Table of Contents
The DSBL module has been a perfect opportunity to learn about a wide range of concepts, theories and practices on leadership as a whole. Among other things, it has been the basis for understanding leadership from both a personal and organisational perspective. From a personal perspective, management of oneself to be more effective at work has been acquired. Basic skills required for effective management of interpersonal relationships at work has also been acquired. At the organisational level, the module has paved way to acquire basic skills needed in making sound and justifiable decisions that influence not just personal growth but the growth of other people within the organisation as well. What is more important is some of the basic practical leadership skills acquired, pertaining to issues of financial information and management, IT proficiency, and people management skills.
Most of the skills that have been acquired above were result of learning from different resources on concepts and theories of leadership. One of the areas that were of particular importance was skills of management for self and work. In this paper, reflective overview is given about skills of management by revisiting some of the work covered during the tutorials. Materials will be selected from the module as evidence to critically analyse and evaluate what makes a good leader. Some of the specific areas of leadership will be time management, team work management, and management of leadership skills. Leadership has been defined as the ability to lead people either as individuals, teams or organisations towards the achievement of specific goals (Carlson & Grzywacz, 2008). With the areas to be covered in this reflective paper, it is expected that a leader will be able to give a good account of all of them to be considered a good leader.
Management has been explained as a broad organisational responsibility generally concerned with the harnessing of resources to achieve certain specific objectives (Bipp, 2010). The resources that may be managed as part of leadership role are vast and many, including human resource, time, financial resource, non-tangible resources, and talents (Pool & Pool, 2007). From course materials available, Burchell (2002) explained that the practice of harnessing these resources also involves specific activities that ought to be performed by the leader including organising, planning, controlling, evaluating, and directing the resources. As mentioned already, time is one of the resources a leader normally manages as part of the overall responsibility of management. Deducing from the overall definition of management, time management can be explained as the practice of organising, planning, controlling, evaluating and directing time in an effective way to help with the achievement of specific objectives. Pollit (2005) noted that time management may be taken from two perspectives, which are personal time management and organisational time management. At the organisational level, time management is so important that it is often incorporated into such management and production models as lean manufacturing, where leaders attempt to avoid major types of waste including time (Ryan & Kossek, 2008). The emphasis of time management under this theme however falls on the aspect of management dealing with personal time management. Pulakos (2009) argued that one of the critical qualities that make a good leader is the ability to manage one’s time effectively because this is a premise and requirement for having enough time for the organisation also.
In order for a person to effectively manage time as part of self management, there are a number of specific actions that ought to be seen. One of these is the ability or need to plan priorities. Rashid, Sambasivan and Johari (2003) emphasised that there are in a typical duration of time such as day, week, month, quarter or year, there are often so many tasks or activities that a person may have at hand. However, not all these can be classified as being equally important in terms of relevance and urgency. An important quality of a good leader therefore has to do with the ability to prioritize all the activities or tasks. By planning one’s priorities, it is often the case to build a scale of preference based on how urgent and relevant each activity is. Pool and Pool (2007) advised that planning of priorities should be able to lead to certain unnecessary and irrelevant activities that only consumes time with no specific benefits being cut out. Again, while planning one’s priorities, it is advised that an avenue will be created to start with big challenges. Among other things, this is expected because such big challenges may require more time than less challenging ones. What is more, the motivation that comes with achieving big challenges is higher. Consequently, the motivation for achieving big challenges could be encouragement to work on other smaller challenges (Bipp, 2010). In all these, Burchell (2002) admonished that the issue of procrastination is a big setback against effective time management. Procrastination must therefore be avoided.
