Leadership is a very important tool when it comes to managing various organizational challenges. The organizational dynamism brought about by the changing environmental forces requires effective leadership. I came to realize this when I was promoted to the position of supervisor at Blessed Bakers Company. Blessed Bakers Company produces and markets bread and donuts within the local market.
When I joined the firm two years ago, it was a small firm with only sixty employees spread across all the departments. I was working in the Marketing department of this firm. Within the last two years, the firm has experienced massive growth in its productions and sale of bread and donuts. The number of employees has increased to two hundred and fifty people. Six months ago, I was promoted to the position of sales supervisor.
I was assigned thirty employees who are directly reporting to me. It is during this period that I realized that leadership needed more than directing people. This was not the first time I was holding the position of authority because I was once in a leadership position when I was in school. However, this position required more from me as a leader. I had the deadlines to beat, expectations to meet, and results to show by the end of the day.
Sometimes the expectations from the stakeholders would conflict (Watson 2006, p. 449). The shareholders need increased returns, the junior employees increased salaries, and the customers reduced prices. As a leader, I realized that one needs to know how to harmonize these conflicting desires in order to achieve the expected results (Stensaker & Meyer 2012, p. 115). In this reflective paper, I will focus on the development path I have taken as a leader and some of the challenges I have faced in an effort to meet the expectations of all the concerned stakeholders.
Critical Reflection of the Orientation to Leadership
According to Schuttler and Burdick (2010, p. 67), different people may have different orientations to leadership based on natural characteristics and learned experienced. The nature of a person and the kind of experience he or she has gone through may define the orientation of a person (Stensaker & Meyer 2012, p. 56). Adele (2011, p. 78) says that when conducting a self-reflection task, it may be necessary to identify the orientation to leadership because this may help determine the areas of weaknesses that may require addressing. I believe that my leadership orientation may be defined through transformational leadership. In this self-examination, I base my argument on exchange and interactions I have with the people I work with as my juniors and superiors. I believe in challenging the existing systems.
According to Flint (2012, p. 89), a transformational leader inspires the followers to act in a given manner by making them believe that they have the capacity to beat their current limits. In this industry, competition is very stiff (Mathews 2009, p. 17). I have the responsibility of ensuring that the products of this company gain popularity in the market despite this stiff competition. This means that we have to go beyond our limits to deliver the desired results.
I always motivate the employees within my department to deliver extra credit every time they undertake their sales activities. Instead of setting targets for the employees, I allow the individual employees to set their own targets based on their personal convictions. However, the personal target has to be within the limits that are desirable. This has helped me develop a personal attachment with my junior employees in this department.
Current Thinking and Research in the Fields of Leadership, Strategic Learning, and Change Interventions
The field of leadership has attracted the attention of many scholars across the world. In order to understand the current thinking and research in the fields of leadership, strategic learning, and change intervention, it will be necessary to look at some of the models of leadership that have been commonly proposed. The following are some of the common leadership models.
In defining authentic leadership, Harris (2009, p. 88) says, “Authentic leaders are self-actualised individuals who are aware of their strengths, limitations, and emotions.” These are leaders who are real in whatever they do. They express their true feelings to the followers and involve them in finding true solutions to the problems that an organization faces. They do not hesitate to inform the followers that they have a weakness in a given area (Hughes 2007, p. 48).
I have to appreciate the fact that I lack some of the qualities of authentic leaders. Sometimes I may try to hide my weaknesses from the junior employees as a way of retaining the respect they have towards me. However, I am a mission-driven leader, one of the most important traits of authentic leadership. I am also focused on long-term results whenever I am addressing any issue. To gain a true sense of authentic leadership, I will need to be open and admit weaknesses in a positive way that can bring solutions from my team members.
According to Hughes (2010, p. 45), Eco leadership entails looking at an organization as an ecosystem. In an ecosystem, there are various components playing different roles in order to ensure that the system functions normally (McManus 2006, p. 76). Similarly, an organization is a system that has different components playing different roles. As a leader, it is necessary to understand the role of each component, and how the components can be managed in order to achieve the best results under different contexts (Pinto 2000, p. 90).
In my position as the supervisor in the sales department, I have realized that different people are critical in playing different roles in the sales process. Some are experts when it comes to convincing customers to buy a given product. Others are good when it comes to explaining the different features of the products. Another group is efficient when it comes to ensuring that products are delivered to the market at the right time. All these individuals play different roles in ensuring that success is achieved in this department. I am in the process of learning the concept of eco leadership.
