Organizational Leadership: The Journey

Before I started writing this paper I put a lot of thought into leadership and what it really meant. I took this graduate level class for personal and professional development. Over the weeks I feel that the premise of this course was that leaders could be developed. A common belief that is perceived by many is that leaders are born and not made. As I have grown in my career it is becoming more obvious that effectiveness as a leader depends less on some naturally born trait and much more on developing learned principles that we can follow.

Leadership is a term that has multiple meanings. What is implied in defining leadership is that it is a never ending journey for anyone who wants to motivate and inspire people. Leadership is defined as: “the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of goals.” (Robbins and Judge, 2009).

Leadership is often considered the most important factor in determining organizational success due to the importance of guiding employees towards a common organizational goal. Despite the development of several theories and models the acceptance of one single theory that totally clarifies the implementation and performance of effective leadership has not been universally adopted. We should consider leadership theories and individually evaluate the contributing factors of each to effective leadership within our organization and environment.

Early leadership theories were developed under the contingency model which considers how situational factors alter the effectiveness of particular leader’s behavior and style of leadership. The most recognized theory is Fiedler’s contingency theory. This theory contrasts situational influence and leader traits / effectiveness through a scale known as the Least Preferred Co-Worker Scale (LPC).

After the development of contingency theory we learned from Robbins & Judge of a more modern theory of transformational leadership. Transformational leadership is concerned with processes that change and transform individuals and organizations. The shared process between leaders and followers is determined by the leader’s ability to produce emotional intelligence and stimulate the higher collection of employee needs. It is through this ability that leaders acquire trust, admiration, loyalty and respect from their followers, therefore motivating them to accomplish more than what is expected. The fundamental nature of transformational leadership is empowering followers and developing them to reach their full potential. Transformational and transactional leadership tends to co-exist rather than be mutually exclusive. The best leaders combine both to produce performance in an organization to the next level.

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Some personality traits lead people naturally into leadership roles; this is considered the trait theory. A crisis or important event may cause a person to rise to the occasion which brings out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person. This is referred to the great event theory. People can choose to become leaders by learning leadership skills and promoting a higher visionary perspective with transformational leadership.

Leadership – Interviews

Leader Interview #1 (A): John Adams, Chief Operating Officer of Advanced Systems Design

Peer Interview #2 (B): – Samantha Cobb, Call Center Manager

Question 1: What is your definition of leadership?

A. I believe leadership is defined by a vision. I feel leadership and management are different. A leader needs to introduce the organizations values and to promote a long term vision. Their values should be focused towards the employees with a goal to lead by setting an example.

B. A strong leader should be seen as someone people see as available, approachable, and fosters trust. They must support their employees and providing direction.

Question 2: What is your viewpoint on leadership?

A. Leadership is made up of several core values. These include having a vision for your team, the desire to learn and grow, being accessible and unbiased are important keys to effectively transform an organization. There are many variables to my perspective on leadership, however there are certain leadership principles and qualities that are very important and primarily where I focus.

B. My viewpoint is that leadership is collaborative, we must all work together to achieve the shared goals of the company. I also want to contribute to each employee’s learning process and successes. A leader must inspire their team.

Question 3: What is your leadership style?

A. My style is to take the goals and objectives of the business and align my team to work together to meet those targets. I define the vision. I do not follow a rigid style or framework. There needs to be flexibility within the group to change and adapt as needed. My style flows down to how we incorporate our delivery of services and interact with clients.

B. I see myself as more of an informal leader. I do not seek to control my employees and I purposely step back to allow people to do their job and learn. I believe in giving my employees or team members as many opportunities as possible. I am extremely good at delegating tasks and encourage independence. I have found people work better when they are given freedom. I am adamant about employees being open and honest. If there has been a mistake, let it be known. I feel my employees are comfortable in approaching me as needed.

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Question 4: What are the strengths of your leadership style?

A. Because my style is flexible, people tend to feel comfortable coming to me. I do my best to be personable while still maintaining a professional standpoint within the organization. I believe that my employees and team members work with me in a collaborative mission.

B. In my experience, people do not want to be controlled. They fail under constant scrutiny and pressure. Too much control fosters a negative atmosphere. My casual leadership style has always been successful.

Question 5: What hinders effective leadership?

A. Lack of credibility will destroy a person’s ability to be an effective leader. When the team’s trust is broken, the leader will have to work extremely hard to return to their position. Inflexibility can destroy the leader’s relationship with the team. There needs to be a consistent flow of new ideas, leaders must take advantage of opportunities, and explore ways to invoke continuous transformation.

B. A leader who cannot communicate effectively will fail in their role. Without communication, leadership does not exist. A leader can have great ideas but unless they are shared within the organization then they are just thoughts. Leadership is also destroyed by a negative attitude and isolation.

Personal Reflection & Synopsis of Interviews

Question 1: What is your definition of leadership?

The individuals were aware of how leadership impacted their organizations. Each used leadership as a motivating factor in providing guidance to their respective employees.

Question 2: What is your viewpoint on leadership?

Leaders need to posses an authentic reflection about their personal leadership approach. To effectively share their leadership viewpoint they need to share their vision and communicate this with employees so that the philosophy fundamentals permeate within the organization. Both interviews discuss the priority of teamwork and the importance of reflection or self actualization.

Question 3: What is your leadership style?

Leaders with a transformational style emphasis vision, flexibility, and adaptability. Leaders operate at different levels of the organization which reflects on their leadership style and organizational perspective.

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Question 4: What are the strengths of your leadership style?

Structure and consideration are two approaches that measure strengths in specific leadership styles. Leaders are concerned about the needs of their employees. They assist employees with problems and provide guidance.

Question 5: What hinders effective leadership?

Leaders need to have traits that are respected like trust and credibility. They also need to be positive, communicative, and flexible so that they are open to new ideas.

Leadership and Self Assessment — Peer Focused

In my initial personal assessment on leadership style and potential, I assessed myself with three peer co-workers. Their feedback was somewhat inline with my own personal self reflection with my leadership abilities. Some of the feedback that I received was that I tend to be more of a manager than a leader in my current position. As a manager I spend a lot of time focusing on planning and resource allocations for specific projects, thus more transactional. To further develop my leadership I need to take a step back and look at creating a compelling vision for the future, utilize my influence in the organization, and developing strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision (more transformational).

In my peer discussions on leadership delivery, I tend to use a more autocratic style. What I need to strive for is a more democratic style where I delegate responsibility to others, and encourage more group participation so that I can push my influence down further within the employee ranks.

Reflecting on my leadership style it is important to recognize that a universal leadership style cannot be used with all employees. A leader must look at the specific relationship between a leader and each individual employee. I recognized that a leader with a single/universally applied leadership style is inefficient and unsuccessful. In Robbins and Judge the authors allude to many situations where a combination of theories would be the preferred leadership style. For example transactional and transformational worked best when they were combined as a leadership approach. A leader is far more effective if they are a flexible leader who has the capability to use different approaches with each employee depending on different conditions. A good leader helps employees understand the larger perspective in which they are operating within the organization. The relationship the leader has with employees will determine how effective the leader will become in influencing organizational transformation.

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