Free Book Review On Supportive Leadership



In his book, “Supportive Leadership: The New Role of Leaders in the 21st Century”, Gunther H. Schust declares that the paradigms of management and leadership are changing in an increasingly globalized world. Schust points out that leaders could get the job done with blunt tactics of hiring and firing. However, the need of the hour is for leaders to professionally select employees, support them in their endeavors, challenge them in the work environment, make them further qualified and enable them to function seamlessly in a networked world. Schust (8) uses the new requirements of leaders to call forthe advent of supportive leadership.

In essence, supportive leadership has the following characteristics: –

– Supportive leadership is solution-oriented, nurturing employees and building relationships with customers.
– A supportive leader is competent in professional tasks, processes, methods and social aspects.
– A supportive leader has a ‘genuine’ personality, with a high sense of ethics and enthusiasm, and a high capability for execution.
– A supportive leader creates a 360-degree feedback for nurturing employees.
– A supportive leader creates conditions for employees to remain motivated with a sense of purpose, and ensures that employees work for the company for the long term.

Process Orientation

Schust (11) observes that leaders are invariably not service oriented. They depend on traditional models of power to drive their message through. They depend upon established frameworks of reward and punishment, tasks, positions, weaknesses and structures. As a result, leadership tends to become an end in itself, rather than focusing on what is feasible for an organization to deliver to the customer. Therefore, leaders require a solution-related orientation. They should be able to nurture customers, be honest in giving out adequate information, to draw out the potential in their employees so as to reward and develop them. As a result, future leaders have to have more holistic capabilities than their predecessors; they need to combine the functions of role models with an in-depth grasp of the essentials of the business, besides being able to tap the competencies of their subordinates. The leaders need to challenge employees with suitable goals that are not too high or too low. These goals should be mutually agreed upon by the leaders and the employees, and should follow the ‘SMART’ framework: ‘specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and time-scheduled.’ The leader is expected to exert positive control by ‘informing, setting priorities, delegating, coordinating and improvising.’ Improvisation will become increasingly important as the business environment becomes more dynamic with time. The leader should not desist from rendering fair feedback. The leader should ensure that the employees focus on the content of the criticism, rather than imagining the worst for their careers. When the leader would begin to provide fair and unbiased criticism and feedback, the organization would prosper (Schust).

Leadership Competence

When companies select leaders, they invariably attempt to select overarching combinations in people that exist only in realms of fantasy; no person can have the best of all qualities and traits. Instead, Schust (17) urges firms to look for and to nurture specific competencies in leaders. The ‘Leadership Competency Model’, developed by Schust and Scheibl, advocates four types of competencies in leaders. Leaders need specialized competencies for professional tasks. Process competencies are useful for holistic and project-wide thinking. Method competencies stress the aspects of planning, controlling, coordinating and moderating. Social/cultural competencies focus on empathy. These competencies aggregate to ‘leading and acting competencies’ in leaders, wherein they can adapt to situations and develop a mental and attitudinal framework to deliver in a willing fashion. Once leaders have the competencies described above, they will be able to exert a positive influence on employees, drawing congruence between their personal success and the overall good of the organization (Schust).

The Importance of a ‘Genuine’ Personality

Schust (22) draws a picture of successful organizations of the future. Organizations that can draw in employees who assimilate and act according their value systems are likely to survive and flourish. Communication skills, self-motivation, the ability to solve problems, creativity and the ability to transfer knowledge will be important. Leaders who can create a synergy between the employees and the organization will be the most sought after. The most desired characteristics of leaders vary from region to region depending upon prevalent work cultures prevalent. However, the most desirable characteristics in leaders are ethics, the ability to provide ideas, enthusiasm for execution, creativity and intelligence. Leaders who provide value based and sustainable leadership would be best-suited to meld the individual and organizational goals in the future workplace. Such leaders would instill solution-oriented thinking, result orientation, self control, active learning, conflict resolution and knowledge sharing. These leaders may not necessarily ‘score the goals’ themselves; they would, instead, create a supportive environment wherein the employees would be empowered to achieve the objectives of the company. Schust (29) advocates five rules that supportive leaders need to follow. The leader should be able to create the right degree of dialogue with the employee to enable the employee to solve problems through a golden mean between too much and too little leadership. The entire organization would need to abandon the framework of following orders and instead develop a modicum of mutual trust to gain an innovative lead over competitors. The supportive leader would help employees to deliver top performance. A systematic project management framework would help the organization to achieve goals. The leader must continually invest into personality development of the employees, developing key skills on a yearly basis (Schust).

360-Degree Competence Feedback

In a networked world, it is very difficult for one person alone to assess the performance of an employee. Accordingly, Schust (33) recommends that leaders institute systems for obtaining a 360-degree feedback on employees; the feedback would be from superiors, colleagues, team members, employees and customers. Such a feedback would be holistic and would be accurate in highlighting the strong and weak points of an employee. Instituting a 360-degree competence feedback system would result in increasing the levels of mutual trust in the organization, aiding its long-term growth and success. In such a system, age-old incongruences between younger and older employees would vanish. Workers would become co-workers, and an entrepreneurial spirit would be unleashed in the organization, harnessing the performance potential of all employees (Schust).

