Leadership Styles, Transformation, and Success in the Business World

Leadership Styles, Transformation, and Success in the Business World

By Katherine Fry, CEO/President of Mediafy Communications

As many individuals with business degrees know, there are nine common leadership styles; transformational, transactional, servant, autocratic, laissez-faire, democratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, and situational.  As a business leader, it is not only wise, but arguably essential, to ask oneself, “What type of leader are you?” It is also important to determine what type of leadership style best motivates ones team. Asking these questions not only assists business leaders in adopting successful characteristics for themselves, but it also assists them in selecting effective managers for their teams.  Here, we will analyze four of these leadership styles.

Richard Branson

Transformational Leadership

In the marketing world, individuals are encouraged and even required to use their intellect.  Websites, digital marketing, and marketing campaigns, all require an open environment that fosters creativity as well as critical thinking.  This includes hiring professionals who are able to lead projects without a great deal of supervision, ultimately transforming the company as well as themselves. In order to have transformational employees, a company must have transformational leaders.  In short, these are leaders who trust their employees and want them to contribute as well as grow.Company cultures with transformational leadership often provide continuing education to their staff, and reward “thinking outside the box.” Richard Branson is an excellent example of a transformational company culture.  An overwhelmingly inspiring individual, everything from his social media to his public appearances oozes with transformation. Arguably, this is why he has been so successful in the business world.

Transactional Leadership

In contrast, transactional leadership is based more on a “carrot and stick” type of approach.  In this leadership dynamic, employees must follow a clear chain of command, and not go outside “their lane.”  Company cultures implementing this approach reward adherence to the rules, and are punished for breaking them. In public agencies, government, and even schools, the transactional leadership role is predominant.  If a student follows the rules, they are rewarded. If they do well on a paper, they get an A. However, what is standard and effective in the public sector, often backfires in the private one. Critics state that transactional leaders do not foster creative thinking, and in fact, often penalize for it.  Companies providing creativity to their clients often find themselves stifled by a leader utilizing this approach.

Autocratic Leadership

The autocratic leadership style is often employed by unseasoned business leaders, with little to no managerial experience.  With time, and a willingness to learn, this can transform into a more advanced leadership style. However, during an autocratic leadership period, business leaders often display extreme control over their staff, rarely taking suggestions, and rarely sharing power.  Companies with autocratic leaders typically have “stressed out” employees, high turnover, and a lack of intellectual stimulation amongst their staff. Business leaders who remain autocratic typically do not remain business leaders for long, because unhappy staff typically flee at the first opportunity.  In the marketing world, autocratic leaders must “change or die.” Creative individuals will not stand for it, and non-creative individuals will flee from it. Schooling in management techniques can result in the dissolution of autocratic leadership, but the leader must be willing to change. If the business leader displays an unwillingness to transform their leadership style, the transformation is often made for them, through the business dissolving or being sold to another with more a more advanced leadership style.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-Faire leadership or leadership led by “the invisible hand”  is one in which employees are allowed to complete their tasks as they see fit.   Business leaders who employ this approach have the ultimate task of completed projects, happy employees, and happy customers.  However, leaders utilizing this approach realize their are various means “from A to D.” As a result, teams are encouraged to sort out the particulars themselves, as long as the final result is achieved. However, such a leadership style often results in a “double-edged sword”-happy employees but unhappy customers.  When staff performance is monitored, productivity and quality can slip, resulting in details “falling through the cracks.” The Laissez-Faire leadership style is often employed by company leaders who view their jobs as a hobby, or who on the verge of retirement. While great in theory, it is very rarely an effective way to run a profitable and successful company.  Employees need structure to achieve their deadlines, and structure often disappears in such a laid-back environment. Laissez-Faire leadership is often considered the opposite side of the spectrum from Autocratic; while one is often present at the beginning of a leaders career, the other is often often present at its end. Success is arguably found in the middle.


