Individual Essay

"Think of a famous person, alive or dead, whom you consider to have, or had, leadership skills. What are those leadership skills? Which of them are personal traits and which are behaviours? Did this person have the ability to change his/her "style" in different circumstances?"

King of Thailand His Majesty King Bhumidol Adulyadej (Rama IX)

            Leadership is the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of objectives. A leadership theory help to understand, predict, and control successful leadership. Example of leadership theories include trait, behavioural and contingency theory. This essay will discuss about the leadership skills of King of Thailand His Majesty King Bhumidol Adulyadej. The first part will give some details and backgrounds about who the King of Thailand is. Then, the second part will talk about his personal traits and the third part will discuss about his leadership behaviours. Finally, the last part will discuss about the ability to change his style in different circumstances or contingency theory of leadership.

              Firstly, the details and backgrounds of King Bhumibol Adulyadej will be introduced. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is also known as Rama IX, is the current king of Thailand. He is the ninth king of the Chakri dynasty under the Thai's constitutional monarchy regime. He was born in USA on December 5, 1927 and educated in Switzerland in political science. He came to the throne in 1946 following the mystery death of his brother, King Ananda Mahidol. He married to Queen Sirikit who was the daughter of the Thai ambassador to France and they have four children. Having reigned for over 60 years, Bhumidol is known as the world's longest monarch who is still alive. Thai people call their king as Lord of the Land or Lord upon their Heads since Thais regard him as semi-divine as well as he is loved and very respected by Thai people.

            Next, this part will discuss about the personal traits of King Bhumibol. Traits are distinguishing personal characteristics. Trait theory assumes that a leader is born with specific traits that make him a good leader. King Bhumibol is recognized as leaders and described in terms such as, charismatic, extraverts, high agreeableness, openness to experience, positive emotional stability, high emotional intelligence, internal locus of control, intelligence, high conscientiousness and integrity. Bhumibol has charisma characteristic which include energy and determination, vision, challenge and encouragement, and risk taking. King Bhumibol is described as extravert, which is one of the Big Five Personality model dimension, since he is outgoing and likes to meet and confront new people. His agreeableness is strong as he is easygoing, compassionate, friendly, and sociable. He strong in openness to experience since he likes to travel to meet excited things from his citizens, willing to seek change and try new things. He can be referred as internal locus of control as he takes responsibility for his behaviour and learns from his mistakes, rather than blaming others or just bad luck. He is intelligence because he can think critically, can solve problems, and make decisions.

           Moreover, he is identified as positive emotional stability as he tends to be calm under pressure, self-confident and positive. With strong self-confidence, he is more likely to influence followers, to take on difficult tasks, and to set challenging objectives for himself and followers. He has high emotional intelligence (EI) which is the ability to work well with people. He is self-awareness and management as he is conscious of emotions, self-motivation and integrity. He is also social awareness as he has ability to understand others, having empathy skill and sensitivity to others and ability to develop networks. Empathy is important as it is the ability to put ourselves in other people's situations, sense their emotions and understand things from their perspective.

            In addition, he is characterized as high conscientiousness as he is responsible, organized, dependable and persistent. He is also diligent, enthusiasm, drive and hard-working. He is perceived to be moral integrity, honest, trustworthy, faithful to his ideas, sincere in working for the public interest. For example, when he took the throne at the age of 20 he promised to "reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Thai people", and he spent the next 60 years in fulfilling that promise with excellent dedication.

            Having discussed personal traits of King Bhumibol, then the next part will discuss leadership behaviors of King Bhumibol. As opposed to trait theory, behavioral theory assumes good leaders are made, not born and people can learn to become leaders through, for example, teaching and observation. Behaviours, which are based on traits and skills, focus on the actions or styles of leaders or what the leader says and does.

            Two important studies in behavioural theory at the University of Michigan and the Ohio State University identified two key behavioural categories; orientation toward task and orientation toward people. King Bhumibol is believed to have orientation toward people behaviour as he initiated a number of large and small projects that focused at the well being and happiness of the Thai people, economic and social development, and conservation of environment. Bhumibol puts lots of time and effort to accomplish his goals. He constantly travels to all 76 provinces, isolated areas or minority tribes to meet, stay close to his people and observe the real conditions of his people and seeking solution to their problems. He is a great initiator as he has established more than 2000 developments and welfare projects to improve economic and social welfare. He converted the grounds of his Bangkok palace into a model farm and workshop to encourage village industries, promoted environmental protection and established free clinics staffed by royal physicians. The results are obvious, such as improved public health, better environment and the spread of education to all Thai people. He is a great teacher who never tires of teaching and he always encourages people in every level of society. For example, he teaches how to catch fish or give a tool to catch fish, rather than handing out fish to those poor as their food so even the poorest people in the harshest condition can live and learn to improve their lives. Furthermore, he is identified as charismatic leadership style as he posses qualities of charismatic leader behaviour including, vision, superb communication skills, self-confidence, ability to inspire trust, risk taking, high energy and encouragement, relational power base and ability to empower others. Charismatic leadership is pretty similar to transformational leadership theory which also assumes that people will follow who inspire and motivate them. Bhumibol inspire and motivate Thai people by developing a compelling vision, selling that vision and focusing on developing relationship with his people as a teacher, mentor and coach. Bhumibol provides clear vision and mission and he affirms his vision and thus gains the admiration and respect of Thai people. His vision is to help national development through the ease of poverty, improving the quality of life of Thai people and the well-being. He has great communication skills that he can communicate his ideas in clear and easy ways, so that everyone can understand his message. He builds trust in his people through self-confidence in his judgement and ability, faith, and sacrifice. Also, He has ability to inspire trust and build support by showing commitment to people' needs over his self-interest as he has always been doing hard work, rather than enjoys his wealth, power and position, to gain the respect of people. These qualities and behaviour inspire followers and result in greater cooperation between him and the Thai people.

