Last updated: April 19, 2019
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Leadership as a Issue in Top Management

Introduction

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Leadership is an attributional and a personal talent that is about inspiring people to pool their efforts together towards achieving common goals and objectives (Rosenbach and Taylor, 1998, 1). A Leaders empowers individuals and encourages them to overcome their rank and position within the organization to associate themselves and their colleagues with specific works, duties and responsibilities by setting directions, building commitment and taking challenges (Day and Halpin, 2004, 3). The most important aspect of a leader is his ability to command implicit faith, confidence, and respect of his followers, irrespective of his position and power in the organization. A manager may remain as a mere functional entity in the organization whose duties primarily concern with maintenance of procedures and protocols and his main goal is to ensure that organization set goals and objectives are timely met and delivered. However, bringing leadership qualities and attributes help managers motivates the employees by setting personal examples and rise above the role of  a typical manager that commands employees to work to attain objectives by principle of reward and punishment. Managerial leadership also about taking decisions that are quite unconventional, innovative and on the spot to resolve a deadlock, while manager exhausts all the standard procedures in such cases and if still unable to solve it, they escalate it to their superiors for guidance and directions. This paper shall look in the importance of leadership as a whole for an organization, need to institute a culture of leadership and the qualities required in a good managerial leader.

Leadership Skills

It is said that a leader is a dealer in hope. Leadership is then about inspiration, motivation, encouragement and direction that pulls people to accomplishments that they would not had managed if left alone. However, effective leadership is a very challenging domain as it requires some impeccable personal and organizational traits that can be developed and realized through considerable experience, knowledge and self- discipline.

There are no fixed guidelines, set of rules and laws that exactly prescribe the traits, qualities and attributes of a successful leader. Quite often the leadership is situational and the leader is required to act purely through intuition and circumstantial requirements. However there are certain essential skills and characteristics that are rather mandatory for effective leadership. Some of these skills, according to Bower (1997) are

Trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is unanimously put at the helm of qualities that are required by any leader. Trustworthiness denotes the supreme gift of maintaining integrity through action. The binding aspect of trustworthiness are truth, honesty, and characteristic integrity. Truth inspires confidence. A leader, therefore, must stick to truth. According to Richard Heckert, retired chairman of DuPont,

“If you always tell the truth, you won’t have to remember what you said.”

People invariably trust executives who maintain a high degree of precision truthfulness that helps them to gain trust, the best token of administration and leadership (Bower, 1997).

 

Fairness

In any organization, the most frequent grievances of employees against their supervision is lack of fairness. Almost all the employees have reported that bosses misuse their authority to get work done, often by coercing, forcing or threatening employees, creating unnecessary pressure and stress for employees. Almost universally being an unfair supervision is considered as a managerial and organizational stigma while bosses viewed tough but fair are held as role models and people sought after by companies and organizations in top managerial roles.  .

Within any organizational framework, fairness and trust are closely interlinked and their value increases as executives rise in post. For chief executives, and top managers, trust and fairness define their influence through the organization and would determine the extent to which they would be accepted as role models.

Unassuming behavior

A good leaders must shy away from arrogance, haughtiness, and egotism are by adopting an unassuming undertone in their behavior. Former director of management research for AT&T, Robert K. Greenleaf, , stressed on the need of servant leadership, where top managers would act as stewards to goad employees.  Unassuming behavior allows a top executive to prioritize the focus on company performance and assess requirements that would take the company ahead, instead of being preoccupied with his/her own performance or image. Unassuming and unpretentious behavior by top management in Japanese firms is cited as one of the principle reason explaining their global dominance.

 

Listening quality

Listening quality is very important for good leaders, because it allows them to know and understand the expectations of people around them.  Managers who are inept listeners may turn off people with valuable information and useful knowledge; People once turned off, are most likely to come up with further information and dissuade even others from sharing their knowledge and information with management. Active listening has two distinct advantages. First, it provides leaders the opportunity to take a comprehensive measurement of issue as seen from other person’s point of view. Second, it assures the other person in fairness and trustworthiness of leader by recognizing that he/she is finding an audience with top management.

Open mindedness.

It is very difficult for top managers to be open minded and unreservedly open in their practical business. The scale of hierarchy and their elevated position within the organization invariably rubs a sense of self-assured confirmation in their ego and they often make themselves yardstick of performance measurement around them. Further, the almost bureaucratic setups in which many companies are known to operate, there are limited scopes of openly questioning or challenging decisions of higher-level managers, which fuels a false sense of unquestionable confidence on their own actions. Lack of open-mindedness and inability to hear others is the principle reason behind some of the most noteworthy organizational and business failures.

