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Vision of a Great Leader

Leadership Photo 5

The above quote captures the very essence of what my vision of great leadership is.  I first saw this inspirational quote in my former manager’s office and it caught my attention right away.  It shows what a great leader is capable of doing.  Great leaders realize the best qualities and strengths in their employees and try to push them to perform at their highest potential.  Their employees may not always be aware of the capabilities they possess at first, but, true leaders have the knowledge and ability to bring out the very best in their employees.

My father possesses the leadership skills that I eventually want to develop.  He has worked in the pharmaceutical industry for 34 years and held numerous leadership positionsThrough his actions as a father and a friend, he has shown me the qualities I want to foster one day as a leader, myself.  He is a very inspirational person, pushes me to be the very best in whatever I do, and is the most supportive and motivational person I have ever known.  After graduating from college, I struggled with the idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  For the next few years, I held a variety of internships and jobs, none of which lasted longer than 2 years.  During this time, I felt like my career wasn’t progressing like I wanted it to, but he was always there to support me as I changed directions.  All my life, my father has been encouraging and motivating me to believe in myself. He has offered advice and guidance while still allowing me to make my own decisions and to enjoy the successes as well as suffer the consequences.  I hope to one day inspire and lead individuals in the same way.

As of yet, I don’t know what type of leader I am, however, I would like to develop a charismatic and transformational leadership style.  The two styles are very similar to one another.  Transformational leaders, a concept first introduced by James MacGregor Burns in 1978, “stimulate and inspire followers to both achieve extraordinary outcomes and, in the process, develop their own leadership capacity” (Bass and Riggio 2008).  There are four very important characteristics of transformational leadership, they are: inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, idealised influence, and individual consideration.

transformational-leadership

Charismatic leadership theory, developed by Weber in 1947, articulates “an innovative strategic vision, showing sensitivity to member needs, displaying unconventional behaviour, taking personal risks, and showing sensitivity to the environment,” (Yukul 1999: 293).

Not only do I think these leadership styles are important to adopt, but I would also want to be led by someone with these characteristics.  Unlike laissez-faire and authoritarian styles, transformational and charismatic leadership offers a more personal approach.  They focus more on employees’ needs while motivating and inspiring.  Rather than just focusing on the bottom line, these styles aim to optimise individual performance, which in my opinion is a better way to increase efficiency and effectiveness in most employees.

During week one of my Leading in a Changing World module as part of my global MBA studies at Coventry University London Campus, I was placed into a small group of six students and we were asked to participate in weekly group activities.  At the end of each activity, team members were asked to give feedback to one another in the hopes of improving certain leadership skills.  By the end of this module, I received incredible feedback which will, without a doubt, help me improve several of my key leadership skills.  The following table illustrates some of my strengths and weaknesses that were mentioned:

 

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

Very supportive and quick to give praise for a job well done Needs to improve in the feedback exercises; doesn’t like to list people’s weaknesses
Looks at approaches from different perspectives Better time management skills
Treats other team members with respect Lack of confidence
Great communication skills Inclined to over worry about situations
Extremely organised and goal oriented Indecisive
Great attention to detail Reluctant to delegate tasks
A hardworking individual Can be a nit-picker

 

In week two, my group was asked to build a Lego tower while blindfolded, using specific instructions such as, the tower had to be built with alternating colours.  I found it difficult for me to convey to my blindfolded teammate which Lego piece to pick up and where it was on the table, however my teammates noticed during this exercise that I was very supportive and encouraging during the process, and once the right Lego was chosen, I praised them enthusiastically.  One area in which I need to improve is providing critical feedback.  After each activity, everyone was asked to provided positive and negative feedback to fellow teammates.  I know it’s necessary for leaders to be able to do this, but I found it difficult to provide critical feedback face to face with my teammates.  However, by the end of the module, it was easier for me.  I believe with additional experience I will be better able to provide direct critical feedback and to improve my other weaknesses listed in the table above.

Throughout this module, I have not only learned about, but have been able to practice effective leadership styles.  Managers and leaders need to be aware of specific aspects of the workplace, including diversity, change management and business ethics, and they need to have the knowledge and tools to be able to address them in a productive way.  This module has helped me to do this and has improved my leadership skills in general.

 

References

Yukl, G. (1999). An Evalutaion of Conceptual Weakness in Transformational and Charismatic Leadership Theories. The Leadership Quarterly, 10 (2), 285-305

Bass, B. and Riggio, R. (2008). Transformational Leadership. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

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Leadership vs. Management Styles

Is there a difference between a manager and a leader?  Although they share similarities, there are clear differences between the two.  According to Michael Maccoby (2000), a world-renowned expert in leadership, “Management is a function that must be exercised in any business, leadership is a relationship between leader and led that can energize an organization.”

Leadership Pic

Both roles are crucial in an organisation, however, all too often, the two terms are used interchangeably.  It is important to understand the similarities and differences between the two.