In closing, there are nine forms of leadership styles and four have been analyzed here.  Transformational leaders encourage profit and success through the transformation of their employees and ultimately their company.  Transactional leadership, while effective in the public sphere, is not nearly as effective in the private one. Autocratic and Laissez-Faire leaders represent extreme side of the spectrum, and companies as well as individuals often suffer as a result.  Quite simply, Transformational leaders are open to transformation, and this leads to more effective leadership, happier staff, and more successful companies.

Sales Executives, Sales Support, and the Royal Yacht Britannia

How Taking Away Tools and Benefits Ultimately Hurts Sales Organizations and Countries

The British Government decommissioned the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997. According to the government’s official website, “On 23 June 1994, John Major’s Government announced there would be no refit for HMY Britannia as the costs would be too great. After a long and successful career spanning 44 years and traveling over 1 million miles around the globe, it was announced that the last Royal Yacht was to be decommissioned.

There was no immediate decision about a replacement, but the question of a new Royal Yacht became a political issue in the run up to the 1997 General Election. The Conservative Party’s Secretary of State for Defense announced that if they were to be re-elected, they would build a new Royal Yacht, funded entirely from public monies. However, the Labour Party opposed this, stating the expense could not be warranted given the state of the economy. After the election, the new Labour Government eventually confirmed in October 1997 there would be no replacement for Britannia.”

While to many this seemed like a practical decision, to others it appeared incredibly short sighted. With the royal family’s popularity at an all-time low following the death of the Princess of Wales, this decision could not have been altogether unexpected. Nevertheless, following my most recent trip to Scotland, I encountered a completely different and perhaps enlightening perspective.

For many months, my niece and I anticipated our invitations to dinner on the Royal Yacht Britannia. My husband purchased our niece a tiara at Universal Studios. Everything from our dresses to our nails had been planned to the finest detail. And the Brittania delivered. A very knowledgeable historian gave us a tour of the royal yacht, showing us everything from the former royal car, to where the Queen would sit and have breakfast. Most poignantly, and perhaps unexpectedly, our guide showed us the royal family’s sitting room and dining room, where multi-million dollar trade deals were stuck all around the world. Trade envoys, vying to open trade routes around the world for British goods, succeeded in getting individuals to the table on Brittania, where others had failed. Billions dollar deals were struck at the very tables and couches where we sat drinking champagne, pouring countless monies into the British economy. In truth, while the Labour Party in Great Britain viewed the Royal Yacht Britannia as merely an expensive toy for the British royal family, it actually functioned as a highly valuable sales tool for the the royal family and the British government. After the decommissioning of the yacht, Tony Blair expressed his regrets in not fighting this haphazard decision. He realized it was shortsighted, and ultimately hurt the British economy.

Shortsightedness in making business decisions is a common malady often affecting business owners. The Queen is, in effect, a sales executive for the country of Britain. She earns a commission of 17% on the gross profit brought in by all of the crown properties. The better she performs, the more money she makes. But like all sales executives, she needs support. And her majesty needs a vacation.

Being a sales executive is a tremendously difficult job. When I chose this as my career, I truly had no idea it would become not only a career, but also a way of life. I am always on call, always on my best behavior, and always having my customers at the forefront of my mind. Even on vacation, I am not truly on vacation, because clients still need my assistance, regardless of my circumstance. As a sales executive, and now a business owner, I am well aware that sales executives need support. Most importantly, they need the tools to succeed. Over the course of my sales career thus far, I have encountered hard-headed sales managers who felt that sales executives expected too much, and should thus be on commission only, with no benefits. Arguments for this include, “it makes then more motivated to sell,” “they are in control of their own destinies,” and “they put less drag on a sales organization.” However, in my experiences as a business leader, I have become convinced that putting sales executives on commission only is a grave mistake. Because they not held accountable to the organization for which they work, they ultimately are not successful. In order to monitor the time of a sales executive, and to hold them accountable for their behavior during a sales day, that sales executive must be received an hourly wage. Otherwise, they are not accountable to the organization for which they work. A smart sales organization also provides that executive the tools they need to be successful. Benefits such as paid vacation, a company car, and/or a 401k, not only enhance the life of a sales executive, but also increase employee loyalty. Ultimately, the entire organization benefits.

