Most industries of the 21st century are characterized by the increasing prevalence of diverse challenges that require organizations to demonstrate a new level of performance. Persistent globalization, combined with the growing competitiveness of the business landscape, is largely responsible for this tendency. Under such circumstances, the concept of leadership becomes the focus of attention of the expert and academic communities. More specifically, ongoing discussions revolve around the key features of leaders capable of building resilient teams. They are expected to nurture the right qualities among their followers that aim to ensure the organization’s ability to withstand challenges, sustaining the growth and development of the organization. At the same time, a logical question arises of what can be defined as the appropriate leadership style. From the personal perspective, a universally applicable model does not exist, as the approaches remain subject to variations depending on the leader’s philosophy and operational environment. This report aims to illustrate the key challenges and requirements of the contemporary leadership landscape in terms of their alignment with my philosophy as a leader.
Leadership as a Concept
Efficacy is the key attribute of leadership, as the notion itself can hardly be discussed without it. This concept does not refer to the mere possession of power or the ability to exercise control over followers. Furthermore, some leaders may not have direct subordinates within an organizational framework at all (Komives et al. 49). As such, leadership is not a matter of power or personal success. On the contrary, this notion extends beyond individual achievements, becoming the embodiment of teamwork, which is a highly prevalent theme today (George). A leader is a person who fits into the paradigm of values and objectives of the team, creating an efficient, multi-tiered system of management (Thompson). Within this system, each element works toward a common goal, contributing to the united efforts. Therefore, forming a visible line between them and the followers is the most serious mistake a leader can make.
Leadership versus Management
While the notions of leadership and management may appear synonymous to a considerable extent, the recently obtained knowledge has highlighted several integral differences. First of all, the concept of management fully reveals itself in strong relation to a specific organization and its structure. A manager is entangled in a variety of direct administrative functions, such as planning, control, and evaluation procedure (Komives et al. 49). Their perspective ensures the day-to-day functioning of the institution or organization within their normative protocols. As such, management represents the tangible dimension of the process. On the contrary, I see leadership as a notion at the intersection of mental and spiritual domains. In its true form, this concept is associated with the profound layers of the team’s relations and activities (Sullivan). For managers, the core of the action chain is similar to “plan, assign, control, evaluate.”In the case of leaders, other functions are engaged, such as “motivate, inspire, collaborate, evolve” (Zaleznik). At the same time, I see these concepts not as the dichotomy of opposites but as a synergetic unity. Leadership and management complement each other, creating a comprehensive mechanism of organizational development.
Leadership Styles and Theories
As established prior in this discussion, a universally applicable model of leadership can hardly be distinguished. Each leader is, first of all, an individual with their own values, beliefs, strengths, and weaknesses. In this regard, the key to success lies in the alignment of this personal vision with the organizational goals. In other words, a leader is to be in sync with the institution and the team for the proper synergy to be formed. However, while each particular context demonstrates its own set of specific features and variables, the contemporary body of academic knowledge has come to distinguish several prominent models of leadership. These theories are fundamental in nature, as they seek to define the core driving mechanisms of leadership. As such, it appears relevant to review the key approaches to the matter at hand and embed their features in the personal philosophy to make it informed.
The trait theory of leadership is one of the oldest models, as it dates back to the dawn of leadership studies. This approach dictates the inherent value of specific personal features of an individual that make them a suitable leader (Shafique and Beh 137). In other words, the philosophy of this model suggests that leaders are born, not made. Therefore, in this context, leadership potential can be measured from a psychological perspective. On the one hand, the trait model may be deemed useful for organizations as it implies that they can recruit people with specific traits who will succeed in attaining the goals (Sullivan). On the other hand, I concur with the experts who find this approach inefficient and even discriminatory. Leadership is a complex notion that incorporates too many variables to be put as a simple equation of specific traits. While the personality of the leader is important, the variations of the context leave little or no opportunity for such generalizations.
The contingency model of leadership seeks to amend the flaws of the previously developed theories. More specifically, it aims to address the unreasonable generalization of leadership potential as a pre-determined ability based on the qualities exhibited by an individual. As per this model, the effectiveness of a leader is determined by whether their management style corresponds with the requirements of the situation. Each context presents its own array of features, preconditions, and challenges to address. This idea is further developed within the framework of situational leadership, which dictates that an effective leader should adapt his or her style to a specific context at all times (Shafique and Beh 138). Spoken differently, the exact nature of the leadership is determined by objective factors and not subjective ones. This perspective aligns with my personal philosophy, as I am convinced that the context is of vital importance. I see the adaptability of the leader as one of the key qualities that contribute to the overall operational success. One should be able to see the overall context and analyze it correctly in order to help the team reach its full potential.
Within the framework of contemporary leadership, researchers often distinguish the prevalent dichotomy of transactional and transformational leadership. These paradigms differ in terms of their scope, as well as the approach to managing the day-to-day operations of the organization. Transactional leaders rely on the classical system of reward and punishment for the completion of specific goals. This model is centered on short-term goals and sustained dynamics of the operation, often implying a considerable degree of micro-management. For such executives, no tasks are too small or insignificant to leave them without supervision. It is highly process-oriented, thriving on rules and completion of goals (Shafique and Beh 140). Evidently, transactional leadership holds several advantages, as the motivation of followers becomes extremely transparent. Those who excel are a rewarded, whereas others face reprimands for the inability to meet the requirements. However, my personal philosophy is different from this perspective, as I find it inflexible and not fitting for long-term growth, which is mostly possible through quality changes. I seek an approach that engages the employees on a more profound level that would ensure the alignment of views on the work process.