Kris Parfitt (2009), Operations Manager at Lenati, points out several comparable characteristics between good managers and good leaders, all of which aim to encourage commitment, action and personal growth: taking responsibility, active listening, consideration and courtesy, open communication, demonstrating intellectual and emotional aptitude, good judgment, open mindedness, and a focus on immediate, intermediate and long-term achievement, as well as others.

While there are many obvious similarities between the two roles, the differences outweigh the similarities.  Effective leaders and managers often have different personality styles.  Leaders are frequently described as brilliant, courageous, charismatic, risk takers, aloof, imaginative and especially motivating.  Their ideas of success typically focus on achievements.  Managers, on the other hand, are often described as rational, problem-solvers, goal oriented, persistent, analytical and intelligent.  Managers’ ideas of success generally center on results.

According to Kotter (2012), the table below describes the typical approaches to tasks for managers and leaders.

MANAGEMENT

LEADERSHIP

Planning and budgeting Creating vision and strategy
Organising and staffing Communicating and setting direction
Controlling and problem solving Motivating action
Taking complex systems of people and technology and making them run efficiently and effectively, hour after hour, day after day

Creating systems that managers can manage and transforming them when needed to allow for growth, evolution, opportunities, and hazard avoidance

  Aligning people

“A management model is the choices made by a company’s top executives regarding how they define objectives, motivate effort, coordinate activities and allocate resources; in other words, how they define the work of management,” (Birkinshaw and Goddard 2009). When describing management techniques, three models stand out: Douglas McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y, Max Weber’s Principles of Bureaucracy and Henri Fayol’s Principles of Management.

McGregor, a social psychologist, thought that there were two types of employees; those who dislike work, are unambitious and avoid responsibility (Theory X) and those who are relatively self-motivated and use their intellect and creativity in working toward organisational objectives without external pressure and who readily accept responsibility (Theory Y). Supervising Theory X employees requires an “authoritarian management style” which uses directives and punishment threats as motivation. Supervising Theory Y employees entails a “participative management style” which offers recognition and rewards as motivation. I believe today’s management should have the flexibility to use an appropriate combination of both depending on the personality of the employee. McGregor’s theory is too black and white and most employees fall somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes (Manktelow 2014).

McGregor Theory X and Theory Y

Weber, a founding figure of modern sociology, introduced his Theory of Bureaucracy in the late 1800’s, advocating that organisations should manage employees in an impersonal and hierarchical way, with strict rules, regulations and division of labour. The following video describes his theory in greater detail:

While there are advantages to Weber’s theory such as rapid decision making and working efficiently, I think the disadvantages outweigh them. In this type of organisation, individuals who are self-motivated and enjoy using their intellect and creativity (the majority of people, according to McGregor) would be demoralised and dissatisfied. Under these conditions, innovation and teamwork is discouraged and the organisation would be less able to adapt to changing business conditions.

Fayol, often referred to as the father of management, first introduced his 14 Principles of Management in 1916. They explain how managers should organise and relate to their employees in a productive manner. The 14 principles are listed and described in the table below (Manktelow 2014).

Fayol Principles of Management

Even though current managers find Fayol’s principles common sense, they paved the way for successful management in the early 1900’s. His theory serves as the foundation for many future management theorists. It is still considered the most comprehensive and is offered as a reference to assist managers today.

Because no two people are alike, effective managers must be able to employ a variety of management styles depending on the personality of the individual being managed. It is important for managers to understand what motivates each employee and implement the style that maximises their productivity.

Of these three managerial theories, and my research on others, I would want to be managed using a combination of Fayol’s principles and McGregor’s “participative management style” because I’m self-motivated and enjoy applying my ingenuity and creativity. Since I desire a limited amount of direction, I find a democratic leadership style more motivating than an autocratic or laissez-faire one.

I leave you with this video of quotes from some of history’s greatest leaders.  I hope you find it as inspirational as I do!

References

Birkinshaw, J. and Goddard, J. (2009) What is Your Management Model? [online] available from <http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/what-is-your-management-model/> [25 May 2014]

Kotter, J. (2012) Change Leadership [online] available from <http://www.kotterinternational.com/our-principles/change-leadership> [26  2014]

Maccoby, M. (2000) Understanding the Difference Between Management and Leadership [online] available from <http://www.maccoby.com/Articles/UtDBMaL.shtml> [26 May 2014]

Manktelow, J. (2014) Henri Fayol’s Principles of Management [online] available from <http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/henri-fayol.htm> [25 May 2014]

Manktelow, J. (2014) Theory X and Theory Y: Understanding Team Member Motivation [online] available from <http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_74.htm> [26 May 2014]

Parfitt, K. (2009) Are Leadership and Management the Same Thing? [online] available from <http://careerrocketeer.com/2009/08/are-leadership-and-management-the-same-thing.html> [26 May 2014]

Sentenn Capital Investments (2009) Great Quotes from Great Leaders [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCE_9hoRWlk> [25 May 2014]

Vonteese, D. (2013) Bureaucracy Max Weber’s Theory of Impersonal Management Free Principles of Management [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiKa9BHS5c0&list=PLpamLSgDwJ3egdH5VFZ6PiRc4zDpPc_Wt> [25 May 2014]

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Diverse Teams Produce Better Results

 

Donald Fan, senior director in the Office of Diversity at Walmart, says that “diverse teams often outperform teams composed of the very best individuals, because this diversity of perspective and problem-solving approach trumps individual ability,” (2014).