 

Leadership Development

In an increasingly competitive and diversified corporate world, organizations greatly depend on developing leadership talents to maintain their competitive edge.  Multinational companies, with their dual reporting structure, multiple communication networks, numerous levels of responsibilities and time, language and cultural differences are faced with the responsibility of leadership development among their employees to meet multitudes of demands on their limited time and resources (Collins, 2001).

Today the business world realizes that leadership is neither hierarchal and stratified nor leadership is management. Instead leadership is about inspiring people to pool themselves together towards achieving common goals and objectives (Rosenbach and Taylor, 1998, 1. Leadership empowers individuals, irrespective of their rank and position within the organization to associate themselves and their colleagues with specific works, duties and responsibilities by setting directions, building commitment and taking challenges (Day and Halpin, 2004, 3). Its not surprising then that companies are ready to invest hugely in leadership development program, as a guaranteed way to emerge ahead than their competitors.

Hundreds of case studies and examples from almost every quarter of business and public domains have shown that with adequately designed training programs and experience even otherwise ordinary individuals can emerge as successful leaders in their own spheres. Leadership development process works on two levels. The first is coaching and mentoring and the second is action learning (Broome and Hughes, 2004). Quoting Hall, et al (1999) Broome and Hughes states that coaching and mentoring involves practical and goal focused methods of individual and group learning and behavioral change. For obtaining most effective results and developing specific leadership skills coaching allows individuals to collaborate in methodologically assessing, understanding and solving the issue before them. It leads them to challenge the existing solution models and explore further possibilities through joint effort and accountability (Brown 2000). Mentoring, as a n essential part of educational program, involves commitment and long term relationship between a senior employee and a junior employee where the latter helps in professional and personal development of the former (Broome and Hughes, 2004).

The second level of leadership development is action learning that requires participants to tackle  real life and real time organizational problems (ibid). Through a careful selection of objectives and problems, participants are trained on delivering organizational results, communication learning and management and develop general leadership qualities. It benefits participants greatly as it provides them crucial exposure and considerable experience within a short time. Along with these, modern organizations have also adopted the technique of job rotation, so that individuals have widest possible exposure and experience of company’s functional and organizational processes (Brown 2000).

However, in the end it must be remember that the focus should not be on teaching leadership, instead getting participants to learn leadership. Every person has a potential to emerge in a leader by gaining  knowledge, purpose and experience and apply themselves more  effectively in their personal and professional domains.

 

Strategic Leadership

In an increasingly competitive and diversified corporate world, organizations greatly depend on developing leadership talents to maintain their competitive edge.  Multinational companies, with their dual reporting structure, multiple communication networks, numerous levels of responsibilities and time, language and cultural differences are faced with the responsibility of leadership development among their employees to meet multitudes of demands on their limited time and resources (Collins, 2001).

Today the business world realizes that leadership is neither hierarchal and stratified nor leadership is management. Instead leadership is about inspiring people to pool themselves together towards achieving common goals and objectives (Rosenbach and Taylor, 1998, 1. Leadership empowers individuals, irrespective of their rank and position within the organization to associate themselves and their colleagues with specific works, duties and responsibilities by setting directions, building commitment and taking challenges (Day and Halpin, 2004, 3). Its not surprising then that companies are ready to invest hugely in leadership development program, as a guaranteed way to emerge ahead than their competitors.

Multiple case studies and numerous examples from almost every quarter of business and public domains have shown that with adequately designed training programs and experience even otherwise ordinary individuals can emerge as successful leaders in their own spheres. Leadership development is considered a two pronged work.  It is suggested coaching and mentoring involves practical and goal focused methods of individual and group learning and behavioral change. For obtaining most effective results and developing specific leadership skills coaching allows individuals to collaborate in methodologically assessing, understanding and solving the issue before them. It leads them to challenge the existing solution models and explore further possibilities through joint effort and accountability. Mentoring is an essential part of educational program that involves commitment and long term relationship between a senior employee and a junior employee. Senior employees are able to provide guidance and support to the junior colleagues and help in their  professional and personal development.

The second level of leadership development is action learning that requires participants to tackle  real life and real time organizational problems (ibid). Through a careful selection of objectives and problems, participants are trained on delivering organizational results, communication learning and management and develop general leadership qualities. It benefits participants greatly as it provides them crucial exposure and considerable experience within a short time. Along with these, modern organizations have also adopted the technique of job rotation, so that individuals have widest possible exposure and experience of company’s functional and organizational processes.

However, in the end it must be remember that the focus should not be on teaching leadership, instead getting participants to learn leadership. Every person has a potential to emerge in a leader by gaining  knowledge, purpose and experience and apply themselves more  effectively in their personal and professional domains Leadership is not a characteristic that can unfold in isolation. By its definition, it implies establishing coordination, cooperation, collaboration and orientation among the followers to achieve the designated objectives and goals. However, it is only possible when leaders can inspire their followers with respect, admiration, discipline, sense of emulation and confidence in the abilities of the leader while being helped to envision themselves as empowered individuals (Brown and Lord, 2004, 2).

A good leader takes over even most complex, demanding and otherwise impossible condition by exhibiting personal integrity, ethical and moral traits and values that other can relate to and aspire to imbibe in their own conduct (Laurie, 2000, 53). It must be noted that we are not talking here of personal charisma to influence people, as personal charisma, being an individualistic phenomena, can awe people but hardly give them impetus to follow in the footsteps of the leader.

Leadership is also synonymous with the equation of power and its affect over the leaders and their followers. The inherent dangers associated with power are that it is a temptation, hard to resist and has potential to become the ultimate goal for a leader from the tool helping to achieve the goals.  Therefore leadership demands that power be shared with others so that it can grow. Leaders gain power from their ability to inspire others (Champy and Nohria, 1999, 165). It means that power in leadership has a symbolic meaning and it is willfully placed in command of the leaders

Further the modern emerging concept of leadership, using directional and coercive power over the followers is considered as an unethical practice. Instead, today the goals of leadership is to help the followers discover and grow their inner powers and ability to be part of the process that is designed to bring real change. This reinstating of self pride and confidence among followers earns leaders the willing obedience of people who realize the integrity of the leader in creating a just, legitimate and encouraging environment where they see themselves as valued members and in turn lend their unconditional support to the joint cause under the leadership

Conflict management and leadership

Leadership has a great role to play in conflict resolution. A leader with qualities with excellent communication, understanding and negotiation can be instrumental in bringing the positive outcome through the issues involved in the conflict. As the business and corporate management has realized, leadership greatly helps to alleviate conflict situation due to its inspirational value. Leadership essentially about encouraging  people to pool themselves together towards achieving common goals and objectives (Rosenbach and Taylor, 1998, 1. Leadership further empowers individuals, helps them to rise above their rank and position within the organization to associate themselves and their colleagues with specific works, duties and responsibilities and enables them to identify and set their own directions, work on commitment and take challenges.  (Day and Halpin, 2004, 3). Its not surprising then that companies are ready to invest hugely in leadership development program, as a guaranteed way to emerge ahead than their competitors.

Within every social, institutional or organizational structure, a leader is always looked upon the person with abilities to broach reconciliation and resolution in situation of conflict. Leadership entails elements of power and authority that are critical to acquire influence. There are five power bases for a leader, as identified by French and Raven (1959). They are

1. Legitimate power: the power that comes by virtue of the position and command to control behavior.

2. Coercive power: It is the leader’s control over persuasion and ability to take symbolic punitive actions in case of dissent

3. Reward power: It is the leader’s control over granting rewards

4. Expert power: These are the specialties that a leader attains due to knowledge and experience and that he is expected to possess and use in conflict resolution

5. Referent power: This is the power over over subordinate or group members to identify the leader

Leaders may opt for one, some or  a combination or all of these power bases to attain conflict management and resolution by influencing the psychological and social dimension of conflict, trust, and authority (Johnson and Short, 1994

:Leadership (Power and Politics)

Leadership is not a characteristic that exists in isolation. As it is defined, leadership implies establishing coordination, orientation, cooperation, and collaboration among the followers to accomplish designated objectives and goals. It is  possible when leaders can inspire their followers with respect, admiration, discipline, confidence in the abilities of the leader while being helped to envision themselves as empowered individuals (Brown and Lord, 2004, 2).

A good leader has the ability to take over even most complex, demanding and otherwise impossible condition by exhibiting personal integrity, ethical and moral traits and values that other can relate to and aspire to imbibe in their own conduct (Laurie, 2000, 53). Here it is important to distinguish personal charisma from leadership, as personal charisma, being an person specific phenomena, can awe people but hardly give them impetus to follow in the footsteps of the leader.

Leadership is also means natural acquisition of power and potential to change its equation affect over the leaders and their followers. There inherent dangers associated with power, and for most of the people, the timeless adage-‘power corrupts’ suits justly. Power contains a temptation that is hard to resist and has potential to become the ultimate goal for a person rather the tool that was designated in helping to achieve the goals.  But a genuine leader understands this irony of power and therefore believes that power should be shared with others so that it can grow. The real power of leaders is their  ability to inspire others with a sense of power and confidence (Champy and Nohria, 1999, 165).