The life of a sales executive is incredibly difficult. As a sales executive for Great Britain, the Queen’s life, also, has substantial challenges. Her Majesty and her family must perform to earn their 17%. The Queen must generate enough interest in herself and her family that tourists will flock to Britain, visit her properties and buy her goods offered in crown property gift stores. She is constantly on display, with her every move scrutinized, and face the constant criticism upon her and her family for not inheriting and not “earning” her position. But the reality is, if the Queen does not sell, she does not get. Items such as the Royal yacht Britannia not only had a direct positive impact on the British economy, but they provided for the Queen and her family a much needed respite from constantly working for not only their country, but also their own livelihoods. When tools for success and benefits are taken away, sales executives can “lose their will to sell,” and then they truly do become a burden on the organization of which they are a part. If the Queen and her family are stripped of all their benefits, they may stop performing, with dire consequences not only to themselves but to the British economy as a whole.

As business owners, the well-being of our sales executives is paramount. Their positions are challenging, as well as stressful, and they need the tools and benefits for their own success as well as the success of the organization to which they belong. I, for one, no longer hire sales executives on strict commission. I provide them with a salary, as well as additional perks. As time goes on, my organization will provide them more. Punishing sales executives by taking away tools and benefits, as parliament punished the Queen by taking away Britannia, is a terrible mistake and very shortsighted. Let’s remember this when hiring sales executives and then when supporting them out in the field.

Are Traditional Gender Roles Obsolete?

An Analysis of the Relevance of Traditional Gender Roles in our Homes, Governments, and Businesses.

Is traditional marriage dead?  Having been raised by a feminist mother of the 60’s, I have often asked myself this question.  My marriage is definitely a contemporary one-my husband and I both have careers, we split the bills, and keep our finances separate.  My mother raised me with the ideals of education, self-worth, and independence. “Never be dependent on a man,” she would often say. “Because you never know when he might leave.”  As a result, I married later in life, and the traditional homemaker gender role is not one that I have embraced-at all. In fact, all of the household chores have been delegated to others, so my husband and I can focus on our careers.

As I perused around Paris with my 9-year-old niece, the fate of Marie Antoinette weighed heavily on us.  Her ghost could be felt everywhere-from the Conciergerie, where the revolutionaries held her, to the Place de la Concorde, (previously the Place de la Revolution), where she died at the blade of the guillotine.  “Why did they kill her,” my niece asked, over and over. “What did she do? And why did they throw eggs at her and her children”

As I researched the fate of the last Queen of France before its first revolution, I became struck by the lack of control she had in her life.  Forced to marry the King of France by her mother, Marie Therese, Empress of Austria, Marie Antoinette did not reign herself. Instead, she filled the position of Queen consort, or wife to the king, and mother of future heirs.  A foreign royal of Austrian descent, the French viewed her as an outsider, and worse, a traitor providing information to one of France’s main enemies. Nevertheless, she relished her life as a wife and mother and did her duty giving birth to two beautiful children.  While arguably in an often difficult position, Marie Antoinette could at least find solace in her traditional gender role.

As the winds of revolution blew into France, Robespierre, a leader in the movement, proposed the new idea of a “Constitutional Monarchy.”  In this scheme, traditional gender roles arguably came into play- with the proposed elected parliament operating as “the husband,” and the hereditary monarchy operating as “the wife.”  In such a proposed government, Robespierre advanced that the Parliament would serve at the pleasure of the King officially, with the King offering advice, support, and influence. Additionally, the King would remain a figure beloved by the people, providing future monarchs for the continuation of the government.  Essentially, the people would view the King as a loving parent, and the prime minister as the disciplinarian. While to many this proposed government sounded fair and reasonable, Marie Antoinette felt it made her position redundant. As the spouse of an absolute ruler, she enjoyed the position of consort or wife to the Monarch.  Under this new government scheme, Marie Antoinette would become “the wife of the wife.” Already despised by the people of France, Marie Antoinette would accept a feminine gender role for herself in her marriage and in a traditional monarchy, but would not accept a feminine gender role for her husband in a new government. With her traditional role being usurped by her husband, her position disappeared altogether.  Of course, Marie Antoinette could not accept this. She encouraged her husband to reject this “unholy idea,” and the royal family tried fleeing to Austria, in an attempt to gather Austrian forces and retake absolute power. Along the way, revolutionaries intercepted the family, betrayed by their lack of cooperation in the development of “a new France.” Ultimately, the entire family died at the hands of the revolution, save the daughter, who lived out her years in Austria.

