The first week in every class is always an exciting one because the building blocks are introduced. It provided me an opportunity to get an overview of leadership and its importance in a structured manner. I often associate the word leadership with authority and governance. I learned that it covers the elements of management and control of resources as well as people. The concept of leadership has been around for much longer than people generally think it has. I think leadership began as a necessity before becoming a management tactic as soon as it started gaining traction.
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I like to think of leadership as an avenue to provide authority and to help others grow. Leaders have a unique opportunity of having control and it is what they do with that control and power that matters more than them. My understanding of leadership is that of an individual involved in affairs they control just as much as they expect their juniors and followers to do. They should be an example to those below them in the chain of command and mentor them into better people and professionals. There is a need to have authoritative people or groups who provide oversight and manage resources in any discipline.
I have learned from experience that leaders are essential people who must exist in firms. Visionary people make the best leaders but there must be a check as to what their visions entail. The path to evil is paved with good intentions is a phrase. Visionary leaders who impact people with their courage, vision and the desire to help others improve their lives are the best. Even so, they can just as easily be distracted and corrupted by ill intentions. I think the corruption of good leaders is detrimental in many ways; Hitler and Mao Zedong being prime examples.
Emotional Intelligence and Leadership
I think the definition of leadership is all about perspective and perception. There are many tools for measuring the efficiency of a leader and their leadership style. I learned that the machinations of a good leader were in their methods and approaches. Their primary ways of handling personnel reflect on them, hence a crucial ingredient in their leadership style. Leaders do not have a hard time managing resource compared to managing people. The troubles of managing people result from the dynamics involved and the fact that people are different.
Leaders’ ways of handling people cover everything about the people too. I like to think of good leaders as effective resource managers and great leaders as efficient people managers. The employees define a business or organization and are paramount to manage them well for successful leadership. Great leaders have a better understanding of people and the dynamics in their activities. Understanding people’s emotions in organizations is a necessity for any leader, a concept commonly known as emotional intelligence (EI). Emotional intelligence is a necessity for all leaders and managers.
Leadership is about how seniors handle juniors, thus the need for those in power to understand those below them better. Even so, power and leadership are different and should not be mistaken. I want to be led by a person who understands me as a person and not a resource. For me, a good leader is a person who can adapt as needed to work with their followers on level ground. A leader must make a follower as comfortable as possible because it helps them feel free with the leader. They will be more open to that type of a leader.
Leadership and Personality
I have heard people being described as born leaders from the early stages of their lives. Some of those descriptions have turned out to be true while others did not turn out as predicted earlier on. I was always surprised by how people can make such predictions on people while they are young. The teachings of this week revealed to me the concepts behind predictions made on possesses. Those with natural leadership abilities have the qualities of good leaders ingrained in them in their personalities. Personality and people’s leadership qualities are related to their ability to read the environment and adjust accordingly. I learned in week two that high emotional intelligence was a recipe for good leadership. I can loosely conclude that EI and personality have some correlation.
I learned that openness to new experiences was a personality trait that significantly contributes to leadership. Leaders open themselves to new experiences when they understand their nature and emotions to lead them better. The differences in people are part of the trait of uniqueness. Now I know that a leader must appreciate the uniqueness of their followers, but it is also essential for them to recognize the unique element first. I have seen a diversification in personnel become an increasingly important element in the management of human resources. Bringing different people on board is crucial for creating a broader perspective net to boards and the workplace. I learned that personality dictated a person’s abilities and skills and, therefore, a crucial component for matching skills to tasks. The adoption of this approach has quickly been gaining traction in organizations around the world.
