Leadership has different definitions but centers around individual influence in a group to achieve a common goal. Good leadership has certain requirements and involves different traits, skills, styles, and an understanding of followership. In this paper, good leadership is defined. Leadership development is explored as well as followership. Throughout the course of this paper, different leadership theories such as authentic and transformational leadership are described and a self-development plan is created to target specific areas of necessary growth. Finally, this paper sums up with a discussion on effective leadership.
The literature has many different definitions of leadership. According to Northouse ‘Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal’ (Northouse, 2013: 5). Good leadership involves several traits and skills. The requirements for good leadership include traits such as confidence and authenticity. Love describes common leadership traits as compassion, authenticity, confidence, courage, and humility (Love, 2005: 17). These traits encourage leaders to emphasize human qualities as opposed to directing a vision and focusing specifically on the mission of the organization. The human factor needs to be incorporated when defining leadership traits. Love said ‘Emphasis on competence, caring, self-esteem are all important to successful leadership’ (Love, 2005: 17). This emphasis allows for relationship development. Love wrote that leaders must work to create warm, supportive, and stable relationships (Love, 2005: 19). This environment creates a safe place for constructive criticism and professional growth. Leaders must also develop authenticity to enhance the leader-follower relationship.
Authentic leadership involves genuineness and requires that a leader is trustworthy and honest. Authentic leadership draws in the concepts of confidence, compassion, courage, and humility as authentic leadership requires relationship. There is a significant difference between those who can lead and those who manage. This relationship is what separates leadership from management. ‘Leaders are expected to be nurturers, coaches, and mentors who work with followers to ensure success’ (Love, 2005: 17). Other leadership traits include effective communication and decisiveness. Along with these traits, good leaders are effective leaders.
Effective leaders have certain competencies that enable them to influence followership. Competencies that create effective leaders are technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills. This three-pronged approach to leadership demonstrates that ‘Leadership skills can be acquired and leaders can be trained to develop them’ (Northouse 2013: 44). This shows that good leadership is not only a trait but also a process. Another aspect of effective leadership is that effective leaders invest in the organization’s strengths and maximizes the talent on their team. ‘If you are able to help the people you lead focus on their strengths, it will dramatically boost engagement throughout your organization’ (Rath and Conchie, 2008: 14). Effective leaders also know to incorporate different domains of strength. This means that the leader has identified team members with strengths in categories such as executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. The focus on the individuals within the team enhances the leader’s awareness of followership and the need for training and development as good leaders are molded and developed through training programs and mentors.
Finally, good leaders are aware of followership and the need to understand that followers are active participants and play an essential role in the organization. Drucker discusses that while personalities among effective leaders are different, there is one critical element common to good, effective leadership: Effective leaders get things done (Drucker, 2004:63). Often, effective leaders are visionary thinkers who follow through with action plans. Thus, effective leaders are mission focused, goal oriented and understand the need for action.
In the spirit of effective leadership and the ability to accomplish goals, I believe I am in the process of becoming an effective leader. I am authentic and want to focus more on the relationship between leadership and followership. As good leadership is a process, my technical skills, human skills, and conceptual skills allow me to provide the genuineness that is a necessary part of the relationship process between leader and follower. ‘To be authentic, leaders need to work with followers to find out what is really going on in a given situation and address it’ (Northouse, 2013: 268). This involves a certain level of organization and insight. Developing this insight is one way my leadership skills have improved. This insight includes learning about transcendent followership. The concept of transcendent followership is meaningful in this process in that as a leader I am also a follower and need to reflect the competencies of my leadership. Transcendent followership involves proactive behaviors that promote growth and development within the organization. This is a dynamic process. ‘Followership is a dynamic complex process that takes many shapes with participants, roles, and influences changing over time’ (Cunha et al, 2013: 90). As a follower, I need to demonstrate competence in my area. This demonstrates that I care about the organization and its goals. ‘It is in this sense that followers may have a strategic role contributing to the creation of organizations characterized by both self-discipline and a learning orientation’ (Cunha et al, 2013: 90). Another level of insight that I have gained throughout this process relates to practices specific to leadership development.