The effect of time management on organisational performance has been well researched in the body of literature. From a more theoretical perspective, Pitt-Catsouphes, Kossek and Sweet (2012) noted that time management within organisations, even when viewed from the point of personal time management has a lot of influence on production efficiency. The basis for this assertion is that production efficiency largely concerns with the ability to use fewer resources, including time to accomplish more task (Carlson & Grzywacz, 2008). By inference, when one’s time is well managed, it could lead to a situation where more production outcomes can be gained within a very short period of time. In a practical sense, planning one’s priorities ensure that specific period or quantity of time is allocated for what needs to be achieved within specific time frame. The issue of attending to organisational tasks in a haphazard way is therefore avoided. With proper planning of time, the leader and by extension the organisation is aware of what needs to be done at every point in time. This way, all other forms of planning and management are positively affected as resources necessary for each task within each period of time is assigned at forehand. Also as hinted previously, time management leads to good performance because it can be incorporated in lean manufacturing and just-in-time (JIT) models of production. Even at the personal level, knowing activities that waste time and cutting them out from one’s daily schedules help in saving more time for more useful and productive ventures (Houston & Waumsley, 2003).
Team work management
In addition to managing time, leaders also have a lot of responsibility when it comes to the management of teams and the work done by the teams. Teams are important parts of any organisation as they serve as a collective body used to push organisational agenda that would otherwise have been difficult to carry out by individuals (Christen, Iyer & Soberman, 2006). Pollit (2005) however warned that teams are not always effective in helping the organisation achieve its goals, especially when the teams are not well managed. This calls for the need for good leaders to distinguish themselves through effective team work management. The fact that teams will be rendered ineffective in the absence of good management is one that can be understood from many different perspectives. One of these is the fact that teams comprise individuals with a lot of differences and therefore require good management to avoid interpersonal conflicts and other forms of negative frictions among members. Ollo-Lopez et al. (2010) admonished that one of the best ways to manage team to avoid conflicts is to plan tasks well for the teams. In most of the cases, conflicts arise due to uncertainty about roles or tasks within the teams. It is therefore common for some members to feel that others are only being benchwarmers or being too actively involved at the expense of others. But where there is effective planning of tasks for the team, this situation can be easily avoided (Mickel & Dallimore, 2009). Planning of tasks must however be based on certain factors.
In planning of tasks, it is strongly recommended that leaders take into consideration the skills, abilities, competences, and experiences of each member of the team. That is, it is important to ensure that tasks assigned are those that can effectively be delivered by members based on what they have acquired as part of their professional training (Ryan & Kossek, 2008). Gambles, Lewis and Rapoport (2006) warned that giving people tasks that are seen as below their competence makes them rusty and ineffective within the teams. At the same time, giving people tasks that are above their competence makes them nervous and inefficient in delivering them. This spells the need to have a good balance between what a person is capable of doing and what a person is assigned to do. Hammer et al. (2007) opined that even when tasks as well planned and distributed for members within the team, it is also important to management relations between members as a way of minimising chances of organisational conflict. A good leader would therefore be seen as a person who has the potential of managing employees within the team so well that they are able to get along with each other, regardless of their individual differences and diversities. From lessons in the module so far, it would be appreciated that a good leader is one who does not assume that employees will get to relate well with each other by natural plan. Rather, good leaders institute carefully planned interventions such as diversity training and intercultural management, aimed at nurturing a sense of relationship building among employees.
The issue of workload for employees within teams is another important aspect of team management as perceived by Pulakos (2009). The first area of workload management that is commonly discussed in literature has to do with the impact of workload on employee as far as work pressure is concerned. Christen, Iyer and Soberman (2006) asserted that with the wrong workload for employees, it could either make employees inefficient or overstressed with pressure. Each of these two situations is however not ideal for employees. On the issue of fewer workload, Ollo-Lopez et al. (2010) noted that it creates a situation where employees become poorly utilised, making it impossible for them to fully embrace their potential and gain personal development. On higher workload also, Hammer et al. (2007) feared that it would bring undue pressure on employees, making them consider their work as being demanding. An interesting outcome of study by Gambles, Lewis and Rapoport (2006) showed that there is high tendency of employee turnover in any organisation where these two outcomes with poor workload management exists. That is, employees are likely to leave their positions for new ones when they perceive that they are not being well utilised. Such employees would go and seek new challenges that serve as intrinsic motivation for them. On the other hand, those who feel pressurised by their work are likely to leave for new positions, where they perceive the working condition as more favourable. Based on the Belbin Team Roles, team role inventory can be developed for each employee so as to ensure proper management of workload (Belbin, 1981).