Mind map leadership
Miller (2012, p. 89) says that leadership is a mind map, where a leader envisions an organization to be after a given period of time. One can only be a leader if he or she has a clear vision of where the organization should be taken. Having a vision alone may not be enough. One needs to have a clear pattern and strategy of how the vision can be realized. There should also be a clear definition of the stakeholders that should be responsible for achieving the desired dream. The following diagram shows some of the important components of the mind of a leader.
Having a vision, pattern, or style to achieve it, management skills, the power to influence others to act in a given manner, and the ability to initiate and sustain change within an organization are what this map entails. I have to appreciate the fact that I am yet to have such a clearly defined map as a leader in my current organization. The three other models of leadership are discussed in the sections below.
Evidence of strategic and experiential learning gained in the process
The organizational complexities and changes that have taken place in the external environment have made me learn a number of issues when it comes to strategic management. One of the issues that I learned is about Servant leadership within an organization. Servant leadership is one of the models of leadership that have become very popular. I learned that in order to influence others to act in a given manner, a leader should be ready to serve them.
Instead of bossing them around, a leader should always be ready to demonstrate desirable qualities and actions in an organization. I realized that when I went to the field with the junior employees, this department would sell more products than on other occasions when I remained in the office. They would be motivated to see me talking to the customers. I such occasions, we would spend more time in the field, and it would be rare to hear them complain. I also learned about Diversity leadership. In current society, various environmental forces may affect an organization in different ways.
As a leader, one should know how to deal with problems of different nature and in different departments. I learned these concepts from the general manager of this firm. The manager knows how to handle problems from any of the departments within the firm. He is always flexible to change and knows how to influence the departmental heads to act in a given desirable manner. I also learned that in order to retain employees within an organization, a leader may need to use a number of drivers.
Maintain Effective Communication
Communication is one of the most critical issues within an organization. According to Annabelle (2006, p. 856), misunderstandings are always common in workplaces where there are poor communication systems. Such misunderstandings, especially between employees and their superiors, may make an employee consider moving out of a given organization. As a leader, I realized that it is always essential to have an effective communication system. Organizations are now abolishing the rigid bureaucratic communication system that overemphasizes the need to communicate from one hierarchy to the next (Piderit 2000, p. 794).
Many leaders are now embracing open communication systems where top managers and junior employees can easily interact and communicate without any form of intimidation. This way, the top managers can be aware of the forces that affect junior employees in their various areas of work. Employing this strategy makes employees feel connected with the top managers.
This unique connection may make an employee stay with a firm for a long. Caldwell (2003, p. 290) says that having an effective communication system does not just stop at making it possible for the top managers and junior officers to communicate openly. I also realized that this also involves having the right communication systems that can enhance the process of sharing knowledge among the relevant stakeholders within the organization. This may involve installing communication tools and equipment.
Ethics is another issue that I realized is a major contributor to high rates of employee turnover. According to Price (2009, p. 87), many managers approach the issue of ethics from a biased angle. Being ethical entails doing the right thing at the right place, with the right people, and for the right reasons. It involves avoiding issues that may be considered controversial within the organization at all times. I realized that employees always look up to the top managers to show them what they can emulate at the workplace.
Aquinas (2006, p. 76) says that one of the most common and very destructive unethical behaviors in many organizations is the issue of having an affair among the employees or between the managers and junior employees. When such things happen, it is common to see people who are less deserving given promotions because of their relationships with the top managers (Armenakis & Mossholder 2003, p. 10). I realized that such issues may not just affect the performance of a firm but also the motivation of other employees who feel that their efforts are not appreciated.
According to Annabelle (2006, p. 858), a leader should be flexible. As a leader, I learned that it is important to be open to new suggestions as long as they are sensible enough to bring the desired results. Change is a factor that cannot be avoided because of the dynamic environmental forces. In many cases, leaders are always expected to initiate change within a firm. Employees can only consider change relevant if it is supported by their leaders (Schneider, Brief & Guzzo 1996, p. 18).
For this reason, I learned that a leader should see change when it is coming, internalize it at the right time, and then find ways of communicating it to other employees in a simple and convincing manner. Burnes (2009, p. 57) says that a leader must be aware of the fact that there may be a resistance to change among the employees, especially among the aging population. People easily develop a fear of the unknown.