            Additionally, to guide his people effectively, he learnt by education and experience. He changed his degree from engineering to law and political science preparing to be a good ruler. He acquired seven languages, an expert knowledge of agriculture, also balancing with excellent painter and musician, so he has relational power base which is based almost upon referent and expert power. This involves an emotionalized relationship with his people as people are often amazed, admired and respected their king.

            Also, His Majesty Bhumibol earns people's trust by being willing to get great personal risk. He never fears of any danger that may occur when visiting the isolated area or hills or in three provinces at the south of Thailand where is unrest. Even now, there are rumours that Thaksin Shinawatra (previous Thai prime minister) regime was disrespectful and being threats of His Majesty the King and the Royal Family. Yet, Bhumibol persisted with his mission that does the hard work for public service and Thai people. In addition, he understands that he cannot make his goal and vision come true alone, he needs help and support from his people. Therefore, he empowers Thai people by serving as role modelling and coaching, providing feedback, encouraging and persuading people to take on more responsibilities as their skills and self-confidence develop.

            Having discussed the traits and behaviours of King Bhumibol, then the last part will discuss about about the ability to change his style in different circumstances or contingency theory of leadership. Contingency leadership theories explain why a leader who is successful in one situation may fail when situation changes, or in other words, which traits and/or behaviours will result in leadership success given the situational variables. King Bhumibol is able to change his style in different circumstances and he is willing to play whatever role his people need him.

            For example, King Bhumibol became skilled in political understanding to cope with an era of frequent power changes and much political disunity in Thailand. Although King Bhumibol stays apart from politics, he has had to make some interventions to make sure politicians behave in the national interest. For example, In October 1973 Bangkok students and other civilians demonstrated against military power and Parliament. The army responded with bullets and tanks, killing about 100 persons in a single day. At this point, King Bhumibol was able to be in one of his firmest political actions, ordered the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to leave the country and invited one of his top advisers to become Prime Minister. Also, in the 1960s, a military government initially denied to accept a World Court ruling against Thailand in a dispute with Cambodia about an ancient temple built sitting on their border. To save Thailand from international criticism and a border war with Cambodia, King Bhumibol had to help with diplomatic action and intervened behind the scenes to get the generals to accept the judgment.

            In normal times, he aimed towards the people who needed him the most, such as the poor, sick people and uneducated people, but when tough times come he knows when, who and how to lead. For example, in 1995, there was flooding of the outskirts of Bangkok, therefore he focused on the effects of flooding and brought this devastation to get the government attention so they could find long term solution for these affected people. Moreover, when Thailand encountered with water shortages because of effects from the El Nino phenomenon, in the year 2000, King Bhumibol came up with the artificial rainmaking innovation to deal with this situation and gave it to the royal Thai team to use as guidelines for solving the drought problem in those shortage water areas. This rainmaking innovation helped to ease the water shortage problem in great extent.

            Furthermore, King Bhumibol knows what work in one situation may not work for another, so he is directed by the Buddhist Tenfold Moral Principles of the Sovereign teaching which help to guide him on the correct behaviour and actions to be taken to those who need help in times of trouble. For example, For example, in late 1997 when bank failures, foreign debts and currency weakness combined in an economic crisis, King Bhumibol called Ministers together to assist and speed remedies after their first responses had been slow and weak. When Thailand faced the economic crisis in 1997, King Bhumibol initiated the concept of sufficiency economy as guidance to sustainable economic and social development and to have his people ready for the changing environment in the future. His Majesty reminded Thai people need to be self-contained or self-supporting lifestyle which means to have enough to survive. For example, He give some principles for Thai farmers to be able to feed and live by themselves, starting with produce rice and then they have enough rice to be grown for their household consumption, with the excess harvest can be sold to raise their income.

            In conclusion, this essay has discussed the personal traits, behaviours and the ability to change the style in different situations of King of Thailand His Majesty King Bhumidol Adulyadej. It showed that King Bhumibol is recognized to have these traits, such as charismatic, extraverts, high agreeableness, openness to experience, positive emotional stability, high emotional intelligence, high conscientiousness, integrity and hard-working. This essay also showed that King Bhumibol posses the leader behaviours that oriented toward people and charisma leadership style. In addition, he can change his leadership style to suit different circumstances. Because of his traits, behaviours and contingent to change in different situation, his hard work and great dedication to Thai people and community, therefore, King Bhumibol is a great leader and he always lives in the heart and mind of Thai people.

Word count: 2089

Source: Essay UK -

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