Managing leadership skills
Given the competitive nature of today’s business environment, it is important that leaders constantly create avenues by which employees will gain personal growth and development. Another sign of a good leader can therefore be said to be one that seeks the development of others (Rashid, Sambasivan & Johari, 2003). In a typical organisation today, there are several ways in which the leader can seek and promote the personal growth and development of employees. One of these is through the use of training modules. Based on the needs of the organisation, the leader may either seek to use an external training programme or internal one. Each of these have been noted from this course to offer a lot of merit to employees by way of equipping them with additional knowledge and skills necessary in delivering assigned roles. The use of internal training, part of which is on-the-job training has however been found to be one of the most ideal ways by which employees can be trained. Through on-the-job training, employees are afforded the opportunity of learning while working. This means they do not have to leave their positions vacate before they can acquire some form of learning or skills necessary to making them effective at work (Houston & Waumsley, 2003). Through on-the-job training, employees receive a practical experience as they get their hands on the same kind of work they do on regular basis.
We can do it today.
Two other forms of internal training that a good leader can use are mentoring and coaching. These two training programmes are often used interchangeably but do not mean the same thing. Based on lessons acquired from this module, it has been learned that mentoring is a more informal approach by which the conduct and leadership style of the leader of the organisation becomes an example unto other employees (Rashid, Sambasivan & Johari, 2003). By this, it would be said that a good leader mentors good employees whereas a bad leader mentors bad employees. Mentorship could also be carried out in a more formal setting where employees are assigned to specific managers or departmental heads to understudy them (Mickel & Dallimore, 2009). This form of formal mentorship is commonly associated with succession planning where employees are groomed for future roles. Coaching on the other hand refers to a training programme where leaders give close supervision and monitoring of the work that employees do with the aim of guiding them towards acceptable paths and standards (Pitt-Catsouphes, Kossek & Sweet, 2012). The difference between mentorship and coaching therefore is in the fact that in the former, it is the employee who studies the leader at post but in the former, the leader studies or guides the employee at post.
This paper has sought to establish factors and conditions that makes a good leader. In today’s business world, it is common to expect that every firm or organisation will have a leader whose task is to ensure the day-to-day running of affairs. The main question however has to be whether or not the leader is a good one. From the reflection paper so far, it can be concluded that there are several factors that determines whether or not a leader is a good one. One of the areas is in terms of how the leader manages time; both personally and organisationally. As far as time management is concerned, a good leader is expected to be in a position to plan his or her priorities to ensure big challenges are first tackled, as well as those tasks and activities considered as relevant and urgent. Good leaders also do not resort to procrastination but do whatever needs to be done on time. As far as time management is concerned, it has clearly been noted that it has the potential of leading to good performance within the organisation and thus the need for it to be taken very seriously.
Another aspect of good leadership was found to be in terms of team work management. Under this, it emerged that as far as the use of teams is relevant in ensuring success with roles at the workplace, it only takes good management of the teams to ensure that they produce they kind of effectiveness expected of them. Among other things, a good leadership should be able to base on such theoretical models as the Belbin Team Roles to know the strengths and weaknesses of each employee within the team. Once this is done, it will be possible to allocate roles in a manner that is not seen as overly below or above the competence and capabilities of employees. This is because with poor team work management in terms of both the assignment of roles and relationship between the employees, it would have a negative impact on employee retention.
The final aspect of the paper focused on the management of leadership skills. From this theme, it emerged that a good leader would not only be interested in self-development and self-management but also in the development of others. In any typical modern organisation, this may be done through a number of ways including the provision of on-the-job training for employees. Mentoring and coaching could also be used for employees. Mentoring and coaching are two important aspects of employee development that requires a lot of direct contribution by the leader. That is, the employees may be looking up to the leader to be a mentor or someone who directly coaches their actions and conducts within the organisation. With all these points raised, it can be concluded that a good leader is one who is able to manage him or herself properly and translate the management to others within the organisation and the organisation as a whole.
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