Another way my leadership has developed during the module is that I have gained an understanding of the eight practices of effective leadership as described by Peter Drucker. These eight practices have allowed me to develop competencies and a baseline of how to provide effective leadership.
Drucker states explicitly that effective leaders ask questions, develop action plans, take responsibility for decisions and communicating, focus on opportunities rather than problems, and run productive meetings (Drucker, 2004: 59). Drucker goes on to discuss that these practices provide the knowledge needed to proceed, to convert this knowledge into an effective plan, and ensures the organization is involved in the entire process. This ties into effective team building as strong teams within the organization set priorities and follow through with the leader’s plan.
Gaining an understanding of these eight practices allows me to ask the hard questions and then focus on what matters: The mission and vision of the organization. This is vitally important when starting a new enterprise as focusing on specific tasks creates an atmosphere for success. When starting a new business it can be easy to become distracted by the many items that need to be accomplished. Start-up companies especially require time, energy, and effective leadership in order to succeed. These eight practices provide a standard to allow for continuity. One of the key points Drucker makes about effective leadership is that while a standard is provided, good leaders know their strengths and when to delegate tasks. My knowledge and understanding of these eight practices allow me the opportunity to share with others and help them to develop their own leadership skills.
Leadership is a complex subject to teach. Yet, there are meaningful ways in which to help others learn about leadership. One way I can help others learn to lead is through positive modeling of the appropriate skills and behaviors of leadership. It was established earlier that a good leader is authentic, trustworthy, and honest. Since leadership development is a process and one that I am learning, I believe others can learn to be genuine and also understand the importance of followership in leadership. I can also demonstrate the eight practices as described by Peter Drucker and demonstrate responsibility, effective communication and show a focus on opportunities instead of problems. Recalling Love’s description of leadership traits is another element I can use to help others learn about leadership. Leadership is not just about effective communication and focusing on the mission. Leadership is also about the intangible qualities that foster relationships. Compassion, confidence, courage, and humility are other areas I can model. Reflecting these key areas of leadership will allow others to learn and develop their own leadership styles.
Finally, I am a “doer.” As such, I understand the need for strategic thinking and planning. Drucker states ‘but before springing into action, the executive needs to plan his course’ (Drucker, 2004: 60). Strategic thinking requires forethought and vision. My ability to problem solve and anticipate problems are key strengths I have developed in leadership. Rath and Conchie discuss that oftentimes, “strategic thinking will be necessary to keep an achievable vision from deteriorating into a mere pipe dream” (Rath and Conchie, 2008: 30). My ability to anticipate problems provides me with a great advantage as I can problem solve as I work on the mission and vision of the organization. Strategic thinking allows me to develop alternative plans of action.
This type of thinking also allows me the ability to anticipate problems and corresponding solutions. This is a necessary strength to have when developing a new business or organization. Strategic thinking will allow me to lead the organization from the vision process to reality. This is another example of how my leadership has developed throughout the course of this module.
While strategic thinking is crucial in leadership, so is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence encompasses the ability to deal with stress and ambiguity. This type of intelligence also involves self-awareness. Based on the feedback I received from my peers, I learned that I need to be more self-aware of body language and non-verbal behavior. As leaders need to develop and refine relationships with organizational members, understanding the impact of body language is key to successful communication. Goman states that “There are two sets of body language cues that followers look for in leaders: warmth (empathy, likeability, caring) and authority (power, credibility, status)” (Goman, 2010: 9). I need to understand the impact of my body language during conversation with followers and other organizational members. The insight gained from understanding the impact of body language has shown me the importance of self-awareness.