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What is the definition of diversity?  Ask a thousand people and you will get a thousand different answers.  Diversity can be defined by age, gender, race, religion, culture, upbringing, sexual orientation, lifetime experiences, skill, etc.  In today’s global world, it is important to understand that every individual views problems and solutions in different ways.  We all learn from our own experiences and bring new thoughts and ideas to the table; no two people are alike.  Thus teams composed of diverse individuals will approach problems from a wide variety of perspectives and be able to generate a variety of successful solutions.

Diversity is critical for a global organisation to compete and succeed in today’s modern business world given that these teams are well led.  Therefore, the ability to lead a diverse team is a crucial skill for leaders to possess.  Diversity, especially in the workplace, promotes creativity, innovation and problem solving (WISELI 2010).

In the video above, Leadership and…Strengthening a Diverse Team, Ron Desi highlights ten ways to strengthen a diverse team in order to succeed in the workplace.

  1. “Celebrate what you have in common.” Highlighting the team’s common interests and goals will help develop a sense of belonging and build emotional connections which will induce better teamwork and produce better results.
  2. “Reward differences.” For team members to feel comfortable in sharing different ideas and visions, leaders must recognise and reward diverse contributions. This will help to engender good teamwork and strengthen the team’s output.
  3. “Be clear on team roles.” Every team member must know exactly what their individual role is to fully contribute to the team’s common goal.
  4. “Provide a clear vision.” Leaders need to clearly and unambiguously communicate objectives and direction for achieving team goals.
  5. “Never tolerate discrimination.” Leaders should never allow any bigotry or prejudices. Otherwise the value of the team’s diversity will be undermined.
  6. “Obtain quick wins.” Since diverse teams generally take longer to build cohesiveness, it is important to set early targets and to celebrate quick successes to build team effectiveness and create unity.
  7. “Be a true leader.” Effective leaders offer guidance, support and advice which help each individual contribute to their full potential.
  8. “Have patience.” Successful leaders allow diverse teams time to build cohesiveness to maximise team effectiveness.
  9. “Volunteer.” Leaders should provide opportunities for their team to volunteer as a unit outside of the office. This will help build good relationships and lead to a successful team.
  10. “The ‘old’ rules still apply.” As a leader of a diverse team, be sure to inspire open communication between team members and with the leader, establish team and individual accountabilities, and reward good individual ideas as well as team accomplishments.

By following these ten guidelines, leaders will be able to successfully manage diverse teams and ensure that their teams will produce better results in the workplace (Desi 2010).

Diversity Photo 5

While it’s extremely important for leaders of a diverse team to understand what guidelines to follow to help improve team members’ productivity, it is equally important for leaders to understand “what diversity is not about.”  According to the Chartered Management Institute, diversity is not about diminishing quality, eliminating prejudices, politically correct appearances, filling a quota or a distraction from the team’s purpose (Chartered Management Institute 2007).

Moving abroad to earn an MBA in Global Business from Coventry University London Campus has opened my eyes to a world of diversity.  Understanding my own cultural background, values and experientially-based beliefs in comparison to others has encouraged me to appreciate the value of diverse thinking and approaches to issues.  Throughout my studies, students have been assigned group activities and projects which demonstrate the value of some of Desi’s ten guidelines for building successful diverse teams.

For one of our group activities, students were divided into diverse teams and assigned a scavenger hunt.  As a result of the contributions of the diverse classmates, my team was able to designate individual responsibilities, establish communication channels, and set an intermediate goal to review progress.  One of my team members couldn’t complete her task.  However, she quickly communicated this to the team allowing us to discuss the problem and identify an alternate solution.  The wide range of solutions provided by the different teams, taught me the importance of establishing unambiguous goals.  This activity also demonstrated the value of establishing communication channels and assigning individual responsibilities with holding both the team and individual members accountable.

In today’s global business world, diversity will continue to increase.  Thus, it’s vital for leaders to not only embrace diversity but also to possess the skill sets needed to successfully leverage the potential of a diverse team to produce maximum results.

Diversity Photo 10

References

Chartered Management Institute (2007) Embracing Diversity: Guidance for Managers [online] available from <http://www.managers.org.uk/sites/default/files/u23/Info_for_Employers_Embracing_Diveristy.pdf> [12 May 2014]

Desi, R. (2010) Leadership and…Strengthening a Diverse Team [online] available from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uv08ObnMOzI> [12 May 2014]

DiversityInc (2011) Proof That Diversity Drives Innovation [online] available from <http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-management/proof-that-diversity-drives-innovation/> [13 May 2014]

WISELI (2010) Benefits and Challenges of Diversity in Academic Settings [online] available from <http://wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/docs/Benefits_Challenges.pdf> [12 May 2014]