Leading and managing an organization, such as a business enterprise, is a complex and challenging process that imposes many requirements on the person in charge. Since no business may prosper without the employees, energizing the workforce is one essential concern. Apart from that, any organization requires a clear vision and goals. Finally, management also has to be flexible, especially when an organization is going through turbulent times. The answers to these three sets of problems are empowerment, effective leadership, and the ability to devise and implement change. Empowerment or even enlistment improves organizational efficiency, consistent, informed, and quality-focused leadership with a strong following creates the backbone of the business, and the ability to lead through change ensures the necessary flexibility and adaptation.
Employee empowerment is an essential component of effective management. Empowering an employee refers to providing him or her with the means on influencing the functioning of an organization insofar as it pertains to the employee’s role in it. In simpler terms, empowerment means that an employee is not merely asked to provide constructive input – which is involvement – but also owns the process he or she is responsible for (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). The difference between an empowered employee and the one who is not empowered is crucial. In particular, empowerment leads to higher levels of organizational commitment and efficiency (Hanaysha, 2016). Thus, empowered employees are more involved in their work emotionally and intellectually.
Empowerment is not a process that occurs on its own – implementing it requires effective management, which also implies avoiding errors in the process. One of such errors is not defining what empowerment is and what opportunities and responsibilities it entails. Another common mistake is introducing empowerment initiatives without providing training on the subject (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Finally, just as any comprehensive management strategy, empowerment requires time, and rushing forward and being impatient is also an error. Avoiding these missteps is essential for achieving the effective empowerment of the workforce.
Finally, it is also necessary to distinguish between empowerment and enlistment. The critical difference is that empowerment, as mentioned above, allows the employees to incorporate their insights and innovations into the work processes they are responsible for. Enlistment, however, goes even further than that and requires the employees to innovate (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Thus, enlistment is the continuation of the same tendency that makes it to the logical conclusion. However, one must be aware that enlistment requires high levels of adaptation and resilience from the workforce, which is it is advisable to only introduce it to the workforce already accustomed to the empowerment.
Whether an organization pursues empowerment or enlistment, a sensible way to achieve either is leadership for quality. The term refers to leadership that consistently strives to “improve the performance of people, processes, and products” (Goetsch & Davis, 2014, p. 135). This approach rests on the premise that consistent improvement of quality will impact productivity, market share, longevity, and other crucial characteristics of a business enterprise positively. Leadership for quality focuses on customer satisfaction, is obsessed with the quality of the products offered, recognizes the structure of work while always offering improvements, and emphasizes teamwork and continuous training. These are the crucial components of leadership that seek to improve quality consistently and indefinitely.
The application of these principles depends on the leadership style adopted in a given organization. Goetsch and Davis (2014) list five distinctive styles of leadership: autocratic, democratic, goal-oriented, participative, and situational. An autocratic leader makes decisions without consulting the employees, while a democratic one makes a decision after receiving and processing the input from the workforce. Participative leadership refrains from making authoritative decisions and instead allows the employees to develop the solutions for a given problem and share the responsibility for their implementation. Goal-oriented leadership sets clear objectives but leaves much room for autonomy in achieving them, thus focusing on the “goal attainment through the proper management of tasks” (Anderson & Sun, 2015). Finally, situational leadership is aimless at greater flexibility and chooses an approach based on the current task.
Regardless of their chosen style, leaders are no leaders without a following. To build it, they do not have to be popular or charismatic – research demonstrates that “charisma is not essential to successful leadership” (Anderson & Sun, 2015, p. 80). Instead, leaders should have a sense of purpose combined with commitment, steadfastness, and stamina to pursue their goals even when facing significant obstacles. They also need self-discipline, honesty, credibility, and common sense that will allow gaining respect among those they lead. Embodying these qualities will help a leader to get a strong and respectful following.
Just like some people confuse leadership and popularity, others make no distinction between leadership and management, which is also wrong. Management is about comprehending complex systems and planning for them as well as implementing and overseeing these plans through the effective use of resources (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Leadership, on the other hand, is about providing a vision, implementing change to achieve it, and motivating people to overcome the difficulties involved (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). The two concepts are closely interrelated, but while management concentrates on operating and planning for an organization, leadership defines the necessary changes, provides a goal for a plan, and sets it in motion by motivating the employees.
