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Leadership in a "Nutshell"
Leadership is the art of influencing others to accomplish individual and organizational goals by providing purpose, direction, and motivation. Management is the process of working with and through individuals and groups and other resources such as equipment, capital, and technology to accomplish organizational goals. There are several distinctions between leadership and management. Warren Bennis, one of the foremost experts on the scholastics of leadership, differentiated the extremes of leadership and management by stating that “Leaders conquer the context–the volatile, turbulent, ambiguous surroundings that sometimes seem to conspire against us and will surely suffocate us if we let them–while managers surrender to it.”(Bennis, p.12) There are a number of ways to distinguish the differences between leadership and management.
Take for example the following: The leader is innovative and creative; the manager is administrative. The leader is an original; the manager is a copy. While the leader develops, the manager maintains. A leader inspires trust; the manager relies on control. The leader is forward thinking with his or her eye on the horizon while the manager has an eye on the bottom line. Leaders challenge the status quo while managers accept it. Finally, Leaders do right things; managers do things right. General Colin Powell, one of the greatest military leaders of our times has said, “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management say is possible.” In today’s business world developing and implementing an effective strategy is vital to obtaining and maintaining a competitive advantage.
The Importance of Leadership to Effective Strategy Development and Implementation
As stated in the previous section, change requires leaders as opposed to managers. Leaders are vital in today’s fast-changing markets. The text summarizes the importance of leadership by addressing what leaders are – “Industry leaders are proactive agents of change, not reactive followers and analyzers. Moreover, they improvise, experiment, develop options, and adapt rapidly.” (Thompson, Strickland, & Gamble, 208) Strategy equals execution. All the great ideas and visions in the world are worthless if they can’t be implemented rapidly and efficiently. Good leaders delegate and empower others liberally, but they pay attention to details, every day. (Think about supreme athletic coaches like Jimmy Johnson, Pat Riley and Tony La Russa). Bad ones, even those who fancy themselves as progressive “visionaries,” think they’re somehow “above” operational details. Paradoxically, good leaders understand something else: an obsessive routine in carrying out the details begets conformity and complacency, which in turn dulls everyone’s mind. That is why even as they pay attention to details, they continually encourage people to challenge the process. They implicitly understand the sentiment of CEO leaders like Quad Graphic’s Harry Quadracchi, Oticon’s Lars Kolind and the late Bill McGowan of MCI, who all independently asserted that the Job of a leader is not to be the chief organizer, but the chief dis-organizer.
Leaders are the ambassadors to change. One of the most known statements concerning change, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It’s an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms. It’s a mind-set that assumes (or hopes) that today’s realities will continue tomorrow in a tidy, linear and predictable fashion. Pure fantasy. In this sort of culture, you won’t find people who pro-actively take steps to solve problems as they emerge. A great way to understand the expectations of employees is to simply ask them what they need from a leader.
Employee Perceptions of what Constitutes Effective Leadership
In an effort to get the “reality” behind this topic a survey was conducted using the senior leadership (First Sergeants) under my command within the Montgomery Army Recruiting Battalion. The summary of their responses is that the leaders they have looked up to in their careers have all had the following traits: Good leaders will point out faults, take corrective action but always end on a positive. Motivation is always key – creating an infectious, up beat attitude that fosters a positive work environment. Great leaders are not afraid to listen to their subordinates and would admit that some good ideas come from below. Empowering subordinates to take on more challenges creates and develops our leaders for the future. Reading people and developing rewards that make individuals push to their potential is key to creating a winning team. Strong leaders are comfortable with themselves and do not attempt to recreate themselves to please others. Employees agree that effective leaders share certain characteristics, but what are they?
Characteristics of Effective Leaders
Character–who you are–contributes significantly to how you act. Character helps you know what’s right and do what’s right, all the time and at whatever the cost. Character is made up of two interacting parts: values and attributes. Stephen Ambrose, speaking about the Civil War, says “at the pivotal point in the war it was always the character of individuals that made the difference.” Leaders must be those critical individuals of character themselves and in turn develop character in those they lead.
Some characteristics of effective leaders include values and attributes. Some of the values demonstrated by effective leaders are: Loyalty – bear true faith and allegiance to the organization and subordinates. Duty – taking initiative, doing what is right in the absence of direction. Respect – treat people as they should be treated. Selfless service – place the needs of the organization and subordinates above your own. Lastly, Integrity – do what’s right, legally and morally. Values tell us part of what the leader must be; the other side of what a leader must be is the attributes. Leader attributes influence leader actions; leader actions, in turn, always influence the organization. As an example, if you’re physically fit, you’re more likely to inspire your subordinates to be physically fit. Some of the attributes of effective leaders include mental, physical, and emotional attributes. The mental attributes of a leader include will, self-discipline, initiative, judgment, self-confidence, intelligence, and cultural awareness. Physical attributes–health fitness, physical fitness, and professional bearing–can be developed. Leaders maintain the appropriate level of physical fitness and professional bearing. As a leader, your emotional attributes (self-control, balance, and stability) contribute to how you feel and therefore to how you interact with others. Your people are human beings with hopes, fears, concerns, and dreams. When you understand that will and endurance come from emotional energy, you possess a powerful leadership tool. The feedback you give can help your subordinates use their emotional energy to accomplish amazing feats in tough times. Leadership skills, like any other must be developed.
