Ingvar Kamprad’s leadership style
Ingvar Kamprad is the perfect example of a charismatic leader. IKEA is the perfect example of a successful family business. We need to question whether in a family business; the leadership style is influenced by the company culture, structure, and business model/operational strategy, or the other way around.
IKEA was founded as a pure family business, and till today IKEA’s values are based on the family business concept. A family business has special features that clearly depict its business model and culture, when compared to other business models. The owner of a family business is usually someone with a strong entrepreneurial character, who sets the company’s objectives and operational strategies and wants to be in control over (most of) all the business areas. This has a great impact on the culture; strategic development and success, in the sense that the owner’s leadership style and visions are applied fully with little room to diverge from them, relying on his instincts, fully influencing the whole organization.
It is important to mention that one of the characteristics of a family business like IKEA is that the workforce feels that they are part of the family, feeling identified and committed with the organization, boosting their dedication and thus, their performance.
Kamprad has always been the visible head of the organization. Therefore, IKEA is a family business with a very unique and differentiated company culture, fundamentally influenced by Ingvar Kamprad. What can be understood from this is that Kamprad as an owner/leader holds the main role in the success of IKEA.
What is exactly “leading by example”, and how does it relate to a leadership style?
As father and head of a family, Ingvar Kamprad has based his leadership style on the concept of family, to all intents and purposes leading “by example”. As Kamprad has publicly said, “If there is such a thing as good leadership, it is to give a good example” and “I have to do so for all the IKEA employees”.
Kamprad soon realized that the best way to get the best out of his employees was to set an example by encouraging hard work mixed with strict business ethics. Some of Kamprad’s other important leadership characteristics such as humbleness, confidence to admit his weaknesses (“There are few people who have made so many fiascos in my life as I have”), his caring nature for all his employees (“Everyone at IKEA should have fun at work, otherwise it's a waste”) and his development10, simplicity, frugality, and the constant need to renew, have given IKEA a very distinctive organizational culture. Clearly, Kamprad is in line with Transformational Leadership. In addition to his attributed charisma, there are four key elements that are characteristic of Transformational Leadership11:
Reinforcing this assumption, we can see several common elements with Transformational Leadership theories stated by Bass&Avolio, Conger&Kanungo, and Shamir,House&Arthur, such as fulfilling other’s self-actualization needs, empowering through motivation, and exhibiting confidence in subordinates’ ability to attain higher levels of achievement12. In addition, Kamprad has some of a democratic and paternalistic leadership style, where employees’ input is important not only because of getting specific feedback but also because it makes them feel needed in the organization. This as a result can transform in a higher productivity rate. However, Kamprad also has some features that belong to a more autocratic leadership style where the ultimate decision belongs to him following his vision, probably because this is, as we mentioned earlier, a family business with a strong entrepreneurial character.
Summarizing, Ingvar Kamprad is the perfect example of Transformational Leader, but as an incomplete leader, he also owns some individualistic characteristics that belong to a Transactional leader.