What It Takes to Be On Top: Discussion

In every group, there is usually a person or two who stands out to lead. Personally, I have had opportunities to observe various leadership styles and have identified my preferences as a follower, and ideal traits to emulate as a leader

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Leadership may be defined as a “process in which a leader attempts to influence his or her followers to establish and accomplish a goal or goals.” It may be as simple as coming up with a group decision or as complex as establishing a group culture. Leadership is a continuous process wherein a leader tries to move from accomplishing one goal to another for the good of the whole group. Another definition is “Leadership is a process by which a person influences others to accomplish an objective and directs the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Leaders carry out this process by applying their leadership attributes, such as beliefs, values, ethics, character, knowledge, and skills” (Clark, 2008, para.3).

Much research has been devoted to the topic of leadership. Our text by Yukl (2006) presents a comprehensive collection of studies on leadership. Various approaches to leadership have been identified. One is the trait approach, which is premised on the belief that some people are born leaders, endowed with certain traits not possessed by other people. The behavior approach studies behaviors exhibited by leaders – their typical pattern of activities and how they manage it. The power-influence approach takes on a more leader-centered perspective in that power is used not only to manage subordinates but also to influence peers, superiors and even people outside the organisation. The situational approach sees leadership as affected by contextual factors such as characteristics of followers, nature of the work performed, type of organisation and the nature of the external environment. Finally, the integrative approach involves more than one type of leadership variable and incorporates other perspectives of leadership as well (Yukl, 2006).

Blake and Mouton (1985) have come up with a grid to analyze various kinds of leaders based on their positions on two axes: the “concern for people” axis and the “concern for task” axis. From this grid, four types of leaders were identified. The Authoritarian leader scores high on task but low on relationship with people. He is driven to accomplish tasks regardless of how it affects his subordinates and there is little or no allowance for cooperation and collaboration. This type of leader is strict with schedule, expect people to blindly follow his orders, with no questions asked. When things do not go as he has planned, he has the tendency to find blame in others rather than focus on what went wrong and investigate its cause and prevention in the future. Just like the autocratic leader described previously, he is intolerant of dissent to his ideas that is why it is difficult for subordinates to contribute and express their own ideas to the group. The Team Leader scores high on task and high on relationships and is considered ideal as a leader. He leads by positive example and works hard to foster a team environment in which all members can contribute to the success of the group while maximizing their own potentials both as team members and as people. Motivation is high in teams with such leaders and become very productive. The Country Club Leader scores low on task and high on relationships. He predominantly uses rewards in maintaining discipline and in pushing the team to achieve its goals. Since he can be too concerned in pleasing people, he would find it difficult to implement punitive measures on members who deserve it when they are inefficient in some tasks. This inability is due to a fear of jeopardizing relationships with such team members. The Impoverished Leader scores low on task and low on relationships. This is considered the worst type of leader because of his inefficiency. He uses a “delegate and disappear” management style. Parallel to the Laissez-faire leader, he allows the team to do whatever it wants and do not show commitment to either task accomplishment nor maintenance of harmonious relationships within the group (Blake & Mouton, 1985).

I agree with Blake and Mouton (1985) when they recognize that the Team Leader is the most successful type of leadership, however, they also justify the value of the other three types. There are certain situations which may call for one of the other three. By playing the impoverished leader, the team is challenged to gain self-reliance. With an authoritarian leader, a sense of discipline is instilled especially in unmotivated members. A country club leader is great for members whose self-esteem suffers because of the “feel-good” strategies this leader employs. A good leader would know how to discern which type of leadership he will use in particular situations in order to achieve the best results.

Still, I maintain my preference for the Team Leader type of leadership. I believe this kind of leadership will work well with me since I listen to people and consider their viewpoints objectively. I know I do not have all the answers and would need my team to cooperate with me in looking for solutions to some problems. However, I know I can be decisive in the end when I have weighed my and the team’s options well. In a research reported by French, Simpson and Harvey (2001), a good leader is also equipped with ‘negative capability’. “The underpinning image of leadership is based on knowing and is manifested through activity, work and achievement. There is, however, a quite other dimension of leadership, based on not knowing, on not doing, on being-done-to, and on being no longer in control of one’s own situation.” (French, Simpson & Harvey, 2001). I interpret such a construct as being humble enough to admit when one doesn’t really know instead of putting up a façade of being all-knowing.

