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Many would believe leadership is equivalent to perfection. On the contrary, this notion is far from the truth about art. Some of the primary traits associated with leadership include courage, patience, intelligence, and will while the skills related to the art include organization, management, communication, and problem-solving (DiLiellio & Houghton, 2006). Leaders are barely human beings, and nature dictates that all have their weaknesses, yet there have existed significant and exemplary leaders of all time. After previously questioning my ability to be a great leader, the experience I went through by interviewing a top manager in an organization led me to believe that leadership is not about perfection or possessing excellent traits but knowing how to apply your strengths and weaknesses in various situations. Great leadership is also about knowing when to step in and take charge, and when to be humble and consult with others to gain a better understanding, just like any other skill, leadership requires practice and experience.
Interview: Reflection and Experience of a Manager
Just as most people do, the manager started with a passion for numbers. His interest grew throughout the various education levels and chose to pursue economics at the university level. He gained leadership and management experiences in two different capacities. First, he was the Head Trainer of the Accounts department and was later promoted to Financial Manager. After a personal assessment, he discovered several attributes linked to leadership including excellent communication skills, positivity, and focus. Others include being an achiever and being futuristic. Achievers are people who are continually motivated to accomplish something meaningful. Without accomplishment, they feel dissatisfied with their lives. The more they take on assignments, the more they seek more challenging ones. Their satisfaction comes from achieving goals more than getting rewards. Active people are enthusiastic about life, others, and the daily situations they encounter. They have the power to spread hope and cheer even in situations that seem dismal. Being futuristic means having the ability or talent to inspire future themes and visions. They are motivated by finding ways of creating better products and innovations to create a better world. Being focused entails setting a goal and following through till its achievement. Focused people know how to prioritize tasks and stay on track avoid distractions, and push those around them to work towards achieving the said goal.
Strengths in Leadership
As the Head Trainee of the Accounts department, he was tasked with the responsibility to train interns efficiently for them to take on roles in the office, and become competent financial professionals. His success as a trainer was measured by the trainees’ competency at work. To adequately train them, he had to be a good communicator. Communication is an important skill because how they understood the various accounting applications was dependent on how well they articulated their thoughts. The manager also encouraged a lot of discussions, interaction, and application of the knowledge, to gain feedback and assess how fast or how much the interns learned. For the slow students, he availed himself during lunch hour and after regular working hours on some occasions to assist them to catch up with the rest. Getting the required professional certificates is essential in improving an individual’s chances of corporate success. However, the manager insisted more on gaining the required experience either through internship or volunteering. In his view, getting the experience provides first-hand access to the job as opposed to only studying its theory in school.
The manager stated that his experience as a finance manager was more complicated than the one as a trainer. He experienced the full responsibility that came with management when the company had to use a new accounting and billing system. He appeared excited about the idea of using a new integrated system because of his other interest in always finding ways to create innovations or other forms of accomplishing tasks. Their enthusiasm and zeal to achieve tasks got him appointed as the leader in executing the new system.
Being a relatively challenging profession, he had to deal with several problems. For example, the interns had different backgrounds and levels of information on accounting, limited training time, a large group of trainees, and had to introduce foreign concepts to them. Despite these challenges, this manager was determined to achieve success, and at the end of the training, all of them were hired by various organizations.
During the system change process, he sensed some resistance when others felt that he was exerting too much pressure on them, an issue that stalled progress for a while. The manager had to call a meeting for the staff to communicate their wishes and air out their grievances. To handle the situation, on various occasions, he also got some members to facilitate the process while he did the manual work. By doing this, he understood their frustrations. The team ended up creating a different working schedule that incorporated the members working in turns for extended hours while allowing enough rest time, which made the process easier. The bump in the road did not deter him from staying positive and ensuring everyone got on board with the task.
