leadership styles. Finally, from the last part it is clear that along with leadership skills, interpretation and communication skills also needs to be improved to upgrade current leadership skills. It would significantly improve the gap exists between the employee and management and the necessary actions can be initiated to enhance the overall performance of the organisation.




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Exhibit 1: Corporate governance framework of Tescotesco_corporate_governanc


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