Since organizational change is the domain of leadership rather than management, restructuring is a particularly notable challenge for a leader. Public imagination often perceives restructuring as synonymous with reorganization, termination, and workforce cuts, which is why it requires a careful approach. It should consider the employees’ point of view and show that the leadership cares for them (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Additionally, a leader should offer incentives to make the process smoother and less challenging. The combination of these two will not make restructuring easy but will allow minimizing its negative impact on the workforce.
Restructuring is only one type of change that can happen in an organization, which is why leading change, in general, is an essential skill. Guiding an organization through change requires developing and communicating a clear vision of the desired goal (Brickley et al., 2020). Apart from that, leading through change also requires identifying the obstacles to its implementation and removing or mitigating them. Finally, no plan can foresee everything, which is why implementing change requires corrections in the process. Hence, the components of leading through change are developing and communicating a vision, identifying and neutralizing the roadblocks, and introducing adjustments when necessary.
Theoretical knowledge is useful for guiding people and organizations, but it is ultimately the interpretation of the practice and experience of great people of the past. The lessons taught by the prominent leaders are as valid today as they were decades and centuries ago. Lincoln demonstrated how consistent vision, the courage to stand up to unjust criticism, and the ability to persuade rather than coerce may carry an organization through a severe crisis (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Truman’s willingness to make hard decisions and persist with them, taking full responsibility for the results, was essential for the USA in the early stages of the Cold War (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Finally, Churchill’s ability to combine optimism and tenacity carried the British Empire through WWII (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). While the approaches of these leaders varied, they are still applicable to the modern business setting.
As mentioned above, autocratic is only one style of leadership, and one should not mistake leadership for despotism. Few concepts highlight this notion as well as servant leadership and stewardship. The essence of this idea is leading by example and putting the organization before one’s own selfish needs (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). While the ultimate goal of making the organization more competitive and successful remains the same, this selfless approach distinguishes servant leadership and stewardship from other prominent methods.
The notion of stewardship inevitably brings to mind the role of the leaders as mentors –mentorship is the natural extension of stewardship as applied to the next generation of leaders. While lessons from historical leaders, such as Lincoln or Churchill, are valuable, no one may offer a better input in a specific business field than experienced practitioners. A leader who sets a positive example and clear learning goals and communicates effectively and often has good chances of being a strong mentor as well. Empowering the protégés and encouraging and inspiring them to innovate is also crucial for mentoring (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). Should mentors succeed in their tasks, the new generation of leaders and the entire organization will share the benefits.
Finally, one should know about the potential downfalls of leadership. Negative influences on leaders usually come as bad advice and may range from honest mistakes to plain sabotage. To avoid those, a leader should always keep the organization’s vision in mind, pay attention to the disagreements among the advisors, promote truth-telling, and shy away from using intuition (Goetsch & Davis, 2014). While not a guaranteed remedy, these measures may lower the risks of adverse influences swaying the leader away.
As one can see, being in charge of an organization involve s abroad range of responsibilities such as empowering employees, being an effective leader, and implementing change. Empowered employees are more likely to invest emotionally and intellectually into their organization, and enlistment takes it even further – provided that the management avoided empowerment errors. Strong leadership includes choosing a style, building a following, and always striving for greater quality. Leading through restructuring or other change is difficult, which is why it has to combine a precise roadmap with a concern for the workforce. Finally, an effective leader is never above serving an organization as a steward or mentor and learns from the positive examples from the pats while countering negative influences.
Anderson, M. H., & Sun, P. Y. T. (2017). Reviewing leadership styles: Overlaps and the need for a new ‘full-range’ theory. International Journal of Management Reviews,19(1), 76–96.
Brickley, J., Smith, C., Zimmermann, J., & Willett, J. (2020). Using organizational architecture to lead change. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, 21(2),58-66.
Goetsch, D. L., & Davis, S. (2014). Quality management for organizational excellence: Introduction to Total Quality (7th ed.) Pearson.
Hanaysha, J. (2016). Examining the effects of employee empowerment, teamwork, and employee training on organizational commitment. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 229, 298-306. Web.