Good leaders have self-awareness. Self-awareness is vital to growth and mastery of new skills and abilities, and also allows a leader to have insight into the follower’s actions. Self-awareness leads to self-development. Developing oneself leads to self-actualization. In this sense, self-development and self-mastery create a stronger leader. Dhiman supports this view, ‘Self-mastery assumes self-understanding and self-knowledge. It also assumes a certain awareness of our purpose in life (Dhiman, 2011: 69). This aligns with the views of authentic leadership. Developing authentic leadership traits will also allow me to engage with my followers, take a proactive stance, and better understand the follower’s viewpoint. ‘Authentic leaders are defined as individuals who have a deep awareness of their own and others’ values/perspectives and the context in which they operate, and are positive in their outlook’ (Sendjaya, Sarros and Santura 2008: 404). Not only are authentic leaders positive in their outlook, but they also provide a sense of hope and provide answers. Northouse describes authentic leaders as ‘those who can fill a void and provide answers for those who are searching for good in an uncertain world’ (Northouse, 2013: 268).
Another area that needs further development and exploration involves my attitude towards followers. The feedback I received indicated that my attitude towards followers was negative at times. This is where compassion and humility are needed. Compassion has three elements that I need to understand. Compassion involves empathy, caring, and a willingness to act on the individual’s distress or anxiety. Specifically, compassion is the desire to help others. This is a valuable trait to have as a leader as individuals can bring their home life into the organization and potentially disrupt the work environment. Being empathic to the needs and potential stresses followers face will also help me to embrace compassion in my relationships with followers.
This will also allow for a stronger relationship within the workplace. This caring relationship is one in which the parties of the relationship are on the same emotional wavelength (i.e. attuned to and in touch with one another’s feelings), and have a commitment to the other person (Boyatzis, Smith, and Blaize, 2006: 14). The feedback I received from my peers opened my eyes to the levels of relationship involved in leadership. Developing compassion was an area I never would have thought belonged in any description of leadership. Another element of leadership that enlightened me was the concept of followership. Throughout this module and my research, I discovered that followership is an essential aspect of successful leadership.
I learned that leadership is always influenced by followership. Chaleff supports this view and states ‘Leadership and followership are two sides of the same process’ (Chaleff, 1996: 16). Followership is also defined as the individuals’ abilities to support his or her leader that leads to the achievement of organizational goals (Agho, 2009). Followership does not necessarily mean that followers are merely directed. Instead, they are active participants in the process, playing a key role in fulfilling organizational goals. ‘Followership is a dynamic complex process that takes many shapes, with participants, roles, and influences changing over time’ (Cuhna, et al, 2013: 89). Another aspect of followership that is interesting is that we are all followers as even a vice president reports to the president. Taking notice of this and of the process allows for a deeper relationship between leader and follower. One particular leadership theory that incorporates this principle is transformational leadership.
I believe that the concepts of transformational leadership will allow me to make adjustments needed in effective leadership. Transforming leadership involves empowering followers instead of dominating them. ‘Transformational leaders seek to empower and elevate followers rather than keep followers weak and dependent’ (Sendjaya, Sarros and Santura, 2008: 404). Changing my attitude will allow me to provide encouragement and inspire followers to stay focused on the organizational mission. Bass states that ‘transformational leadership occurs when leaders elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purpose and mission of the group…’ (Sendjaya, Sarros and Santura, 2008: 21). Moreover, leaders who engage in transformational practices are viewed as a more effective leader or manager. An effective leader is also proactive. In response to the feedback I received, I realize that I need to develop a more proactive posture and I believe the transformational leadership theory will assist me in developing a proactive and responsive attitude and work ethic. This might require additional research and possible training. Bass is also quick to note that through training, managers can learn the techniques and obtain the qualities they need to become transformational leaders (Sendjaya, Sarros and Santura, 2008:19). To truly inspire followers, I need to learn specific techniques and qualities and this can only be accomplished through work with a mentor or as stated previously, through training.
Another area that requires development and adjustment is my quick reaction to followers. Drucker offers the following advice to leaders, ‘Listen first, speak last’ (Drucker, 2004: 63). I believe that incorporating this advice will allow me to develop my communication skills. Above all else, developing interpersonal skills will ensure that I am an effective leader.
