As we go through life, we encounter experiences that lead to personal growth and development. These experiences help shape our perspectives on various issues. Personally, I have had a number of experiences that have influenced my perspective on the issue of effective leadership. These experiences have contributed significantly to my personal development in the area of leadership. They have informed me what effective leadership means to me and I have made significant changes in my leadership approach based on these experiences.
Meaning of Effective Leadership
The first important lesson that I have acquired is that showing genuine concern contributes to effective leadership. I obtained this lesson through my experience while working at a café a few years ago. As an employee of the food store, I was taxed with operating the cash register. Other employees were involved in various activities aimed at serving the many customers who visited the café every day.
All employees in the particular store were under the supervision of the store manager who also acted as our leader. In the course of my work experience, I realized that all the workers had great respect for the manager and they went out of their way to meet the goals that he set for them. The manager had great influence as a leader. He was greatly admired and respected by all the employees. With time, I came to realize that this positive regard for our leader was chiefly because he showed concern for the needs of the workers. He was not only interested in increasing the productivity of the café but also the personal well being of each worker. The genuine concern led to the development of a good relationship between the leader and the followers.
By showing genuine concern for employees, the leader was able to influence how the followers acted in their work. This resulted in increased productivity in the café as each employee worked optimally. Alimo-Metcalfe and Alban-Metcalfe (2001) explain that genuine concern by the leader is the most important trait for effective leadership. All employees encounter stressful situations during their work and personal lives. They are likely to experience demotivation if their leader does not identify or sympathize with their needs.
The leader who shows genuine concern will show a personal interest in the stress that his employees experience (Alimo-Metcalfe & Alban-Metcalfe, 2001). If necessary, he will defend his followers from admonishment by the company’s top members and take responsibility for some of their shortcomings. In return, the employees will demonstrate great loyalty to the leader and work even more effectively to fulfill the goals set out for them.
I have also learned that a leader needs to have the ability to effectively resolve disputes that may arise among his followers. In all settings where individuals interact, conflicts are bound to occur. These conflicts may be caused by the differences in opinion between members of the group. How the contentious issues are resolved will have a great impact on the subsequent operation of the group. This lesson was brought to my attention as I engaged in a class project.
To complete this collaborative project, the members of the class were divided into small groups. Each group had an assigned leader who was responsible for directing the group and ensuring that the project was completed in time.
In my particular group, there arose contentious issues concerning how we were going to accomplish our task. While some members wanted the work to be divided into segments and each part assigned to an individual, others wanted every member to participate in doing all parts of the project. Each side had some valid justification for their particular approach. However, it was obvious that the issue would have to be resolved before any progress could be made in our project. It was up to the group leader to resolve this issue and ensure the success of the group project. However, the leader did not have good conflict resolution skills.
Instead of trying to work out a solution that would achieve positive outcomes, he simply dictated that we would have to carry out the project collectively. The leader refused to consider any opinion offered by the members who wanted us to split the group work into small independent parts that would be done by individual members. Because of these poor conflict resolution skills, a lot of hostility arouse in the group.
The members whose opinions had been ignored sabotaged the project and we made very slow progress. By the time the project was to be submitted to the teacher, we had not completed the work and the much we had accomplished was poorly done. From this experience, I learned that effective conflict resolution skills are mandatory for good leadership. This observation is supported by London (2002) who declares that effective leaders must be able to handle contentious issues in a way that leads to a consensus. The solution arrived at should be acceptable to the conflicting parties and it should not alienate any party. By resolving conflicts in a constructive manner, the leader is able to ensure that his followers continue to work together to fulfill the desired goals.
Clear Goals and Vision
An effective leader should have clear goals that he/she wants his followers to achieve. These goals are the vision that the leader sets out to accomplish through the help of his followers. The significance of having clear goals was highlighted to me during my high school years. I was a member of our school’s drama club. The club had many talented students who were constantly making presentations to the rest of the school.
At the time when I joined the group, the chairperson was a skilled member of the group. In my opinion, our leader was very charismatic in nature. She was able to ensure that we felt involved in the ideas that she presented to us. To me, she was the model individual that we should follow in our activities. However, the leader did not present a clear goal for the club members. We were unaware of what goals we were working towards achieving.
Since there were no clearly articulated objectives, the group lacked a sense of purpose and direction. Most club members ended up abandoning the club since it lacked purpose. The group would have had better results if the leader had come up with clear goals and communicated a vision to her followers. Pynes (2008) explains that having goals leads to high performance since the followers know what is expected of them. Without goals, the followers do not have a thing to work towards and they will not know if they are succeeding or failing in their tasks.
Through my experiences, I have come to appreciate the role that motivation plays ineffective leadership. A leader who is skilled in motivating his followers is best equipped to derive maximum productivity from his followers. This revelation was made evident to me as I served as a volunteer at a homeless shelter in my community. I engaged in this activity with a number of my friends who were supposed to do some community service task as part of their school course requirements.
While at the shelter, we were placed under the leadership of one of the permanent members of staff at the facility. The shelter had a good administration and it served the needy members of the community well. However, I realized that the facility was badly underfunded and there was always a shortage of the required provisions. My friends and I expressed great dissatisfaction and were discouraged by these conditions. However, our leader was very optimistic and he always motivated us to do the best that we could even with inadequate resources. Through his motivational skills, he was able to stimulate us to work hard towards accomplishing the tasks that we had been given.