Transformational leadership is a viable alternative to the transactional model, which has become a point of increased interest for experts and researchers. This approach abandons the idea of micromanagement and direct punishment-reward relations in favor of strong inner motivation. As implied by its name, the transformational model aims at change at various levels. In this context, leaders seek to instill a sense of unity within the organization. The emphasis is laid on long-term, strategic goals and sustained development, which becomes possible through shared values and a common vision (Shafique and Beh 140). As each employee makes meaningful efforts to become better selves, a similar tendency is likely to persist on the scale of the entire organization. Evidently, leaders themselves are to serve as the primary role model, overtly exhibiting their values rather than verbally transmitting them. The transformational model in its ideal state is highly difficult to attain, as it requires an unprecedented degree of engagement, communication, and coordination. Nevertheless, its principles align with my personal philosophy of leadership, serving as a valuable point of reference for the subsequent discussion.
Discussion: Personal Philosophy of Leadership
Based on the learned and presented discussions of contemporary leadership, I find it possible to synthesize my personal perspective on this complex and pivotal concept. More specifically, I have been able to distinguish the primary features of an effective 21st-century leader. First, the ability to observe, analyze, and adapt to the context is of paramount importance today. The operational environment of most industries has become highly complex, with numerous interrelated factors affecting it. A true leader relies on the environment and not their own principles when forming the strategy. In this regard, the situational theory of leadership appears to meet my expectations in terms of adaptability potential. However, this opinion does not discard the value of the manager’s personality and key qualities as an individual. According to Kotter, leadership potential is developed through exposure to the organization’s goals and challenges (11). The idea is to adapt one’s qualities to the context and rely on the most suitable ones instead of inventing the non-existent qualities. Fake values are subconsciously distinguished by the followers, which impedes the formation of meaningful in-team relations.
Second, I support the transformational perspective on effective leadership. Completing a more in-depth examination of this approach helped add a research-based perspective to my pre-existing beliefs. Organizational relations that are based exclusively on reward-punishment, short-term-goal-oriented interactions are likely to remain superficial. They lack depth, which often leads to the absence of trust, and long-term, sustained growth is difficult to attain under such conditions. In this regard, I have been able to distinguish another key feature of an effective manager, which is emotional intelligence. According to Goleman, this quality comprises “self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill” as the fundamental competencies (“Leaders that Get Results,” 18). Emotionally inept leaders unwillingly nurture hostile work environments in which followers can hardly show their full potential (Goleman, “Primal Leadership,” 33). The necessity of a positive context at the workplace is not to be underestimated by executives, as it directly correlates with the overall performance.
As such, I see emotional intelligence as the key enabler of adding a leadership dimension to the process of management. Hyacinth mentions that management sustains the organizational processes while leadership operates on the level of interpersonal relations. I find this statement fitting to my personal paradigm, as it relies on the unity of managerial competence and the ability to engage with the followers emotionally, inspiring them to achieve the team’s goals.
Personal Leadership Strengths and Areas of Improvement
Considering the presented facts, I have advanced on the path of forming my personal philosophy of leadership. Simultaneously, I have been able to determine the points of growth, as well as my current strengths as a leader. On the level of values, my views align with the generally accepted principles of effective 21st-century leadership. I recognize the importance of moving beyond simple compliance with workplace rules and protocols. However, it does not imply that these regulations are unnecessary. However, for the protocols to yield better results, employees need to understand why these rules have been enforced in the first place (Goffee 5). For this purpose, I intend to recognize my followers as individuals who require an emotional connection with the goals rather than units that perform the task and achieve results. Thus, my ability to construct meaningful relations with others is to be of increased usefulness.
On the other hand, I acknowledge the necessity of expanding my scope of emotional intelligence. Naturally, I have been making efforts to connect with the people whose perspectives align with mine. However, most teams are highly diverse, including followers with different opinions and values. In this regard, I often find it difficult to explore the engagement potential with those who view matters from other perspectives as compared to my vision. As a leader, I should be able to show a better level of emotional creativity so that it is possible to utilize other avenues of team engagement and inspiration. Furthermore, I intend to master the ability to strike the right balance between the personal and professional in order to maintain the equal unity of management and leadership within my philosophy in practice.
Overall, today’s operational environment across different industries has posed new challenges for leaders who seek to build strong, resilient teams. In order to address them, a balanced approach of operational management and inspirational leadership is necessary. My personal philosophy requires the double-faceted nature of leadership, in which organizational goals should not outweigh the importance of shared values and a common vision. As a leader, I want my followers to acquire a complete understanding of my strategy and goals. This way, I expect the objectives to be accomplished because every member of the team understands their importance and not because of the fear of punishment or pursuit of reward. I believe that effective managers should aim at the long-term objectives that will enable the sustained growth of the organization in a strategic sense. Ultimately, my philosophy is based on the transformational model, balancing leadership and management perspectives as a part of a higher unity.
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