Evolution of Leadership Theories
Leadership Trait, Behavior and Contingency Theories
This week revealed more insights on what I had known before the beginning of the class became more precise due to theory. It turns out the phrase on an individual being a born-leader has a real side to it. I learned that this phrase resulted from one of the oldest leadership theories, the great man leadership theory. The great man leadership theory suggests that leaders are born and raised among other people. I found it insightful that the greatness of these great leaders is exhibited from very early in their lives. In the past, from history and even in film, leadership was considered hereditary. When leaders passed away, leadership roles were retained by members of their families, with heirs often selected using a comprehensive model. More often than not, the heir to any leadership position was raised assuming they would assume office in their lives and were expected to live a particular way of life.
I noticed they were groomed for everything they expected to experience in their adult life to become great leaders. Back then, this was just a film thing that I never thought past. The clarity I found in this confirmed that grooming leaders is instilling desirable leadership traits into a person. Effective leadership traits include decisiveness, need for achievement, self-confidence, initiative, supervisory ability, and intelligence. This was not limited to hereditary leaders but also to those who were exceptional. Supervisory abilities are a requirement that most great leaders should have because I think this defines the leadership style alongside emotional intelligence.
Leader-Member Exchange and Path-Goal Theory
The readings of this week and the theory discussed portrayed leadership as an iterative development: Most leaders operate in structured environments where followers can see the channels of communication and authority. I believe this was made to increase the transparency of leaders while maintaining the core processes and functions of an organization. I learned that most of this had changed over time to incorporate different leadership issues and their dynamics. Leaders are the heads and often have followers who believe and trust their leadership, making it paramount for them to behave accordingly.
Path-goal theory is centered on the concept of leaders’ behavior and its impacts on their followers. The theory was developed by House in 1971 to show the relationship between leaders’ behavior and their followers. It was later modified in 1974 by House and Mitchell to include two more behaviors (Harrison, 2018). The four behaviors of leaders in the revised model were supportive, achievement-oriented, directive and participative. I think these behaviors are directly associated with the way leaders behave and therefore are not inclusive. An ideal model should have coverage of the reverse function on how behaviors of followers impact the leadership of leaders.
The four components of leader behavior highlighted in the modified model of 1974 are still applicable to date. I believe leaders generally behave in one or more of the four in the model. Supportive leaders provide excellent environments for their followers’ growth by providing the help required for that. The achievement-oriented behaviors of leaders propagate outcomes and orientation to results between followers, an ideal ingredient for leaders in fields like processing and manufacturing. The directive leaders have a behavior that is suited for board positions where most of the decision-making is. I think participative leaders are best suited as supervisors and team leaders as they are more hands-on in their practice.
Contemporary Leadership Theories
From the excellent man leadership theory to leader-member exchange and path-goal theory, there has been a change in the styles, but fundamentals are still similar. Previous models had the core comprised of traits and behavior, but the modern landscape has changed. It is now clear that modern problems require modern solutions in many disciplines. Having a flexible leader who fancies a tactical approach to what they do is effective in the present. Most leaders choose to tailor local solutions for local problems and activities they are involved in. It is hard to find conservative leaders effective in this new leadership ecosystem.
Vision and objectives are the crucial elements of the core for these theories on leadership, but there is an additional element of followers and society. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reflects on leadership just as much as it does on an organization. Ethics and morals have also been adapted into leadership theories for more efficiency. Leadership styles have integrated diversity to add an extra dimension that fine-tunes the outcome of leadership functions. Unlike the past, I believe contemporary theories have the makings of successful tactics. Visionaries and transformational people make better leaders in this era as opposed to previous ones.
I believe contemporary leadership theories have the variety required in leadership for just about any discipline. If it were my duty to choose a leader in an organization now, I would go for options that suit the defined expectations of the role rather than the leader’s background. Charismatic leaders are visionaries who use their personalities for leadership to inspire their followers. Servant leadership comprises of the leaders whose primary focus is on the well-being and needs of others. I like to think of ethical leadership as a new avenue that incorporates modern-day issues into leadership. Those who know a domain, can communicate effectively, and have better judgment are optimal and well-rounded leaders.
Harrison, C. (2018). Leadership theory and research. Springer International Publishing AG.