Our level of commitment in the shelter was greatly increased because of the ability of our leader to inspire us. From this experience, I learned that an effective leader needs to be able to motivate his followers to accomplish the set goals. Kondalkar (2002) elaborates that encouraging followers is a major role of the leader since he/she has to work through other people in order to achieve the set goals. By fulfilling the motivational role, the leader is able to utilize the available resources to accomplish some desirable goals through the help of the people he/she is leading.
Evaluation of Leadership Skills
In my opinion, I possess some of the leadership skills that I have come to regard as essential to effective leadership. I have effectively developed my skill in conflict resolution. Though the years, I have gained expansive skill on how to resolve disputes in a constructive manner by use of negotiations and consensus-building. Before I had identified conflict resolution as an important leadership skill, I did not appreciate the role that conflicts play in our lives.
However, when I recognized the importance of dispute resolution, I began to see how conflicts are an integral part of human life. I also appreciated the fact that constructive conflict resolution is crucial for productivity to occur after a dispute. In my conflict resolution activities, I try to arrive at a solution that is desirable to all the parties involved. This ensures that the future relationship among the previously conflicting parties is not jeopardized. In addition to this, people are likely to stick to the solution reached if they feel that it is a fair one.
Another skill that I possess is the ability to show genuine concern for others. Whenever I am given a leadership position, I make it a priority to Identify the work-related and non-work-related needs of my followers. Whenever possible I try to offer solutions for the needs that the followers have. By doing this, I demonstrate a strong consideration for the concerns of my followers. In addition to this, I am able to properly access the emotions of other people.
I am therefore in a position to sympathize with their situations and act in a sensitive manner. As a leader, my ability to identify with the concerns and troubles of other people will assist me to understand them better. As a result, I am able to show genuine concern for their situations and react in the appropriate manner.
In spite of the previously mentioned leadership skills that I have, there are some traits that I need to develop. One is the ability to come up with clear goals and inspiring visions for my followers. While I consider myself a good leader, I often demonstrate incompetence in articulating the goals and objectives that I want my followers to achieve. I am also unable to come up with the compelling visions that will drive the individuals I am leading to perform exemplarily in their tasks. I feel that because of this inadequacy, I am unable to get the best results from my followers. It is also hard for me to ensure that the people I am leading maintain focus on their tasks since I do not communicate my vision effectively to them.
Another inadequacy that I face is that I am not very proficient in motivating others. While I am personally highly motivated, I am not skilled at inspiring other people through words. As a leader, I do not give motivational speeches that are aimed at increasing the enthusiasm of my followers. In many cases, I have failed to notice my lack of this skill since my followers have been highly motivated individuals. They have therefore performed optimally even without me motivating them.
However, my lack of this skill has led to an inability to obtain optimal results when my followers lack self-motivation or when they experience some disappointments while engaging in their tasks. I recognize that I can increase the productivity of the people I am leading if I am able to use effective motivational tactics. Such tactics will stimulate my followers to engage in activities that will result in desirable outcomes.
To increase my leadership competence, I will have to address the deficiencies that I currently have in my leadership abilities. Specifically, I have to take steps to develop my goal-setting skills and increase my ability to motivate others. Having a clear action plan will assist me to accomplish these goals. In addition to having a clear list of plans, it will be important for me to have a timeline to track my progress. My first action step is to develop a culture of coming up with goals for all my activities. To develop this skill, I have to practice goal-setting even in scenarios where I am not in a leadership position. I intend to begin this activity with immediate effect.
I will come up with a list of academic goals that I hope to achieve within the next two months. These goals will be challenging and at the same time achievable. I will review the progress that I have made at the end of the month and make changes if necessary. This activity will help me develop goal-setting skills and I can use the skills as a leader. When I get a leadership role, I will make sure that I write down the goals that I intend my followers to achieve and communicate the goals effectively to them.
To develop my ability in motivating others, I need to learn from competent motivational speakers. I, therefore, intend to read material from a number of reputable motivational speakers. By doing this, I will be able to acquire the skill of motivational speaking and use the same to inspire my followers. In the coming weekend, I will purchase a motivational book and read it over the month. I will take notes on the kind of language that motivational speakers use and attempt to use this language to inspire others.
In addition to books, the internet will provide a rich source of material on motivation. I will download short videos on motivational speaking from the internet. I will then view these videos with the aim of acquiring motivational skills. I will review the progress I will have made at the end of the month. To properly assess if any progress will have been made, I will ask my friends to evaluate whether I have increased my competence at inspiring and motivating my listeners. Based on this feedback, I will be able to determine if I have made any progress in acquiring this skill.
In this paper, I have highlighted the skills I consider necessary for effective leadership. I have shown how my experiences contributed to my perception of these skills. I have also highlighted how I possess some of these skills and the role that they play when I am in a leadership position. I do not have all the skills and the paper has highlighted the skills that I have a deficiency in. I have highlighted my action plan to deal with these deficiencies. By following this action plan, I will gain the necessary leadership skills and become an effective leader in the future.
Alimo-Metcalfe, B. & ALban-Metcalfe, R. (2001). The Development of a new transformational Leadership questionnaire. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 74(1), 1-27.
Kondalkar, P. (2002). Organization effectiveness and change management. NY: PHI learning Pvt. Ltd.
London, M. (2002). Leadership Development: Paths to Self-insight and Professional Growth. NY: Routledge.
Pynes, J. (2008). Human resources management for public and nonprofit organizations: A strategic approach. Boston: John Wiley and Sons.