He also faced the challenge of getting people to understand new concepts, dealing with people of different levels of understanding, and some form of resistance from those who were comfortable using the old system. He got them to be excited about the improved system by demonstrating the difference and explaining that even though switching would be hard, it was eventually worth it. He also had to juggle the implementation with other office duties, meaning he had to prioritize the tasks and stay in the lane.
In the course of management, this manager stated that he came to understand that managerial goals and objectives are significant in creating order, setting deadlines, and streamlining the organization’s operations. The manager described leadership in one statement: “To be a great leader, you have to be a good servant first.” This remark was surprising because the conventional view places a manager at the top as someone who needs to be served or give instructions without necessarily being involved in the work.
Reflection about Leadership: Main Concepts using Pfeiffer’s Leadership Model
The leadership aspect plays a very significant role in the running of any institution, organization, or general household. The effort of both the leader and the followers contributed to the completion of tasks and the achievement of goals. Therefore, this success is dependent on the nature of the relationship between the two. In most cases, the success or failure of a project is attributed to the leaders involved, meaning they play a significant role in driving the success of any event.
The work security as a success component is based on the belief that workers do not focus on productivity when they are worried about the status of their jobs. They have no room for productivity when they still fear working themselves out of their occupations. Some of the benefits associated with employment assurance include an unlimited contribution to knowledge from employees, voluntary effort in increasing productivity, value retention, and additional discipline when recruiting (Pfeffer, 1997). Competitors also stand to gain from trained and mentored workers who have been laid off.
According to the excerpt, companies serious about making profits will spend more effort when hiring people (Pfeffer, 1997). Some of the measures that are undertaken to ensure effective hiring include sourcing a large pool of applicants, having a defined outline of the skills and attributes required of potential employees, and screening potentials for skills that cannot be taught. This aspect seeks to find qualities in individuals that stand out the most and are useful in an organization. The screening process should also occur in several stages, with each testing for different attributes.
Self-managed teams and decentralization of decision making basic principles
Self-managed teams have proven to be successful due to the level of responsibility and accountability that all workers feel directly about meeting deadlines and achieving goals. The teams also contribute to cost savings by removal of hierarchical layers and allowing their members to pool ideas for better solutions to the problem. There is comfort in working with such a team, without feeling the pressure of direct supervision. A comfortable atmosphere creates more room for independence and the will to cultivate job satisfaction.
Training is essential for companies to produce high performance because it is only through training that employees get in line with the enterprise’s objectives and goals. Organizations rely on their employees’ skills and initiative to resolve issues, initiate change in the workplace, and take responsibility. The primary challenge with training is that, even though the training is a worthy investment for the staff, it calls for return on investment calculations.
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Comparatively high compensation contingent on organization performance
Contingent compensation is defined as the linking of workers’ benefits and pay to performance measures like output, profits, price index, and market price. Pfeffer believes it works in promoting organizational success because it promotes equity and fairness. If a company yields significant returns by unharnessing its people’s power, then part of those yields should be amassed to the producers of the results and not the company’s management only. It drives people to use more energy, creativity, and skills to produce better results knowing that a reward awaits them. When they receive nothing for their efforts, they become contemptuous, disappointed, and demotivated. Secondly, Pfeffer believes that it’s a form of motivation as the workers know they have a share in the result of their work (Pfeffer, 1997). Most importantly, the managers need to stress the quality of production or service as the performance measures determining compensation.
Reduction of status differences across all levels
Reduction of status differences involves workers feeling valuable in an organization. People will be motivated to work knowing that their input is considered valuable. One of the ways companies can promote status reduction is through self-managed teams and decentralization of authority as earlier mentioned. The status difference can also be reduced by bridging wage inequality even though it may affect individual work incentives.
Extensive sharing of financial information
Sharing of information is one of the ways that a company conveys trust in its employees. It increases employee loyalty and makes them feel part of the organization. Sharing information is also essential in getting the employees to act in times of crisis and enhancing performance. Pfeffer states that a highly motivated worker cannot promote growth and success without the necessary information to know where more input is required. However, information is power, and whoever has it can control decisions and policies, a sign of weak leadership.
