The Reflective Leadership Essay

Leadership, Wow, I can’t say that I have ever studied about a word with so much meaning and diversity. Considering that there are many definitions of leadership and no one in particular is right or wrong. I want to explain what I believe is the key theories of leadership success within profit and non-profit organizations, which are the contingency theories of Situational Leadership and Transformational Leadership.

As with all leadership theories, the behaviors and attributes of the leader will directly influence the satisfaction and performance of subordinates, therefore it is essential that we discuss what makes these two theories most effective in terms of leadership success. The way I came to this realization about these two theories is really quite simple, they both relate to the needs of the subordinate in reference to their ability to effectively carry out task.

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I have seen first-hand how each theory is used to influence team members and in an attempt to reflect back on what I think effective leadership is, I want to start with the situational leadership theory and how it relates to the situational variables of everyday life. “Basically not everyone shares the same heredity in terms of natural traits and tendencies, nor the same upbringing, community, or life experiences. Heritable tendencies, including different learning styles, mixed with life experiences, form an inner core on which all future experiences are built layer by layer (Belasen & Frank, 2008)”.

For instance, with situational leadership, comes the need for appropriate types of leadership behaviors required for different levels of subordinate “maturity” in relation to the work being performed. For example as stated in our text, “a high-maturity subordinate has both the ability and confidence to do a task, whereas a low-maturity subordinate lacks ability and self-confidence ( Yukl, Dec 31, 2008, p. 235)”. Whether at home, at church or just about anywhere you go, you will notice different levels of maturity, while some levels of maturity re high and some low, if a leader knows what to look for in a subordinate it can prove to be most effective in terms of leadership success. For example, consider an individual with a low level of maturity, the leader should “use substantial task-oriented behavior and directive defining roles, clarifying standards and procedures, and monitoring progress on attainment of objectives ( Yukl, Dec 31, 2008)”. However, quite the opposite is true for a subordinate with high-maturity level. In this case the leader should use a low level of task-oriented and relations-oriented behaviors because of the subordinate’s ability to do the work without much direction or monitoring by the leader, and the confidence to work without much supportive behavior by the leader ( Yukl, Dec 31, 2008)”. I might add that when dealing with the different levels of maturity, it is important to remember that as maturity levels increase and decrease, so does the need for an increase or decrease in the amount of task-oriented behaviors.

Therefore, requiring the leader to provide more relations-oriented behaviors based on the different levels of subordinate maturity. Either way, when dealing with the maturity levels of subordinates, the leader should build a relationship based on understanding and trust by being supportive and consulting with peers on their concerns, while providing praise and attention. Furthermore, the most important aspect to remember that the key to successful managerial leadership is not just to recognize the opposing pressures placed on the managerial job, but knowing how to navigate across the roles to balance contradictory demands from diverse constituencies (Belasen & Frank, 2008)”. Therefore, if a relations-oriented behavior involves building relationships with peers, it can be considered one of the most effective attributes a leader needs influence followers and successfully move an organization forward.

Relationships and trust are inherent concerns for many organizations because they are valuable attributes that directly affect leadership effectiveness and organizational success. Understanding this accusation is being aware as technology increases and organizations grow more complex, so does the quality of trust and relationships, therefore making these elements critical to the success of the organization. As discussed above, being supportive and consulting with subordinates about their concerns, while providing praise and attention means actively communicating through group or one on one meetings to address concerns.

Personal or organizational strengths, challenges, weaknesses and liabilities are a few concerns. This strategic move can only be achieved through the use of structured questions to discuss the areas that needed to be improved or changed. Note that relationships and trust are always two sided which means not only can this relations-oriented behavior prove effective for the leader, it gives the subordinate the opportunity to express concerns related to the leaders abilities.

For example, if leadership abilities are questionable because of the complexity of the task, and there are strong relations-oriented behaviors based on trust and relationships across all levels of an organization, the issue of leadership abilities can be addressed openly. However, if leadership’s abilities are left unaddressed it can have a negative influence that could cause defiant behaviors among subordinates; therefore the use of Transformational Leadership Theory comes into play.

While Transformational Leadership begins with an awareness of our own beliefs and feelings, and how these beliefs and feelings affect the actions of the leader. As a leader’s awareness grows, they begin to see an inner motivating force that drives the passions and values that affect the thoughts, feelings and actions of others. Basically as a leader’s awareness increases, so does their perception. Perception allows them to choose actions openly meeting the needs of the situation and people around us, which is more powerful than a Situational Leadership style.

Transformational Leadership inspires wholeness of being, so that a leader’s thoughts, feelings and actions are consistent. Transformational leadership is about leading with honesty and legitimacy that inspires others to follow and eventually become leaders themselves. This stylish approach to leadership, guides its leaders from a competitive nature among individuals, teams or nations. The approach leads an association in understanding the whole situation, and leadership for the good of all.

For example, this style of leadership directs leaders from making a transaction at any cost. It forms lasting relationships and seeks reasonable outcomes; such as realizing a supportable vision that contributes to the welfare of everyone involved, not just the ones with the power and control. Much like the Situational Theory objectives of task and relations-oriented behaviors, the Transformational Leadership Theory focuses on developing a mutual trust among leaders and followers, while nurturing the leadership capabilities of thers. “First introduced by James MacGregor Burns during his study of political leadership, the term Transformational Leadership is now used in organizational psychology as well. Burns described it not as a set of specific behaviors, but rather an ongoing process by which leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of morality and motivation, Transformational leaders offer a purpose that transcends short-term goals and focuses on higher order intrinsic needs (Covey, 2007)”.