Whenever they are subjected to a new system that may require them to change their approaches towards various issues in the workplace, they get scared, and this explains why they sometimes consider resisting change. In such contexts, a leader will need to find appropriate models of change that will reduce cases of rebellion against change (Coulson-Thomas 2013, p. 22). Kurt Lewin’s Change Model is one of the popular ways of introducing change within an organization.
As shown in the above diagram, this model has three main stages that a leader should follow when introducing change. The first step is to unfreeze. This involves finding weaknesses of the existing systems or methods and preparing the stakeholders for a new system (Hayes 2010, p. 73). The leader will need to explain to the stakeholders why the existing system cannot be used anymore, and the benefits that the new system brings to the firm. Of importance will be to address any fears that the employees may have or misconceptions over the new system. The second step is to change. This involves the actual introduction of the new system (Bissell & Dolan 2011, p. 45). The third stage is to freeze. In this case, freeze means making the stakeholders understand and accept the new system and all its components.
Making Sound Judgment
I realized that leaders are expected to make sound judgments at all times. Cases can arise that may require critical decision-making by the leader (Brewer & Hunter 2006, p. 84). For instance, employees may seek the intervention of their leader in case they have disagreements. In such cases, they expect the leader to be fair and reasonable in his or her decisions. Favoring any of the two sides may not be a good idea. Coming up with a win-win situation may be the best option in such challenging moments. Another issue that may require sound decision-making is the process of managing the employees. According to Kline (2010, p. 53), McGregor’s Theory X and Y may be applicable in this case.
Choosing Theory X is not advisable because the leader will be viewing employees as people incapable of taking control of their own life. However, some dishonest employees may need this approach to management. However, Theory Y is the most appropriate for managing the employees, especially those who have won the trust of their leader. According to this theory, the leader hands over the role of supervision to the employees (Ferdig 2007, p. 45). Such employees will be responsible for their own actions within the firm.
Influencing and Inspiring
The ability of a leader to influence and inspire followers is very critical in the management process. According to Transformational Leadership Theory, a leader should be one that inspires and influences others to act in a given manner. Employees always look up to their leaders to show them the way, especially when they encounter challenging moments. According to Ferch and Spears (2011, p. 67), one of the characteristics of a transformational leader is the ability to inspire other people.
A leader should be able to evoke unique feelings among the employees that make them desire to achieve greatness. The leader should make the employees feel that they can perform better if they exploit their full potential. Making employees rediscover themselves is always very motivating. It makes them feel empowered. They may not want to go away from such a leader that evokes unique power in them. A leader should also inspire, as defined in the Transformational Leadership Theory (Dwivedi 2006, p. 537). The learning experience I have had will make me a better leader as I advance in my career.
Reflection on the Personal Meanings, Mental Models and Dilemmas in the Construction of Joint-Meaning and Actions
As a leader, I have come to realize that having a clear mental model on how to address various tasks is very critical in achieving success. Leadership requires critical thinking, especially when it comes to managing organizational dilemmas such as change. One must understand that as a leader, personal meaning is always transformed into organizational meanings. What a leader thinks of an issue directly influences how the organization will address the issue. If the thought of the leader fails to be critical in identifying the right concepts of an issue, then the approach that will be taken to address the issue may fail to meet the expected objectives. The following diagram shows a critical model.
As shown in the model above, the values and commitments of a leader always motivate the need for characteristic habits, which finally regulates the application of cognitive skills. The above mental model defines how a leader may approach different dilemmas within an organization. The values a leader believes in and his or her commitment towards the issue will always affect the approach he or she takes in addressing the issue. This means that a leader should always be committed when addressing various tasks within an organization.
Provision of a Self-Development Plan
Based on the analysis conducted above, it is apparent that I have a lot more to learn as a leader not only in my current organization but also in other contexts in the future. However, in order to be an effective leader, it is clear that I will need a self-development plan (DuBrin 2011, p. 78). A number of leadership and mental models have been discussed. I am already using some of these models in my workplace. However, I am yet to learn about others.
The self-development plan will involve learning about these new leadership concepts and trying them in a real-life context. This will be easy because I am already in a leadership position. I will make an effort to embrace authentic and eco-leadership models in all the activities that I undertake within this organization. I will also have to redefine my mental models when addressing various dilemmas in this organization.
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