In America, royal families are simultaneously celebrated and ridiculed.  It is argued that they are not elected, and they don’t deserve it. In the UK, one could argue that Parliament is the husband, making laws, acquiring funds to run the country or the larger family of England, while the Queen is the one people love, offering counsel, advice, and support to the Prime Minister.  She must sign off on all laws before they are implemented and she is technically “the boss,” but her significance is primarily one of national pride and influence.

The American revolution paved the way, not only for a new government, but also for a new business structure.  With the people having lost confidence in their King, the new United States threw out the entire royal family and parliament, replacing it with what one could call a delegatory form of government.  With a Commander in Chief at the helm of government, the judicial and legislative chores became delegated. In businesses, the CEO also delegates authority to a COO, a finance department, and a human resources department, amongst others. Traditional gender roles in this government or leadership structure are gone, allowing for either a male or female to play the lead role, while delegating responsibilities,  without a spouse to provide balance. As Americans, we prefer this structure in our government and in our businesses, but does it work at home? For me in my marriage, it does. Yet, as an Anglican, I love and admire the Queen, as well as the role she plays in the UK’s larger governmental structure. I can’t imagine an England without her. The Queen’s influence is constantly felt, and her consistent presence is highly valued.  While raised a feminist, I rather like the idea of a constitutional monarchy. Is the female gender role relevant anymore, in a modern government, business, and families? For that matter, are gender roles relevant at all? When Marie Antoinette tried to retain her wifely role, she lost her head. As women, do we need to move forward and shed our feminine personas, or risk becoming redundant? I am unsure, but while I am a traditional feminist, I still feel comfortable in saying, ‘God save the Queen!”   As we embark on this new world, the gender roles of women will continue to evolve, as we reach outside the traditional confines of marriage, and pave our own ways in government, business, and our own homes.

The Relevance of Gender, Class, and Joan of Arc in The Business World Today

The Relevance of Gender, Class, and Joan of Arc in The Business World Today

Today, Joan of Arc is revered around the world. The Roman Catholic Church canonized her in 1920 and claimed her image as their own. During my most recent trip to Paris, we visited a prominent boulevard named “Jean D’Arc”, after the beloved “Maid D’Orleans.” However, my visit to Rouen, France recently, with my nine-year-old niece in tow, revealed quite a different side to the story. Why is this young girl, only 18 when she led the army of France into battle, and 19 when burned at the stake, portrayed so differently now, than at the time of her execution in 1431?

Joan of Arc’s family expected her to marry and have a family. Constrained by both class and gender, Joan’s life consisted of church and farmwork. At the age of 18, most women in France married and began families. Nevertheless, Joan, by her own account, asked to be brought to the Dauphin, or “Crown Prince” of France, and, while dressed in men’s clothing, asked to lead his army into battle. While at first, the Dauphin did not take her seriously, he ultimately acquiesced, figuring he had nothing to lose. Dressed as a male knight, and indistinguishable from her male counterparts, Joan led the French army to victory over the English at Orléans. Soon thereafter, she accompanied the Dauphin to his coronation, made possible by this military success.

No one had ever seen the likes of Joan of Arc, with her unsurpassed bravery. A slight young girl, no one expected such behavior or such bravery. Celebrated by the French, the English demonized her as a witch. Captured a year after her military success by the angry British, Joan of Arc faced various accusations, including, the charge “of wearing men’s clothing.” Having stepped outside her traditional gender role, in the field of battle, no less, against a very bitter enemy, Joan of Arc found herself declared “a witch” and burned at the stake in a public market.