The Transformational Leadership Theory identifies four behaviors/processes needed to achieve leadership effectiveness, which include charisma, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, as well as consideration. These behaviors or processes attempt to support the claims surrounding this Transformational style of leadership. This theory states, that if a leader exhibits these qualities they will motivate subordinates to be high achievers and put the long-term interest of the organization ahead of their own short-term interest.

I will discuss these four concepts more in depth. First looking at the component of charisma which is the degree in which a leader performs his or her duties in commendable ways that causes peers to identify with the leaders values and beliefs. For instance, charismatic leaders may display beliefs, take stands and appeal to peers on an emotional levels based on the values or beliefs they establish. Not only will a charismatic leader demonstrate these values and beliefs in their actions, they will use them as a way to become a positive role model for their followers.

As with the trust that must be built between leaders and followers, it needs to be built on a moral and ethical foundation that prompts inspirational motivation. This is another Transformational component in which a leader expresses a vision that is both appealing and inspiring to followers. Leaders that use the component of inspirational motivation, challenge followers by setting high standards, communicate positivity about future goals, and provide a sense of significance for the task at hand.

Considering that this Transformational component requires the followers to maintain a sense of perseverance if they are to be motivated. It is inherently important that this idealistic aspect of leadership be supported with communication skills that aids in the expression of his or her vision. If one uses precision, power and persuasion, it will trigger yet another component, intellectual stimulation. With intellectual stimulation or the amount to which the leader challenges follower expectations, takes risks and solicits their ideas by stimulating and encouraging follower creativity.

As a result of follower support in a leader’s vision, it provides a foundation for followers to manage how they relate to the leader, organization and the goals set forth by the organization. Once this foundation is set, the follower can creatively overcome any difficulties in the way of the mission. As with many large organizations, the need for Individualized consideration or individualized attention arises as a component of the Transformational style of leadership requires the leader to attend follower needs on an individual bases.

During this individualization process the leader acts as a mentor and listens to the concerns and needs of the followers. This act of individual attention also involves the need for the leader to respect and celebrate the individual contributions made by each peer to achieve team success. A leader that harnesses this type of leadership trait and uses it effectively adds diversity to the team and gives it power. This approach not only educates the next cohort of leaders, but fulfills the individual needs for self-actualization, fulfillment. This naturally propels followers to further success and growth.

When analyzing these leadership theories and how they are affected by group culture, personal values, globalization and performance results, we have to consider the leadership behaviors that have a positive effect on the follower’s performance. We often hear that true leaders are born and not made, however once groups are formed, there always seems to be one individual that emerges from the group and takes on the role of leadership, which is a very good indication that the roles and behaviors of leadership vary from one situation to the next. For instance, situational leaders are able to adapt their leadership style to fit their followers and situations in which they are working by making conscious choices between the use of directive behavior or supportive behavior ( Erven, 2001, p. 1)”. For a leader to use a directive behavior, they must rely on providing structure, control and close supervision of the followers, whereas with a supportive behavior, the leader relies on praise, two-way communication, and supporting the work of the individual or group.

Characterized as the most popular approach to understanding leadership effectiveness, Transformational leadership theory rests on the claim that certain leader behaviors can arouse followers to a higher level of thinking. Much like the supportive behavior found in the situational leadership theory, Transformational leadership effectiveness depends on the four dimensions of leader behavior mentioned earlier. Idealized influence, Inspirational motivation, Intellectual stimulation and Individualized consideration all build a positive relationship between leader and follower.

With all of the leadership theories and the behaviors that coincide with each theory, there is still the question of whether or not there is such a thing as a born leader. While I am convinced that there are individuals who are born with leadership skills there are those that are taught the leadership skills required to become effective leaders. Furthermore, after studying about all of the possible leadership scenarios and leadership skills available to man, it is imperative for effective leadership that they be taught and implement in our daily lives.

In conclusion, I wrote about my views of effective leadership, which all involved trust and relationships, problems and solutions. Using the theories and characteristics described here along with my reflections on what leadership should consist of, I have a few commitments that define my leadership ability and serves as controlling ideologies for my future growth and development as an effective leader.

Much like the characteristics of a situational and transformational leader, my obligations are as follows: building trust; maintaining a moral purpose; building meaningful relationships with peers while sharing the responsibility of decision making processes; accepting change as a process and not just a power move; reveling success on an individual and group basis; provide meaning and joy in the work; mentoring others in a professional way while maintaining a balance between work and family demands.

Therefore, as I continue to progress as a leader, I anticipate that my experiences, beliefs, and ideas may actually influence my own perceptions of what it takes to be an effective leader. In the final analysis, it is difficult to briefly define leadership because effective leadership in theory and practice is difficult and multidimensional.

Therefore, with all of the different leadership theories and characteristics, it is imperative that leaders do not limit themselves to just a select few, because as we all know, as situations change so does the need for a different leadership approach. To me that’s what determines the effectiveness of leadership. Furthermore, true leaders have a responsibility to the organization to work jointly and willingly with peers, in finding solutions that provide an effective leadership foundation.

References
Erven, B. L. (2001). Becoming an Effective Leader through Situational Leadership. Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics. Yukl, G. (Dec 31, 2008). Leadership for Organizations Seventh Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Belasen, A., & Frank, N. (2008). Competing values leadership: quadrant roles and personality traits. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 29(2), 127-143. Covey, S. (2007). The Transformational Leadership Report. Retrieved Jan. 30, 2011, from Developing Tomorrows Transformational Leaders Today: http://www.transformationalleadership.net/products/TransformationalLeadershipReport.pdf

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