With the insight I have gained through the feedback from my peers, I am able to create an action plan to continue my leadership development. Gaining more knowledge is key to self-development and as mentioned previously, self-awareness leads to self-mastery. Learning more about leadership styles will increase my effectiveness as a leader.
One particular style I find that blends well with transformational leadership is situational leadership. This approach can be used in a variety of situations and provides for a flexible approach. Situational leadership also allows for a combination of leadership behaviors. ‘In situational leadership, there are four leadership styles representing different combinations of directive and supportive behaviors’ (Blanchard, 2009: 19). These behaviors are 1. Directing, 2. Coaching, 3. Supporting, and 4. Delegating. With directing one is basically telling another individual what to do or giving direct orders. This is about structure and control. Coaching involves supportive behaviors that encourage competence. Supporting behaviors in leadership revolve around recognition and problem-solving. Finally, delegating allows autonomy within the organization ‘You allow people greater autonomy, since they have the competence, commitment and confidence to do the task. People at this level are competent and motivated to take responsibility’ (Blanchard, 2009: 19). Utilizing situational leadership requires insight on the part of the leader as followers are at different levels of competence and require different approaches. This is what makes situational leadership a dynamic process. This style aligns with my views of a good leader as mentioned earlier. The benefit of using situational leadership is that one combination can be used in a corporate setting while yet another can be implemented when working one-on-one with followers. My action plan also includes becoming an inspirational leader.
Another element in my action plan is to develop the traits of an inspirational leader. In “Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?” Goffee and Jones discuss that effective executives need to understand the dynamics of inspiration and find ways to draw people in and gain their commitment to the organization (Goffee and Jones, 2003: 63). In order to accomplish this, there are four qualities I need to broaden. Goffee and Jones describe the qualities as vulnerability (showing weaknesses), empathy, intuition, and knowing one’s differences. These four qualities align with the goals of both authentic and transformational leadership in that both types of leadership seek to inspire followers to new levels. Blending these four qualities with my leadership style will provide the synergy and space needed for professional growth.
One aspect of professional growth that falls in line with Goffee and Jones’ recommendations is to learn how to express vulnerability or expose my weaknesses to followers to create trust. ‘Beyond creating trust and a collaborative atmosphere, communicating a weakness also builds solidarity between followers and leaders (Goffee and Jones, 2003: 65). I believe that demonstrating this level of vulnerability with followers will also foster relationship growth. Empathy enables one to vicariously experience the state of another. Empathy leads to compassion by giving us insight into another’s state of being. This is another tool an effective leader uses to demonstrate caring in the leader-follower relationship. Goffee and Jones also state that intuition is yet another aspect of inspirational leadership. Leaders need to develop a sense of the organizational culture and the subtle nuances that indicate issues or concerns in the work environment. Discerning issues is a valuable skill and can prevent crisis situations in the workplace. Another avenue of inspirational leadership is knowing one’s differences. This can provide another venue for relationship building with followers while keeping a distance. Utilizing differences between the leader and follower can inspire followers to better performance. Once again, incorporating these elements will allow me to become a more dynamic leader in different contexts. This will require specific training. My plans for future development in these areas include attending leadership workshops either via the internet or in a live session. Purchasing books on leadership will also assist me in my journey to becoming an effective leader.
As stated earlier, authentic leadership and transformational leadership provide an avenue to effective leadership. The combination of the understanding of Drucker’s eight principles of effective leadership, blending in empathy and compassion, my insight into authentic and transformational leadership, and strategic thinking capabilities will allow for a truly effective leader.
Good leadership involves different traits that can reflect genuineness, compassion, and honesty. Good leaders understand the need for effective leadership which is developed from broadening specific competencies and practices that not only provide professional growth but also continuity for the organization. Leadership is also influenced by followership. Specific leadership theories such as transformational leadership provide a blueprint and bridge to inspirational leadership. Effective leaders create and implement self-development plans to ensure self-awareness and future professional growth. A good leader combines the traits and skills from leadership principles, traits, and skills to become a truly effective leader.
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