Despite the strides that women have made today, we still face hardships and criticisms with very real consequences. Women in business today often find themselves “playing in the sandbox” of men, and war in business can be as real as war on the battlefield. Previously, as a business co-owner, I personally felt the repercussions of demanding equality with a male counterpart. The struggle included demanding equal pay and authority, followed by the pushback, the slander, and the demonization he portrayed about me to others. Nevertheless, I continued on without him, rebuilding and rebranding the company. Joan of Arc, while also very strong, could not escape the harsh Catholic trial at the hands of the English. 500 years later they publicly apologized and made her a saint. I am unsure if any such apology will ever come to me, or the countless other women who have categorically suffered after demanding equality within the confines of the business world.

My nine-year-old niece sat through the trial of Joan of Arc and heard the stories of a black cat being thrown at her burning body. A cross now stands where her execution occurred. Had Joan of Arc lived, she would have been at the right hand of the King of France? Today her identity is defined and claimed by those her killed her. Contemporary women have a greater opportunity to define themselves, their successes, their gender, and their lives. While we still face barriers, they can be overcome through personal perseverance, and by not allowing others to define our identities to others. As a female business owner, I am certainly thankful to have received an excellent education, to have a supportive husband and the self-esteem that my parents encouraged within me, to fight, to win, and to most importantly help others do the same.

My visit to Floors Castle and American Ingenuity in the Face of Adversity

My visit to Floors Castle and American Ingenuity in the Face of Adversity

Born of a father from the North and a mother from the South, I am more than familiar with the terms Yankee and Dixie. I have been called both, as well as half-Dixie. However, in England, Americans are all referred to as “Yanks,” and it is not always as a compliment. Nevertheless, as a child of America, I have come to recognize the inherent qualities that are readily existent in nearly all Americans. Northerners call it “Yankee ingenuity,” but it truly applies to all the children of America. Americans tend to have a tenacity to compete, to win, and to most importantly, to make the best of any and all situations.

A prime example is Mary Goelet, a so called “bride of fortune,” married off at the turn of the century to a well-titled, well-connected, but nevertheless very broke Scottish Aristocrat. Following in the footsteps of her very unhappy distant cousin, Consuelo Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, opinions regarding the match vacillated between exuberance and pity. Consuelo made no secret of unhappiness with her aristocratic, arranged marriage. She loved another, and lived a life of dometic upheavals. High society worried that such a fate awaited the young Mary Goelet. Nevertheless, they needed not to worry.

Mary Goelet, Duchess of Roxborough, restricted in her choices by both class and gender, embraced her new life and did more than make the best of it. Rather than marrying an aristocrat, she viewed it as marrying an opportunity–that is, the opportunity to put her own stamp on a once grand, but now somewhat downtrodden, country home. The home had potential, and with her dowry of $20 million dollars, Mary turned this country home into a castle. Today this country home is known as Floors Castle, and the family is supported, at least in part, by the opening of sections for a fee to the public.

During the time period of Mary Goelet, very little of heard of the Duke. Probably a meek and mild fellow, it seems he deferred almost entirely to his American wife. My tour of Floors Castle was sprinkled with negative comments about Mary Goelet. The tour guides simply referred to her as “The American lady,” who “made unfortunate changes…..nothing we can do about it now.” They explained she turned a dining room into a ball room, turned a bedroom into a sitting room, closed off hallways, eliminated windows, added a new wing. Most wretchedly, they commented, she brought in French tapestries, and frenchified an entire room! Despite all the negativity regarding this “American lady” from the staff, I could not help but see the penumbras of Yankee ingenuity in her work. Mary Goelet did not marry a man-she married a house-and she made that house her castle. She ran the home like a business, growing and selling vegetables in the garden. She opened a wing of the castle and starting charging a fee. The money she brought with her became supplemented by the business practices she likely learned from her prominent, business-minded relatives in America. The Floors Castle we know today is in great part, because of Mary Goelet. Unlike Consuelo Vanderbilt, who ultimately left her husband, Blenheim Palace, and her riches she brought with her to marry another, Mary Goelet held the course of her marriage and set the foundations for an empire. While a bride of fortune, forced into an arranged marriage, she claimed the house and the life as her own-arguably, Yankee ingenuity at its best.