Reflection: Lessons in Successful Leadership
I believe that every organization requires a combination of some or all methods for performance enhancement. No practice is more important than the other, and they always somewhat seem to interrelate. For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can be used to explain the relevance of employment security (DiLiellio & Houghton, 2006). When workers are offered assurance, they are guaranteed to have a regular flow of income to sustain their physiological and safety needs.
However, what good does employment security do a worker when his wage is unsatisfactory? The situation can be balanced out by comparatively high compensation and a status reduction across all levels. The same worker needs to feel that his work is appreciated and that he is valuable to the company. No matter the rank, he should be trusted enough with information about the company’s operations to motivate him to participate further even in departments, not in his job title. The practice of comparatively high compensation also gives a sense of ownership to the person working making it hard for the competitor to sway his decision to be employed elsewhere. In another example, a company might hire the crème of the country and perform rigorous training to ensure they are the best. If they fail to make them feel part of the business through information sharing, the workers will fail to apply their creative knowledge in solving problems voluntarily.
Reflection Using Leadership Theories
The most suitable leadership theory to apply in any organization should put into consideration the main challenges that face the industry. In that, the theory itself will apply its leadership principles in managing and providing a solution to the problems. After fully understanding the types and theories of leadership I saw fit to adopt the principles of three different leadership theories. These include behavioral theory, traits theory, and contingency or situational theory (DiLiellio & Houghton, 2006). When used individually, each of these theories only caters to the part of the problem.
As described, the situational approach stresses the importance of adapting to a situation. One of the issues facing workers is the lack of adequate resources to carry out functions. As a leader in this situation, I would apply this theory in ensuring that the organization runs to its maximum ability with the resources provided. Using the few resources to create a small impact will likely motivate key stakeholders to channel more to get greater results. Also, I would assign different people to take care of different situations that I would deem unable to perform in line with the contingency theory. The traits theory works well with the contingency theory. When a leader lacks some of the required attributes, for example, the ability to assert authority, empathy, or human relation skills, he or she can appoint a temporary group or assistant leader to take care of the arising situation.
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Other than selecting people to work on my behalf, I would also use the behavior theory to find people with potential and offer a training program. Due to limited resources, the best method to use for training would be mentorship. I would appoint workers showing potential for different roles and guide them through the best way to respond to or take charge of situations.
The advantage of this mixed leadership theory application is that it is flexible enough to allow ample use of various skills in different situations. It also encourages a practical form of leadership as demonstrated in the behavioral leadership theory approach. A good leader not only inspires through words but by actions too (Russell & Gregory, 2002). By showing through actions, the people see that the leader also believes in the cause advocated for and is not trying to impose it on others just to get a particular goal achieved (Russell & Gregory, 2002).
In conclusion, there is no greater practice, skill, theory, or leadership trait greater than the other. Pfeffer, for example, outlines the most fundamental practices required to lead to success in business. The most important aspect to consider their full function is in the application. All organizations should ensure that they know their staff well to determine which practice works best. Investing in managing employees is the best form of investment an organization can make. Mastering the art of leadership for effective organization occurs as a process, and not as an inborn gift. With time and various experiences, people cultivate certain skills to become good leaders. The greatest lesson I have come to learn about leadership is that to be a great leader; you have to be a great servant (Russell & Gregory, 2002).
- DiLiello, T. C., & Houghton, J. D. (2006). Maximizing organizational leadership capacity for the future: Toward a model of self-leadership, innovation, and creativity. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(4), 319-337.
- Pfeffer, J. (January 01, 1997). Seven practices of successful organizations. California Management Review, 40,
- Russell, R. F., & Gregory Stone, A. (2002). A review of servant leadership attributes: Developing a practical model. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 23(3), 145-157.