Leadership has been defined in various ways through the ages. The classical concept of leadership was shaped by political philosophers like Plato, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, and Pareto. Of all four, only Sun Tzu seems to be associating leadership as liberal or humanitarian (Grint, 1997). The rest three have often been criticized as authoritarian, especially Machiavelli. It was in the traditionalist era that leadership theory started taking the shape of a more humanitarian aspect and the belief that leadership does not encompass the leader alone, started evolving. The modern study of leadership has taken a more liberal stance and points out three main areas in leadership i.e. democracy, gender, and cultural aspects.
My first encounter with a leadership made me think that leadership means, what is conventionally believed, to monitor, supervise, and control. This is to say that it was a mixture of the classical and the traditionalist approach towards leadership which the former predominating. Therefore, I needed to become more adept with the process of communicating my supervision to make it effective. However, my ideas about leadership and its operational values have altered extensively after I undertook the leadership training.
I had three aims in mind when I joined the leadership program. The first was to improve creative skill and presentation ability skill. This is deemed an important part of effective leadership for it is required to effectively communicate leadership vision and strategy (Baldoni, 2003). Second, as my job commands a greater degree of emotional intelligence on part of the leader, so I needed to improve on that aspect. The third was to manage me, and the fourth was to increase my interpersonal ability within a team to increase collaboration between members. Therefore, I expected the leadership program to understand where my deficiencies lay as a leader and help me to rectify those errors to become a better and more effective leader.
In addition, rectify the following errors, which I felt were present in me, which had been described by Zenger and Folkman (2002) as the Five Fatal Flaws:
- Inability to learn from mistakes
- Lack of core interpersonal skills and competencies
- Lack of openness to new or different ideas
- Lack of accountability
- Lack of initiative
These are the bible for developing a leader, which was followed, and I feel I particularly lacked the following character, which needed to be amended. From my point of leadership, I had to achieve the following:
- The ability to learn from experience and mistake
- The importance of vision, to develop my vision to see the future and having a clear goal and direction to reach it
- The ability to take initiatives
The manager and his tasks
The first week of the leadership-training program was used to understand the personality type I have, for this I was put through an LPI and MBTI. The former showed that my lowest scores fall into the challenge of the process that I have to improve. In contrast, my highest scores are Enable Others Act. The latter showed that I am the type of ISTP implying that I am an Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving person.
As the nature of the job requires me to be more interactive and have a higher degree of emotional intelligence, I need to fit myself with the organizational demands. The nature of my job requires me to understand my employees better and facilitate them when they falter behind. This can be achieved through the kind of leadership jack Welch suggests: “Leaders are people who “inspire with a clear vision of how things can be done better”. (Slater, 1999, p. 29). Therefore, the clear message that has been brought forward is that managers must stop “managing” and take up the ways of a leader who does not give directives, rather facilitates the employees in achieving a goal.
So essentially, what I understood from Welch is that micromanaging spoils an organization. A manager needs to understand the pulse of the organization and act accordingly to make the system work. What Jack Welch suggests for GE, that he “cannot micromanage a multibillion-dollar organization” applies to almost all organizations, and even to mine.
The traditional view dictates that leaders must have a vision and set goals for followers. Jack Welch believes that setting a goal implies a series of negotiations to change it. Instead, he suggests that leaders adopt and learn from the external environment and change accordingly. Jack Welch believes:
“The thing I’ve noticed is that the intensity level and the global understanding and the facing reality and the seeing the world as it is is so much more pronounced in December 1997 than it was ten years ago, and certainly fifteen years ago, where the form was very important. Today’s form isn’t allowed. Global battles don’t allow form. It’s all substance. Form means somebody is not intensely interested in the company. Somebody on umpteen boards. Somebody off giving speeches all the time. Somebody who has reached the position of chairman as the culmination of a career, rather than the beginning of a career. See, my career starts again next January. What I did until now is meaningless. Meaningless. It’s just the beginning.” (Slater, 1999, p. 32)
Therefore, it is clear from Jack Welch that we, as leaders, need to find out the right mix for the organization and fit into the requirements that our organization demands from us. Thus to become a leader one must understand the “sweet spot” of the COP model where there is an intersection of my competencies, passion, and organizational need (Zenger & Folkman, 2002). Identifying my competencies is important, as they will help me to understand my strong points. Then I need to understand the passion for which I must what I enjoy doing. Then understand the needs of the organization. A combination of all three will help me to become a good leader.
The challenge process
I have identified the goal that I have as a leader and what I want to do by the end of the third week of the training. I want to improve the challenge process that I watched from the video in the third class week. It described The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. There are five occupations of professionals and experts in five steps of exemplary leadership, which are model the way, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.