In work environments, leadership may be distinguished from management. Leadership is giving the organization direction, having an overview, setting standards and making tough decisions while management is concerned with setting up and managing systems (Harris, 2003). Leadership is about development, vision and growth. Management is about attending to the status quo and ensuring that systems work” (Harris, 2003, p.5)

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A good leader has a clear vision of where he is going and sets directions to others towards that vision. He collaborates with other people on ways and means to reach their goals and not focus the authority on himself. In doing so, he empowers them to be confident in their abilities and motivates them to welcome challenges and opportunities. Because of his positive influence, he gains the respect of everyone to follow his lead while pursuing a common mission for the growth and development of the organisation (Leithwood & Riehl,2003).

Clark (2008) discusses a study reported by Lamb and McKee (2004) that concludes that the most important keys to effective leadership are trust and confidence as well as effective communication. Having trust and confidence in a capable leader was shown to be a reliable predictor of employee satisfaction in an organisation. These employees are assured that they are in good hands and that there are safely on a journey aboard a tight ship run by an efficient captain. Such trust and confidence are won with effective communication prevalent in the organisation. This is shown in three critical areas. One is in the area of helping employees understand the organisation’s overall strategies. Another is in helping employees understand how they can contribute in meeting the organizational goals and objectives. The last area where effective communication must take place is in sharing information with employees how their group is performing in relation to the organizational objectives.

Finally, Kouzes and Posner (1987) explain the processes on how great leaders can shine even more. They advise leaders to challenge the process and improve on the areas in the process that needs it. Leaders are also recommended to inspire vision that can be easily understood by their followers. Leaders are also enablers. They must be good at encouraging people to act on their own by providing them with the tools and methods to solve their problems. It also cannot be said often enough that leaders have to be good models, most especially when the going gets tough. They should exhibit an attitude and behavior of positivism that his followers can emulate. Lastly, leaders should encourage their followers’ hearts while keeping their pains within their own.

From the foregoing researches, I have conceptualized what, to me, is a good leader, which I hope, in my journey in life, I should be blessed to become. I shall state the qualities of a good leader I believe should possess, and gauge my own capabilities for having such qualities.

A good leader decides what is best for his group even if painful decisions have to be made. He is ready to sacrifice his own convenience for the good of the majority. He is not after his own personal glory but the welfare and triumph of the whole group. His mettle is tested when times get difficult and everyone looks up to him to lead them out of the dark. This may be a tall order, and I am a long way off from that, however, I can see myself as a work in progress in terms of being considerate of the needs of others over my own.

A good leader has initiative. He tries to be a good example to his followers and treads a path where no one dares to go. He is effective in empowering others with encouragement. He boosts his member’s confidence and self-esteem. He is a source of hope and inspiration to others. On this note, I am proud to claim that I am a positive person and have been a positive influence on others.

A good leader is always open to learning something new, and not haughty enough to claim that he is already “made”. Being human and fallible is one trait that all members of the group share, and what better quality to relate to than that? Group members will even feel important enough to share the burden of thinking up solutions to problems with their leader. I am humble enough to admit when I do not know what to do, and I believe this humility will endear me to my followers to help me be a better leader.

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The job position I believe most appropriate for my profile would be one related to Human Resource Development. I will do well as a Trainer of new employees. Mentoring is one thing I would love to do, and this position of leadership is meant to be taken seriously since the professional growth and development of the protégé is at stake.

To sum it all up, a good leader has a clear vision of how an institution should be. He is equipped with the knowledge and skills of how to get there, complemented by a positive attitude and high emotional intelligence in handling people. He does not see himself as central in the process of change but shares his leadership with key people like his members who directly affect the institution. His caring, considerate and sensitive attitude is oriented towards the growth and development of the members and the institution itself. Such an attitude and personality would be a great asset to anyone aspiring to be a leader. That includes me, and this awareness brings me to constantly strive not only to be a better leader, but a better person entirely.

References

Blake, Robert R. and Mouton, Janse S. (1985). The Managerial Grid III: The Key to Leadership Excellence. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co.

Clark, D. (2008) Concepts of Leadership in Hutter, A.D. (1982) Poetry in psychoanalysis: Hopkins, Rosetti, Winnicott.

French, R., Simpson, P. & Harvey, C. (2001), ‘Negative capability’: the key to creative leadership. Presented at the International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations 2001 Symposium. Web.

Harris, A. (2003) Teachers’ perspectives on effective school leadership. Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 9, No. 1.

Kouzes, James M. & Posner, Barry Z. (1987). The Leadership Challenge. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Leadership. Web.

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Liethwood, K.A. & Riehl, C. (2003) What We Know About Successful School Leadership. NCSL.

Yukl, G. (2006) Leadership in Organizations. Prentice-Hall.

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