Essay Brief (“Question”)
“Choosing two of the theories or approaches from lectures 2-4, critically evaluate their contribution to our understanding of effective leadership.”
Which two? You choose two of the key theories or approaches from lectures 2-4.
We suggest you choose approaches from different lectures so you get more chance for discussion of difference rather than two very similar ones. The choice is yours but as guidance:
o Avoid, for example, choosing charismatic and visionary (lecture 4) or situational and contingency (Lecture 3) as these from the same broad school of thought.
o Better choices, for example, would be new leadership (Lecture 4) and trait leadership (Lecture 1) or situational leadership (Lecture 3) and new leadership (Lecture 4) etc. etc.
Where to start? Setting the correct course ….
• Source a wide variety and good quality of readings (RLO is the starting point but also find your own articles via Google Scholar, Business Source Premier, Emerald and Library Gateway). Read a lot of material to help build arguments e.g. good mix of books, journal articles and only a few websites. As you read, make well-organised notes and start to build up your essay content.
• In the introduction, you will want to include a definition of leadership and what you mean by effective leadership (for the purpose of this essay). Keep any discussion on this brief however, as you need to focus on the main body of the question. You will also want to outline and justify your choices of the two areas to focus on.
• Structure – You choose one that helps you organise your thoughts and keep the focus on the question. This is quite a straightforward one. If you use sub-headings ensure they are suitably named and make sense.
What to focus on in the main body discussion? = Critical evaluation of their contribution to our understanding of leadership effectiveness.
Key term ‘CRITICALLY EVALUATE’ = engage in a critical discussion which might include an exploration of the following:
o What aspects of leadership do the approaches/theories focus on?
o What are the strengths and limitations of the approaches/theories?
o What is the evidence/research to support or indeed critique the ideas proposed by the approaches/theories?
o What is its applicability, for example:
What organisations and situations would these approaches/theories work in/not work in and why?
To what extent are followers or context involved?
Are the theories/approaches used in organisations today? Can you give any examples?
Are there any examples of leaders that help demonstrate the ideas explored or support your discussion on their value?
See this link to online publically available resources from the University of Sussex @ http://www.sussex.ac.uk/s3/?id=87 . More information and guidance on critical thinking, writing and reading. RECOMMENDED
• Critically evaluate how the approaches help us understand what is important for effective leadership. For example, situational leadership helps us understand the importance of considering the needs of followers and how leaders can support followers through adapting their style etc. etc. Essentially this is a written debate where you are using your skill at reasoning, backed up by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of a given context. As part of this you may have an element of compare and contrast between the two approaches but this is not a dominant focus of the essay.
• Do not provide long descriptions of the models. You need to provide a summary/ overview description of what the theories are about to show understanding but should not waste your word count on long descriptions of each part of the models. For example, when describing situational leadership theory, avoid describing D1, D2, D3, D4 and then S1, S2, S3, and S4 in detail. Instead, consider providing the model detail in the appendix and provide a summary of what the model explores in the essay itself. You can also then provide some ‘depth’ in your discussion by providing examples which focus on particular aspects of the model – this is a good way to show understanding and enables you to explore their usefulness and applicability in some depth. For example, you could explore one of the 4I’s in transformational leadership and how this compares to ideas in other theories/approaches.
• Ensure you cover both general points about the leadership theory/approach e.g. trait, situational, contingency, new leadership BUT ALSO include and refer to specific research/models within the approach and reference them e.g. 4i model of transformational, Hersey and Blanchard’s situational leadership model, a named/specific contingency approach, named / referenced trait studies, etc.
• Please remember to provide references to support your points in this section e.g. if you are suggesting situational leaders can be developed/’made’, provide a reference of an author who also suggests this. As well as writers who support/agree, are there any that disagree or suggest that X point is not the case? Be very clear about what is your work / thoughts and what is taken from the literature and written by others. Always cite and fully reference the sources of points of view, facts and figures or where you sourced an example or figure. Without this the work lacks academic rigour and you will lose marks unnecessarily, if not end up with an Academic Conduct issue to answer.
• An advanced aspect of critical evaluation is to look at the basis of the research in the journal articles or books you are discussing and critique this. This is what we encourage you to practice when discussing the journal articles at the start of each seminar (see Seminar booklet pages 2-3 for more on this and some tips).
• Consider using a few examples of named leaders and organisations to bring the topic ‘alive’ e.g. effective or ineffective practice of a named leader and what makes them effective/ineffective AND reference them wherever possible.
Where to end? Your conclusion should…
…. Not be too long or short; revisit the brief and show the reader that you have addressed it; summarise your key points but do not introduce major new points/issues; cover wider issues and why the discussion is important for leadership; have something of yourself in it e.g. judgements, opinions, overall assessment.
Finally, some general and presentation points to consider:
• Referencing – Clearly cite in the main body the appropriate authors of the theories you are exploring; ensure you have a full and consistently formatted Harvard ‘Reference list’ or sometimes also referred to as a ‘Bibliography’ (see shuspace) = list of all sources you have cited in your work.
• Avoid the overuse of quotes and only use where they are really punchy or where your paraphrasing will lead to a loss of the meaning (and always reference them with use of quotation marks and page number).
• Ask yourself: Does your work read well? Does it flow i.e. is there a strong narrative and thread running through it? Do you use good opening phrases to aid this e.g. ‘A further contribution X theory makes is…..’; ‘X leadership approach offers several key contributions …’; ‘However, according to Xperson (date), lacking in this approach to leadership is…..’?
• Ensure your paragraphs are not too long or too short and avoid lists/bullet points = use prose AND proof read your work (and ask someone else to read it (not on this module to avoid any issues of collusion) as this provides fresh eyes to your work).
• Ask yourself does this answer the assignment brief, keep focus on the question and does it address the criteria in the marking grid (to the level to which I am aspiring)? This is one of the most important things as if you are off track, the marks will suffer.
• Include an attractive title page with key information: module title, my name, my tutor, my student number, the essay brief and word count.
Where can I learn more to improve?
To improve writing skills, one needs to read/study, pay attention to past feedback, practice and spend time developing and crafting the essay. It is a life-long process!
Plagiarism and Academic conduct – see ‘Assessment & Tii’ tab on the module blackboard site for links to SHU and Turnitin advice and guidance. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.
See ShuSpace, ‘Learning Essentials’ tab, ‘Resources for Learning’ for lots of useful links:
• THEN ‘Information Skill’ tab for extensive guidance on referencing, including …
o re: Search – A guide to the resources, tools and skills you will need to find and use academic quality information for your assignments.
o Help with Referencing – How to acknowledge and refer to other people’s work. ALSO anti-PLAIGIARISM advice in here.
• THEN ‘Writing Skills’ tab for lots on how to write for academic purposes ….
o Language and Learning Online: Tutorials, interactive exercises, and examples of writing for specific subjects.
o Wrasse – Writing for Assignments e-Library: Examples of student assignments with comments from lecturers.
o Academic Writing – Resources for Students: Assess and develop your academic writing skills with podcasts and activities.
• Then ‘Key Skills’ tab, then ‘Skills for learning’ – tutorials and information to help you develop your skills, e.g. Finding information; Reading and evaluating; Academic writing; Referencing.
Also you could try study skills books e.g. Palgrave series of books on study skills or critical thinking and ask at the Adsetts Learning Resources Centre about their workshops……
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