For me, I want to develop “Challenge The Process” the most because leaders challenge the process by experimenting, taking risks, and learning from mistakes but if I‘m always afraid of fear, mistakes, and failure especially, in the face of obstacles. I want to search for an opportunity to take some risks and dare enough to learn from mistakes because the leader is leaner at the same time. So in order to adapt to a particular circumstance as a leader I must do the following:
“First, a leader must create what can be called a holding environment…Second, a leader is responsible for the direction, protection, orientation, managing conflict, and shaping norms…Third, a leader must have presence and poise; regulating distress is perhaps a leader’s more difficult job.” (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997, pp. 127-8)
Therefore, the main aim as a leader will be to adapt me to the organization as well as help others adapt to it. This is similar to the idea presented in the COP model discussed earlier.
As my organization requires a high degree of emotional intelligence in a leader, it falls under the category of a “genteel organization”. In this, kind of organization leaders has to be very considerate and soft towards the employees. Therefore, I learned that in this kind of organizations employees are “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean, and reverent” (Zenger & Folkman, 2002, p. 131). however, I want the organization to become a learning organization where leaders are not complacent and they learn from their mistakes.
In the training sessions, we were given cases to be solved. One such case used COP as a method to solve the problem in the case. The case involved Tara whom I assumed to have hired recently. She is a software engineer who has just graduated from a major university. Although she is a recent graduate, you feel confident that she will bring enthusiasm and fresh ideas to her new job as a programmer. You have given her an important new project to work on. The question was that how would I coach her? With the suggestion from the trainer that we should use COP to solve the case I found out that, I need to understand her competencies, passion, and the needs of the organization from the COP model. Therefore, I need to do the following:
- Ask her about the skills that she has which will show the competencies she has.
- Find out what excites her most about the project or the new job to understand he passion.
- Then finding an equivalent need in the organization and directing her to delegate the job there.
This particular reading, Leader Must fit Their Organization, affected me considerably as I always believed in putting the right man to do the right job. Further, the article also provided a method through which we can apply this principle using the COP model to fit individual competencies, passion, and organization needs.
Another important learning I had from the class is the importance of passion. Earlier I seldom put any worth on its credibility. However, the training sessions taught me to properly value the importance of passion. I think I have learned from this class that Passion is also important because I never thought about it. Passion is in the final analysis that the greatest differences between good leaders and great leaders
Through another case analysis, we were put through another test of our leadership. The instance was related to an interpersonal relationship case where a fictitious character Joe, has been with our group for six months. His performance has been substandard in many ways. He habitually showed up late for work at least two days a week, is disruptive in team meetings and has let many defective parts pass through his station. The question was put forth to us as to what should we do regarding Joe.
On analyzing with the aid of the trainer, we found that as a leader we must not let it become a continuing problem and find the defective point such as try to avoid attribution biases, provide corrective feedback promptly, explain the adverse impact of ineffective behavior, and to ask the person to suggest remedies.
Leadership is learning
Another interesting learning that I had from the training sessions is “leadership as learning” which is the key to changing and learning organizations (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997). Here it is pointed out the strategies as laid down by leaders were ineffective as they failed to take into consideration various aspects associated with the strategy. So the point of view from different directions must be acquired for effective formulation and implementation of the strategy. As leaders, we have certain tools and resources at our disposal, which need to be provided to all for better utilization (Heifetz & Laurie, 1997; Slater, 1999). Thus, we must follow the rules put forth by Manning and Curtis (2003) as the effective vision is:
- The vision developed by the leader must be communicated to those individuals who have the strength to implement the vision.
- Vision must be communicated to the followers and their support for the vision must be received.
- A vision must be detailed and comprehensive so that all members can understand it and understand his/her role in it.
- The vision must be capable of uplifting the morals of the organization and inspire the followers.
However, leaders must refrain from committing fatal fallacies and mistakes of leaders and must increase their emotional intelligence. Therefore, a good leader must learn how to manage and adapt emotional intelligence when I worked as a team and help me to be a good leader by approaching the five processes. Another learning that derived from the sessions is that to become a great leader effective communication of ideas and vision is important to be properly understood (Baldoni, 2003).
- Baldoni, J. (2003). Great communication secrets of great leaders. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.
- Grint, K. (1997). Leadership: classical, contemporary, and critical approaches. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Heifetz, R. A., & Laurie, D. L. (1997). The Work of Leadership. Harvard Business Review , 124-134.
- Manning, G., & Curtis, K. (2003). The Art of Leadership. New York: McGraw-Hill International.
- Slater, R. (1999). Jack Welch and the GE way. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.
- Zenger, J. H., & Folkman, J. (2002). The Extraordinary Leader. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional.