Thoughts on leadership

Today, modern business organizations are facing complex pressures driven by competition, talent retention and retention, globalization, economic expectations, technology innovation, energy trends, diverse workforce, environmental sustainability, corporate responsibility, proliferation of the Internet, etc. The main points are that it is not a formula for success to maintain the status quo or do marginally better. Change management and adaptation are increasingly needed in order to set direction, to identify priorities, to manage complexity and to deliver exceptional results.

John Kotter, Konosuke Matshushita Professor of Leadership at Harvard argues that “Most American companies are over-managed and under management.” In essence, today’s leadership tasks require leadership and leadership skills with varying degrees of focus. The higher we go on the corporate ladder, the greater the demand for leadership skills. Therefore, the ever-changing environment we face requires more leadership from more people. To cope with these forces, good mastery of management and leadership skills is essential to marshal and manage any organization effectively. Therefore, there is a great need to institutionalize leadership development. “Instituting a leadership-centric culture – where the company rewards people who successfully develop leaders – is the ultimate leadership act.” (Kotter 51-65, 1999).

Leadership differs from leadership

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines leader as “a person who, by the power of examples or qualities of leadership, plays an instructive role, exerts a commanding influence, or has a say in any sphere of activity.” The strength of leadership comes from enrolling minds to a common cause or vision and releasing inherent motivation to achieve extraordinary results. This means that anyone in an organization can be a leader, whether that person is formally identified as such. In fact, informal leaders are extremely important to the effectiveness of most organizations.

Allen Scherr and Michael Jensen (2-4) offered in their recent Barbados Group Working Paper that “a leader is an ordinary human being with both a commitment to delivering a result – the realization of which would be remarkable and visionary in the light of current circumstances. – and the integrity to perform with this commitment to achieve the desired results. “An important idea of ​​this definition is that” integrity “in the sense of leadership includes honoring your word – and that means either keeping your word or acknowledge that one will not keep it, and clean up any mess that causes for those who were expecting this word to be preserved. ”(Erhard et al. 36).

Kotter defines leadership as dealing with complexity, planning and budgeting, organizing and staffing, control and problem solving. To this end, I have argued that leadership involves setting goals and objectives, establishing detailed plans to achieve goals, allocating resources, establishing organizational structure, delegating authority and responsibility, monitoring results vs. plan, identify deviations from the plan, and plan and organize solutions (51-65, 1999). Therefore, what great leaders have in common is an understanding of their strengths and an understanding of their limitations. When they are aware that performance is related to how well they find out the pressures and priorities of their particular job, they find a course that works for them. According to Sternberg, “finding this individual path to success is the hallmark of managerial intelligence.” (314-315).

Management is basically about minimizing risk and maximizing compliance and predictability. In comparison, leadership handles the unknown, the dreams and the vision that creates breakthroughs. Therefore, what one person considers possible may be a dream to another. The subject of management is one in which the results to be produced are accompanied by greater risk and uncertainty than is usually considered acceptable in the management field. A scientific gem from the Renaissance was Machiavelli’s Prince (1513/1962). Machiavellis’s thesis is as good today as it was in 1513. It stated that “there is nothing more difficult to grasp, more dangerous to implement, or more uncertain in its success than to advance in the introduction of a new order of things. “

Clearly, both leadership and leadership are essential to a well-functioning organization. It is critical to emphasize and understand Kotter’s sharp conclusion about tensions between leadership and leadership: “… Even more fundamentally, leadership and leadership differ in their primary function. The first can produce useful changes, the second can produce orderly results there. does not mean that leadership is never associated with change; together with effective leadership it can help produce a more orderly process of change, nor does it mean that leadership is never connected with order; on the contrary, together with effective leadership, an effective leadership process can help produce the changes needed to bring a chaotic situation under control. ”(Kotter 7, 1990). This conflict can be useful; However, it is not a trivial exercise. Proper balance is important for both short term and long term business.

Leadership is about being comfortable with change and understanding that the status quo works against progress in most cases. Every quarter and every month there are changes – things are constantly moving. While others may not be aware of this, leaders assume it. Knowing that change is inevitable, the true leader seeks positive change for a purpose and for the better. Kotter defines leadership as consisting of the following three elements: 1) establishing direction, 2) aligning people, and 3) motivating and inspiring them. This is a great definition, but the paper by Allan Scherr and Michael Jensen adds further insight into the leadership field by agreeing with Kotter’s work, but adding two more elements: “Communicating Collapse and Managing Collapse.” (Scherr, Jensen 4).

Legendary leader Jack Welch noted in a WSJ editorial (2004) that after 30 years of leadership, he knows what managers look and act like. His process assesses four essential features (each starting with an E, a nice coincidence): 1) great positive energy, 2) ability to activate others, 3) the edge or courage to make tough yes-or-no decisions, and 4) Execution is followed through to get the job done. I have completed his assessment with an observation on integrity and general intelligence as necessary attributes to complete the profile of a strong leader type.

As we gather, no leadership definitions are missing. The many dimensions into which leadership has been thrown can make the topic ambiguous. Nevertheless, the definitions are sufficiently similar to find common ground. Leadership has been conceived as an exercise of influence, as a function of personality, as a form of persuasion, as special behavior, as a means of achieving future visions, as an approach to inducing engagement, as a creative mindset, as a performance instrument. , and as a mixture of such notions.

Situational theories of leadership

The researchers’ inability to definitively recognize all dimensions of leadership resulted in the development of four popular situational theory of leadership. These theories suggest that the most effective leadership style depends on situational variables, especially the characteristics of the group and the nature of the task.

Hersey and Blanchard developed a “Situational Leadership” model that harmonized different combinations of task behavior and relationship behavior with followers’ maturity. Depending on the subordinates’ readiness, the appropriate leadership style tells first; then sell; then join; and finally, too much mature followers, delegate (Vecchio 334-350).

The most extensively studied situational leadership theory is Fred Fiedler’s “Contingency Theory” about leadership. Fiedler used the LPC scale to measure the manager’s orientation toward either the task or the person. The most appropriate leadership style was then determined by assessing three situational variables: whether the relationship between the leader and members was good or bad, whether the task was structured or unstructured, and whether the leadership position was strong or weak. When these three situational variables created an extremely favorable or extremely unfavorable situation, the most effective leadership style was a task-oriented (low LPC) leader. However, a leader with high concern for interpersonal relationships (high LPC) was more effective in situations where there were intermediate levels of distributability (Ayman et al. 351-377).

The “Path Goal” model is another situational management theory. This theory is derived from expectancy theory and suggests that effective leaders should clarify the objectives and increase the target attraction for followers. Four different leadership styles are proposed in the model: directive, supportive performance-oriented, and participative leadership style. The most appropriate style depends on two types of situational factors: the characteristics of the follower and the characteristics of the environment. Three of the most important trait attributes include the place of control, authoritarianism and personal ability. The three environmental factors include the nature of the task, the formal system of authority in the organization, and the norms and dynamics of the group (House et al. 259-273).

Vroom and Yetton’s “Normative Decision-Making” model is also a situational leadership theory as it identifies the appropriate styles leaders need to make decisions. The three leadership styles include autocratic decision making, advisory decision making, and group decision making. The decision titles that determine which style is most appropriate include questions such as whether the manager has enough information to make the decision alone, whether the subordinates will accept the organization’s goals, whether the subordinates will accept the decision if they do not participate in making it, and whether the decision will provide a controversial solution (Vroom 278).

Although most of the literature on leadership highlights the influence of the leader on the group, the influence of the group on the leader should not be overlooked. The relationship between the leader and the group implies a mutual influence. Groups have the capacity to influence the behavior of their leaders by selectively responding to specific leadership behaviors. The influence of a leader can also be limited by several external factors, such as organizational policies, group norms, and individual skills and abilities. Other variables have been shown to neutralize or replace a leader’s influence, such as followers’ abilities and abilities and the nature of the task itself.

Handling breakthrough for breakthrough performance

It is difficult to predict with certainty that the achievement of future visions will happen without the occurrence of some setbacks. Breakdowns are situations where the team is aware that the current plan is not working. Contrary to popular belief, breakdowns can be transformed into the driving force behind breakthroughs. This concept is well captured by the saying: “necessity is the mother of invention”. Divisions are opportunities for a truly committed team to find alternative solutions; this only happens by identifying the problem and working on it as a team. In broadening the concept of division, there are two essential elements of any breakdown: 1) the obligation and 2) recognition and recognition that, given the current course and speed, the commitment will not be realized.

First, if there is no obligation, there will never be a distribution; because in the absence of obligations, what happens is acceptable. So when there is no buy-in and commitment is unclear or vague, the existence of a breakdown is urgent and may not even be visible to some or all of the people involved. Second, to the extent that one can accurately predict the outcome of the current course, breakdowns will be identified earlier, thereby increasing the likelihood of problems being resolved. On the other hand, to the extent that we do not see that the forecast for the current approach is failure, no collapse will be noticed or, if it is, it will probably be too late to overcome the obstacles (Scherr, Allen 13-14 ).

The act of managing and communicating the existence of breakdowns helps speed up timely finding new solutions and breakthroughs. If everyone is committed to the same overall vision, a breakdown in another area that prevents the overall vision from being realized is a breakdown for everyone. When a committed and motivated team faces a breakdown, they re-create their commitment instead of giving up. Renewing the commitment shifts people’s point of view and often allows them to see opportunities and solutions that were not previously visible.

The Quality Movement offers methodologies (e.g., Lean Six Sigma, ISO 9001, TQM, CMMI, ACE, etc.) to help identify some types of breakdowns by checking what is not broken and finding ways for continuous improvement. Bringing a fresh perspective to observing what is “business-as-usual” can help detect breakdowns that may have been invisible otherwise.

Expectations + commitment is the dialect of successful leadership

Expectations and commitment play a key role in the effectiveness of management. It is known that managers who expect more typically receive more (e.g. Likert, 1961, 1967; McGregor 1960). By inviting each relevant individual to make a personal commitment to the realization of the vision, a leader works in practice toward a self-fulfilling prophecy. The main implication of creating the Pygmalion effect by expecting committed players to excel is to drive high performance.

Eden (184) points out that “a leader who wants to be a more positive Pygmalion must point out to the subordinates that they have much untapped potential, and generally make them believe that they can achieve more.” Business colleges teach many variations of this theme to develop leadership skills, ie. expectation and self-efficacy training, immunization against the Golem effect, avoiding negative stereotypes, clearing the record, setting challenging goals and objectives, etc.

The culture of an organization is closely involved in the realization of expectations and self-fulfilling prophecies. Schein (189-190) has investigated how culture affects the effectiveness of an organization. In its own words, “productivity is a cultural phenomenon of excellence, both at the small-group level and at the level of the overall organization.” To this end, myth baking is a promising way to shape organizational culture. Dealing with myths is a worthy cause for those who influence culture “… the unique and essential function of leadership is the manipulation of culture.” (Apparent 317).

Think of the encouraging, self-fulfilling prophecy evoked by the far-reaching belief that “Nothing is impossible” or that “Will is the unit of measure of power” compared to the Golem effect that comes from myths like “Our products lack quality” or It We work on Murphy’s Law and the Peter principle. “Therefore, symbolic expressions of a culture of high achievement are important to reinforcing expectations.

Business is, as usual, the enemy of breakthrough and effective management. When things are very bad, the need for change in our faces is pushed. When a situation is unbearable, action seems like the right thing to do and most are willing to work hard at it. But when things are good, hey, everything is fine. The problem with business as usual is that it leads to complacency and mediocrity, and over time such a lack of leadership can be costly and detrimental to the organization. Napoleon offered his opinion on the importance of leadership in his famous quip that he would rather have an army of rabbits led by a lion than an army of lions led by a rabbit. Just as in professional sports, the need for performance in today’s competitive environment dictates the idea of ​​”do it now or it’s not long”.

Works quoted

Kotter, John. What the leaders really do. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999.

Erhard et al. “Integrity: A Positive Model Incorporating the Normative Phenomena of Morality, Ethics and Legality”. Negotiations, Organizations and Markets (NOM) Working Document No. 06-11; and the Barbados Group Working Document No. 03-06. SSRN, 2007.

Kotter, John. A Strength for Change: How Leadership Is Different from Leadership. New York: The Free Press, 1990.

Scherr, Allen, Michael Jensen. “A New Model for Leadership”. Negotiations, Organizations and Markets (NOM) Working Document No. 06-10; and the Barbados Group Working Document No. 02-06. SSRN, 2006.

Ayman et al. “The contingency model for leadership effectiveness: its level of analysis.” Leadership. Oath. Robert P. Vecchio. Indiana: University of Notre dame Press, 2002.

Vecchio, Robert. “Situational Management Theory: A Study of a Prescription Theory.” Leadership. Oath. Robert P. Vecchio. Indiana: University of Notre dame Press, 2002.

House et al. “Leadership theory of management.” Leadership. Oath. Robert P. Vecchio. Indiana: University of Notre dame Press, 2002.

Pious, Victor. “Can Leaders Learn to Lead.” Leadership. Oath. Robert P. Vecchio. Indiana: University of Notre dame Press, 2002.

Sternberg, Robert. “Managerial Intelligence: Why IQ Is Not Enough.” Leadership. Oath. Robert P. Vecchio. Indiana: University of Notre dame Press, 2002.

Eden, Dov. “Leadership and Expectations: Pygmalion Effects and Other Self-fulfilling Prophecies in Organizations.” Leadership. Oath. Robert P. Vecchio. Indiana: University of Notre dame Press, 2002.

Schein, E. H. Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985.

Jack Welch. “Four E’s (a Jolly Good Fellow).” January 23, 2004.>.