After the fall of the Soviet Union and the long questionable presidency of Boris Yeltsin, Russia needed a strong leader to rebuild the country and solve many social, political, and economic problems. In the year 2000, a young, energetic leader, Vladimir Putin, became president of the Russian Federation with great hope of much-needed change (Shields, 2002). Even though Putin had limited experience in politics, his experience in KGB and the inner circle of President Yeltsin was enough to start a long and successful career (Shields, 2002). According to Sakwa (2008), at the beginning of Putin’s presidency, his leadership style represented a distinctive type of neo-authoritarian stabilization with respect to democratic principles. The present paper aims at assessing Vladimir Putin’s leadership behavior and attributes by applying different leadership theories.
Leadership Attributes and Traits
The trait approach to leadership aims at answering the question if people are born with leadership qualities or they acquire these qualities as they develop during their life (Colbert et al., 2012). The theory claims that there are certain traits that demonstrate a significant potential of becoming a successful leader (Colbert et al., 2012). These traits include achievement drive, leadership motivation, honesty and integrity, self-confidence, cognitive ability, relevant knowledge, extraversion, and open-mindedness (Colbert et al., 2012). It would be expected that a president of a country has all the favorable qualities.
President Putin demonstrates many favorable leadership traits that helped him to become a top-class leader. First of all, it should be mentioned that Vladimir Putin is a made leader, as he developed his traits throughout his life. Shields (2002) notes that, as a child, Vladimir was a shy boy; however, he managed to acquire the crucial qualities of a strong political leader. Today, it is clear that President Putin is a self-confident man, as he has the majority of the population of Russia supporting his discourse. He has a strong achievement drive, as he was able to set and achieve ambitious goals. He came out of a low-income family in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), in which one of the children did not survive from hunger (2002). He can motivate people around him using a wide variety of methods and approaches. However, it should be mentioned that President Putin is known for his strict methods, as he uses fear to motivate people to do what is needed (Colbert et al., 2012). However, due to his perfect communication skills, Vladimir Putin can still motivate people during international summits to support his ideas. Vladimir Putin also repeatedly demonstrates extraordinary knowledge during his public speeches and debates, which is crucial for leaders of his class.
There are two traits, however, that may obstruct President Putin’s ability to be an effective leader. The traits theory claims that a leader needs to have leadership motivation (Colbert et al., 2012). In other words, a leader needs to want to lead people to change. In Mr. Putin’s case, this desire to lead people is prevalent, as he refuses to let someone else become the president of Russia. This desire forces him to make questionable changes in laws to allow him to remain in his position for a prolonged period of time. At this point, President Putin has been serving the Russian people for more than 15 years. At the same time, President Putin has been quite authoritative throughout his career (Sakwa, 2008). Thus, he believes that his opinion is always right, which limits his open-mindedness. In other words, Putin’s confidence seems to have grown into overconfidence. Such In the rapidly changing outside political environment and new challenges within the country. In summary, even though President Putin possesses several crucial personality traits, while the absence of open-mindedness and excessive desire to stay in power make his leadership style controversial.
Leadership behavior is best explained through the lens of the Leadership Grid approach. This approach characterizes leadership behavior using two axes: concern for people and concern for production (Rego et al., 2017). This model divides leadership behavior into five basic types, including impoverished style, country club style, producer-or-perish style, middle-of-the-road style, and team style (Rego et al., 2017). Impoverished style is characterized by low concern for production and people, which is best described as a delegate-and-disappear management style, which is always ineffective (Rego et al., 2017). The country club-style is described as having high concern for people and low concern for production. The result of the approach is a warm atmosphere but a lack of productivity (Rego et al., 2017). The produce-or-perish approach or the task management approach has high concern for productivity and low concern for people. It is a highly authoritative style of leadership (Rego et al., 2017). The middle-of-the-road approach is a way of constant compromising between the needs of the organization and the needs of people (Rego et al., 2017). Finally, the team management approach has both high concern for people and productivity, which appears to be most effective (Rego et al., 2017).
President Putin obviously supports the authoritative style, which implies that he has much concern for productivity and low concern for people. This can be traced to both internal and external policies. President Putin obviously does not care for the opinions and views of outside stakeholders. The most explicit example of the lack of concern for the outside stakeholders is the annexation of Crimea, which made the international organizations and world leaders increasingly dissatisfied with Putin’s policy. At the same time, Putin does not seem to care for the needs of people inside his broad team, such as governors and ministers. Vladimir Putin is known for numerous cases of taking power from those who have fallen out of his grace without much concern for their future. However, it should be noticed that President Putin understands that he cannot rule the entire country alone; thus, he has a close circle of people he cares about, including Dmitri Medvedev and Sergey Shoygu. In summary, Putin prefers the produce-or-perish leadership style, while he still cares for the need of a small circle of people.
Power and Influences
Vladimir Putin has a high level of power and influence on all the stakeholders due to his position as president of the Russian Federation. According to Bertram Raven’s “Basis of Social Power,” Vladimir Putin has all five bases of power in the country (Erchul & Raven, 1997). On the one hand, he has power that drives short-term behavior and little significant influence, including reward, coercive, and legitimate power. Vladimir Putin has the power to incentivize stakeholders through monetary and non-financial rewards. On the other hand, he has the ability to take away almost anything from internal stakeholders, including property, position, and even freedom. At the same time, his power is legitimate, as it is founded on his job title.
President Putin also has power that drives long-term change and lasting influence. He has excessive knowledge in almost all spheres that may be relevant to ruling the country. For instance, he knows about the peculiarities of different cultures, negotiation strategies, and combat tactics. It is known that Vladimir Putin managed the operation of rescuing Yanukovich, ex-president of Ukraine, in 2014. At the same time, President Putin has referent power, which is based on his accomplishments. He led the country from economic and social crises at the end of the 1990s to stability in all spheres of life.
There were several key experiences that contributed to Putin’s leadership style. On the one hand, he was born in a low-income family and moved to the top using his own knowledge and effort (Shields, 2002). This made him a very task-driven person, which is why he has increased concern for productivity and little concern for people. On the other hand, he served as a KGB officer, which made him unemotional, swift to react, and repressive (Shields, 2002). During his years in KGB, he received much knowledge on the cultures of different countries and learned several languages, which made his opinion matter in Yeltsin’s administration. Thus, President Putin’s experience had a significant influence on Putin’s leadership style.
Vladimir Putin is a well-known leader famous for his authoritative leadership style. He became President during a time of political, economic, and social instability. His authoritative leadership style helped Russia to move away from oligarchy and oppression to relative stability in all spheres. Even though his lack of concern for people around him and excessive desire to retain power may limit his effectiveness, he remains one of the world’s most effective leaders.
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