According to Reigel’s (1979) theory of development, the relevant categories to leadership practices and conflict management are:

1. Optimism-faith in goodness of humanity. It works on the principle of faith in inherent goodness of humanity with a sense that goals and objective are achievable.

2. Interconnectedness-responsibility for the whole. The principle is extension of sense of responsibility to greater issues affecting the world that connects individual with the entire humanity.

3. The contradictory nature of things. It teaches about recognizing and respecting that contradiction occurs in people, their experience and circumstances.

4. Life is characterized by crises. Recognition that crises and conflicts are inbuilt of component of life and progress is achieved by incorporating them in the philosophy towards life.

5. Kinship with others. It stresses on building associations and help in realizing that every one is important and deserves equal respect from others.

6. The opposition. It teaches about taking opposition as contradiction, instead of viewing it in negative perspective.

7. Acknowledging other’s contribution. It stresses on frank and appreciative acknowledgment of success and achievements of others.

Leadership (Motivation, satisfaction and performance)

Researches and studies conducted in the organizational setups with aim to improve efficiency and output by improving leadership qualities in people have generally concluded that leadership is instrumental in achieving and inspiring employees with better job satisfaction, providing motivation and improving the performance of employees, all of them being critical parameters of organizational efficiency (Pool, 1997).

Various researches have shown that job satisfaction leads to greater productivity and increased satisfaction among workers. There are further evidences that job satisfaction is greatly influenced by effective leadership that creates conducive atmosphere for employees empowering them with discretionary powers decision making process, along with effectively leading them towards achievement of common goals.

Leadership, is in turn promoted through motivation. According to Isaac, Pitt and Zerbe (2001) individuals aspiring for leadership are greatly assisted a motivational model, called as expectancy theory, that suggests that self interest prompts individuals to charter a course where they tend to maximize the chances of success and growth. Thus self interest acts as a motivation that spurs people to take upon leadership roles and aspire to meet needs of followers along with requirements of the organization (ibid). Also, when leaders meet with followers, it generally results in entire work atmosphere getting highly motivated and people are spirited with aspiration to transcend their present roles and step in the role of leaders (ibid).

Leadership is influenced by both extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. In the former, motivational behavior is seen as product of external rewards and remunerations while the latter treat motivational behavior as result of internal drives such as enjoyment of work and inner sense of competence (Isaac, Pitt and Zerbe). In either case, individuals are motivated to assume leadership to maximize their self-interest.

In helping the followers to achieve job satisfaction and elicit higher degree of performance, the leader has to take care that employees are provided with type of work that keeps them interested without frustrating them with boredom or intimidating them with its sheer magnitude. Leaders must remember that employees should be motivated to perform jobs that are within their potential, by recognizing their strength and weaknesses. As leadership is essentially about pulling the employees rather than pushing them, it requires a very judicious balance of judgment and intelligence on part of the leader to keep employees motivated towards achieving goals (ibid). Lastly the leader should realize that individuals who put their effort in following the leader get greater job satisfaction because they feel valued, responsible and productive. Thus it’s the responsibility of the leader to keep motivation levels of employees up by making them realize their importance in the organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference

Bower M, 1997, Developing Leaders in a Business, The McKinsey Quarterly, Issue: 4

Collins DB, 2001, ‘Organizational Performance: The Future Focus of Leadership Development Programs’, Journal of Leadership Studies. Volume: 7. Issue: 4.

Day DV and Halpin SM, 2004, Leader Development for Transforming Organizations: Growing Leaders for Tomorrow,  (edit) David V. Day, Stanley M. Halpin, Stephen J. Zaccaro, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,  Mahwah, NJ.

Rosenbach WE and Taylor RL, 1998, Contemporary Issues in Leadership, (edit) William E. Rosenbach, Robert L. Taylor, Westview Press,Boulder, CO.

Brown DJ, Lord, RG,  2004, Leadership Processes and Follower Self-Identity,  Lawrence Erlbaum Mahwah, NJ

Champy J, Nohria N, 1999, The Arc of Ambition: Defining the Leadership Journey, Perseus Books (Current Publisher: Perseus PublishingCambridge, MA.

Rosenbach WE and Taylor RL, 1998, Contemporary Issues in Leadership, (edit) William E. Rosenbach, Robert L. Taylor, Westview Press,Boulder, CO.

Messick DM, 2005, The Psychology of Leadership: New Perspectives and Research, (edit) Roderick M. Kramer, David M. Messick , Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Mahwah, NJ