Because I am working in an international media agency here in Finland, I noticed how important inspirational leadership is since in this fast-paced and ever-changing industry it is easy to lose a creative mindset. Additionally, I became aware of how complex it is to regularly come up with new media goods while feeling inspired.
Leadership specialists debate that a perfect leadership style does not exist, but that inspirational and thriving leadership requires leaders to react to their team, a person or a situation individually. There is no one rule for all. Therefore, I wanted to examine different styles of leadership, understand the importance of leadership within the media better, and also learn how valuable the adaptation of inspirational leadership is.
Especially during pandemic times, where the majority of people need to work from home, it is particularly difficult for companies to maintain an energized and inspiring team culture. Because of that, I wanted to gain knowledge about the importance of inspirational leadership and how to sustain an inspired team. Additionally, the thesis aimed to discover what skills a leader within the media industry requires, based on the Bain Inspirational Leadership model according to the client leads of company X by. By conducting interviews, I tried to explore their perception, viewpoints, and overall insights regarding the topic of inspirational leadership in more depth.
I have used the Bain Inspirational leadership model as a guideline throughout my research and especially during the interviews that have been conducted. The Bain Inspirational leadership model was created by the consulting company Bain & Company in 2013, where 2000 people were interviewed to understand what inspirational leadership means to individuals. The outcome was this visual of 33 skills listed that give a leader the tools to inspire people. The model is divided into four sections which are developing inner resources, connecting with others, setting the tone, and leading the team.
To gain a better understanding of what the client leads of company X subjectively think about inspirational leadership and try to understand their thinking and choices of certain skills of the Bain leadership model throughout my research, I have been conducting qualitative data analysis with the help of semi-standardized interviews. This is because the people I interviewed have a set of common characteristics, in this case being a client lead or similar within company X in the media field and having at least five people reporting to him or her.
I have created a set of 12 questions to get a thorough understanding of what leaders within company X think about inspirational leadership with the help of the Bain leadership model. Eight questions were open-end questions about the interviewee’s understanding of inspirational leadership, while four questions were directed to the Bain model. Additionally, the interview participants needed to choose four out of the 33 skills of the Bain model that they think need improvement within their leadership styles.
The skills that were chosen the most by the client leads are vision, empowerment, optimism, and focus.
Interestingly, 75% of the chosen skills were in the key section of leading the team, and only optimism, which was the other most chosen skill, falls into the key section developing inner resources, which implies that the actual part of leading the team seems to be the main focus of improvement area of the interviewed client leads.
One conclusion that I observed throughout my research is that skills can be learned and improved while traits are essentially inherited which might indicate that some people are generally a higher ability to become a leader when other people need to put their focus more on the development of their skill sets.
In general, the alignment between culture, character, charisma and communication can create a first stable framework of leadership and being open-minded to continuously improve skills in order to adjust to situations and individuals better in the long term.
The interviewees answers regarding skills align with other general leadership studies and studies within the media and therefore one might conclude that there is a possibility that valued skills align with general findings of overall leadership skills.
The role models that the interviewed client leads mentioned seem to have aligning skills that have been also mentioned in general leadership studies such as empowerment, vision and empathy.
Additionally, the Bain model skills seem to align with other leadership studies which are active listening, empowerment, coaching and assertiveness.
Overall, there seems to be an increased need for inspirational leadership, especially for the upcoming challenges still during and after the pandemic and for future generations, who set their focus more on soft-skilled leadership than hard facts.
An empathetic and more emotion-driven leadership can be the key to a motivated, optimistic and inspired workforce and therefore working culture.
During my research, I read so much interesting existing studies and literature about general leadership as well as leadership within the media and noticed just how important inspirational leaders are for the media industry, how much they can influence individuals, media goods, and work culture. The Bain Inspirational Leadership model is very insightful and useful for current and future leaders within the media to keep in mind. Self-awareness of one’s strengths, weaknesses, and improvement areas of skill sets helps a leader to become inspirational to others.
While writing my thesis, I have obtained valuable knowledge about the importance of inspirational leadership, how to improve certain skills and noticed a shift towards a more empathetic, supportive, and human-skilled leadership approach. The results of the thesis are useful and important for both leaders and individuals who want to understand inspirational leadership better and possibly improve their leadership skills. The results of my thesis also have significance for the MA in Media Management as it touches the topic of leadership within the media, which is an important subject within the master’s degree at Arcada.