How can one Develop Leadership Skills Required for Today’s Rapidly Changing Environment?
Too often, people who cling to familiar turfs and job descriptions stifle change. One reason that even large organizations wither is that managers won’t challenge old, comfortable ways of doing things. But real leaders understand that, nowadays, every one of our jobs is becoming obsolete. The proper response is to obsolete our activities before someone else does. Effective leaders create a climate where people’s worth is determined by their willingness to learn new skills and grab new responsibilities, thus perpetually reinventing their jobs. The most important question in performance evaluation becomes not, “How well did you perform your job since the last time we met?” but, “How much did you change it?”
The text discusses the capability-building process as a three-stage process. Stage one – develop the ability to do something by selecting the right people with the required skills and experience then shaping them in collaboration with efforts and work products to create organizational ability. Stage two – practice makes perfect. As experience grows and leaders become more efficient and effective, ability evolves into competence. And finally, stage three – polish and refine. (Thompson, Strickland, & Gamble, 325)
It is a firm belief by many that self-development is more necessary now than ever before. Leaders seek responsibility and take responsibility for their actions. There are many articles that can help leaders self-develop.
Summary of Findings from Three Articles Concerning Leadership
The Leadership Advantage by Warren Bennis
Bennis discusses the concept of generating intellectual capital as a leader stating that, “In a knowledge economy, leaders cannot command employees to work harder, smarter, or faster. Without leaders who can attract and retain talent, manage knowledge, and unblock people’s capacity to adapt and innovate, an organization’s future is in jeopardy.” He also addresses the qualities of a leader. Using effective research the author found Harvard University indicates that 85 percent of a leader’s performance depends on personal character. Serving the needs of those workers is a new leadership imperative. Effective leaders bring passion, perspective, and significance to the process of defining organizational purpose. The article also explains that people want leaders to provide context. Leaders have honesty that creates trust among employees and fosters hope within the organization. These are measured by the level of effectiveness (results) that are realized by the organization. Finally, the author explains “Exemplary leaders believe they have a responsibility to extend people’s growth and to create an environment where people constantly learn.”
Leading Transition: A New Model for Change by William Bridges and Susan Mitchell Bridges
The authors do a great job in addressing change in today’s business world. As we have already learned, business conditions change and yesterday’s assumptions and practices no longer work. Leaders need to coach and mentor subordinates through the transition process. In the past leaders could simply order the changes to happen. Whereas today transition is the state that change puts people into. The authors put it nicely by stating “The change is external (the different policy, practice, or structure that the leader is trying to bring about), while transition is internal (a psychological reorientation that people have to go through before the change can work).” An issue with transition is that most leaders imagine it as automatic – that it occurs simply because the change is happening. The article also discusses the format that no training program can prepare a leader for managing transition and that it is only experience that can overcome training deficiencies.
Creative Leadership by Max De Pree
This article impressed me with its belief that leaders want to encourage creative and innovative employees. It is all about creativity. A leader acts as a buffer between bureaucracy and legalism that is prevalent throughout business today. Creative people are used to foster an attitude of drive and self-satisfaction amongst the employees. A great line in the article reads, “creative people can be great teachers; leaders prepare the classroom.” Creative employees still need to have reigns put on them so as to not disrupt the good order and discipline of the company. These employees desire a fundamental level of trust and as stated earlier in this paper only honesty can create that trust. I like to equate this article to a term “If the baby is ugly, it’s ugly.”
There are many arguments on whether people are born to be leaders or must learn how to be leaders. We have discussed many items throughout this paper. Some of the items may be controversial to some whereas most would agree that leadership is an art. There is a significant difference between those who lead and those who manage. Leaders seek out change and take advantage of the opportunities for change. They are ever mindful that change in today’s world is essential for maintaining a competitive advantage. Leader’s are “out front” when developing and implemented strategic operations. They can do this because they are grounded by firm values and have the necessary attributes to effectively influence others to accomplish agreed upon goals. Leaders are always learning, gaining valuable experience from their own leaders, peers, and subordinates. Self-development is essential in “sharpening the saw” of leadership. Leader’s learn and grow on a daily basis.
Bennis, Warren “The Leadership Advantage” Leader to Leader. 12 (Spring 1999).
Bridges, William, and Susan Mitchell Bridges “Leading Transition: A New Model for
Change” Leader to Leader. 16 (Spring 2000).
De Pree, Max “Creative Leadership” Leader to Leader. 20 (Spring 2001).
Thompson, Jr., Arthur A, Strickland III, A.J., & Gamble, John E. (2005). Crafting and
Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage, Concepts and Cases 14th
edition. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
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