As Americans living in the 21st century, we are lucky to live in a time period, almost entirely free of class constraints, where we can pick our own spouses and forge our own paths. And yet, these freedoms came about because of the evolution of past cultures our forefathers lived in- a culture today that cries the anthem of Winston Churchill, an English politician with an American mother- ‘Young men (and women), never give up. Never give up! Never give up!! Never, never, never-never-never-never!'” Play the cards you have-and if you don’t like the cards you have-reach for another. This is Yankee ingenuity at its best.

As a business leader, one constantly comes across problems. They key is to always search for a solution, and to never give-up. As Americans, this anthem is in our blood. As an American, I was thrilled to see good old Yankee ingenuity within the walls of a Scottish Country home. As a business owner, I will continue striving to apply that Yankee ingenuity into the lifeblood of my business. May we all strive to do so within our lives and businesses, as Mary Goelet did within hers.

My Trip To France

Having just returned from Europe for a three week trip, I have come to appreciate the fact that I am an American. The beaches of Normandy had a huge impact on me. My nine year old niece and I, accompanied by my parents, learned of the fate of over 4,300 young men who gave their lives, on the first day of D-Day alone, for the freedom of France, England, and ultimately the world. The German government had no bounds-they took what was not theirs and wreaked havoc upon Europe. As an American of German descent, I am still baffled by the fact that all of my relatives in Germany have no accountability for what happened; no memory of what occurred. Supposedly, none of their grandparents, uncles, or cousins were in the war. Really? They are a country with amnesia.

Walking through the cathedral of Rouen, France, I was shocked to see plain glass where stained glass should appear. My niece and I noticed a staircase that went to a blocked up door. Walking outside, we saw that scaffolding encased a large part of the cathedral’s main belltower, and another smaller belltower appeared as through it had been burned to bits as recently as yesterday. Furthermore, a place where a wing of the cathedral once stood, stood no more. This beautiful building, partially destroyed in WW2, still had not been fully restored. The remnants of fire my niece and I viewed, had occurred over 75 years ago. A trip nearby took me to the town of Le Havre, where cinder block building littered the city, with no architecture of historical significance to be seen. My mother informed me that the city had been bombed in WW2, and 2,000 civilians had died. With no war reparations from Germany, rebuilding of the city fell on the city fathers, already beaten down by the perils of war.

Viewing the pain and suffering by the French, and the perils of rebuilding they still face, I reflected upon my own struggles. My anxieties to please others; the challenges of having business partners and the fallout of when partnerships end; my desire to make sure that clients are always happy and taken care of, and that everything in my office runs smoothly. I came to the conclusion long ago that one can not always please others, but, for me, the desire to reach perfection never ends, despite its unattainability. Nevertheless, the challenges and anxieties I have faced, and that my company have faced, are nothing, when faced with the calamity of WWII and the devastation wreaked upon the continent of Europe. My daily issues absolutely pale in comparison. As my father said, “This country (France) will not truly be rebuilt until my
grandchildren have grandchildren.” I also learned that the French do not take what we did for them for granted. My niece and I, as well as my parents, were treated like royalty in the region of Normandy, where the restaurants proudly state on their windows, ‘Welcome our liberators!”

Arriving back in the office today, I have a renewed look on life and business. We live in America, where we have everything we could ever want-but most importantly, we have peace. We don’t have to rebuild our country after the perils of war. We only need to rebuild ourselves. To make ourselves better, stronger, and perhaps more compassionate toward others. We have it all. Let’s take advantage of this beautiful gift that is America.