Integrating, Cultivating and Rewarding New Employees

Schust (38) feels that the process of amalgamating new employees into the fabric of the organization plays an important role in the growth of the organization. Towards this end, he lays down a framework that supportive leaders would need to adopt to integrate new employees into the system. The new employee should be oriented to the company work culture and ethos and be given adequate support in the workplace. Leaders need to assure the beginners that they do not need to begin performing immediately. Those who achieve required levels of self-motivation need lesser monitoring; however, the supportive leader needs to be able to point out mistakes in a timely fashion. Leaders must be able to quickly identify the laggards and determine the causes for their lack of enthusiasm. Supportive leaders must recognize those employees who achieve high levels of expertise and are in the zone of ‘wanting to perform’ by rewarding them with trust for executing complex tasks (Schust).

Redefining Incentives

Schust (50) points out that the traditional methods of providing incentives by way of social facilities, freedom, competitions and further education to employees are no more valid if taken up in discrete components. The supportive leader will need to create a common base between the interests of the company, the customers, the suppliers and the employees. When the leader allows an employee to find real meaning in his job, he creates conditions for a positive contribution by the employee over the long term. Schust (53) advocates a range of performance incentives. Self-motivation may be enhanced by guaranteeing independence of action in designated tasks and by delegation. Work may be made flexible in nature to align to the requirements of the employee. Workplaces may be made flexible in keeping with the advances in communication technologies. Temporary contracts may become the norm for hiring experts who might not want to remain employed over a long term with the company. The management system should become participative so that employees feel they have a stake in the growth of the organization. (Schust).


Gunther H. Schust’s work on supportive leadership could not have come in a timelier manner. The requirement of supportive leadership finds favor across academia and industry in today’s networked age. Supportive leadership positively correlates with the well-being of subordinates (Newton and Maierhofer). Kaplan and Kaiser argue that leaders should not focus overly on their individual strengths, but should concentrate on the holistic development of employees. Michel concurs with the idea that great leadership is not about the leaders themselves; rather, it is about their contribution to the employees. Hurley finds that the decision to trust is the key to leadership, an aspect that the framework of supportive leadership highlights. Lipman points out that high performing companies motivate their employees through loyalty and motivation – aspects that are cornerstones of supportive leadership. Anderson argues that workplaces become great if imbued with good leadership – an argument that is congruent with the tenets of supportive leadership. Luis Ortiz concurs in his prescription of supportive leadership, defining it as a framework where the leader shows concern for the status and well-being of the employees, fostering their professional development. Simmons argues for key supportive behaviors of the leader: acceptance and positive regard, consideration, treating employees as individuals, patience, sympathy and positive assistance to employees when confronted with complexity.


Shortening technology cycles and increasing dynamism in the global marketplace will place huge demands on organizations to survive or perish. In such an environment, it is inconceivable for any one leader to have all the answers. The best that a leader can do is to create the necessary environment where subordinates can deliver their best, in an atmosphere of trust and fairness. It is in this context that supportive leadership has a role in the future.
Gunther H Schust has pointed out the various nuances and requirements of supportive leadership and has brought focus on the subject at the right time. It is for all practitioners of management and leadership to imbibe the tenets spelled out in order to create win-win situations for organizations and employees.

Works Cited

Anderson, Erika. “Great Workplaces Arise From Great Leaders.” 12 Sep 2012. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Hughes, Mark A., and Benigni, Mark D. “The Supportive Leader.” American School Board Journal, July 2012: 23-24. Web.
Hurley, Robert F. “The Decision to Trust.” 2006. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Kaplan, Robert E., and Kaiser, Robert B. “Stop Overdoing Your Strengths.” 2009. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Lipman, Victor. “New Study Shows how High-Performing Companies Motivate their People.” 14 Feb 2014. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Michel, John. “Great Leadership Isn’t About you.” 22 Aug 2014. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Schust, Gunther H. Supportive Leadership: The New Role of Leaders in the 21st Century. 2011. PDF e-book. Web.
Simmons, Brett L. “Nine Supportive Leadership Behaviors.” 24 Sep 2010. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Newton, Cameron J. and Maierhofer, Naomi I. “Supportive Leadership and Well-Being: The Role of Team Value Congruence.” Proceedings 40th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference. Ed. Katsikitis, Mary. Melbourne, 2005. 208-212. Web.
Ortiz, Luis. “Supportive Leadership Behavior.” 2006. Presentation. Web. 04 Oct 2014.
Miller, Marc. “Diversity in the Workplace- a Different Perspective.” 27 Jan 2014. Web. 06 Apr 2014.
US Department of Commerce. “Best Practices in Achieving Workforce Diversity.” n.d. Web. 06 Apr 2014.