This paper relates an organization setting where the author displayed leadership over a group of colleagues in a business context. A brief analysis of this experience is provided. Two leadership models—Path-goal and the Hershey-Blanchard models—are then explored and evaluated, highlighting the way in which leaders could use these models in achieving the goals and objectives of the organization.
Personal Leadership Experience
Being a leader is not an easy job. It takes effort to relate to people, identify their gifts and talents and know how to utilize it for the good of the community or the organization that we belong to. But given the necessary skills, people relations, tools and strategies, a person can effectively lead other people towards achieving the goals set by the organization or the vision of the leader. For my part, I chose to be consultative, friendly, and open to the suggestions of the people I am leading while at the same time, I was firm in the targets and goals that we needed to achieve.
In a recent situation where I was called upon to lead, I preferred to treat them as colleagues, instead of subordinates. That way, their gifts, talents and skills would be maximized without compromising the goals and objectives that our organization needed to work for and achieve. I knew that the success of the organization largely depends on the kind of leadership that the leader performs (Kotter, 1999). In this regard, the following experience relates how I used such supportive and consensual approach in a leadership setting I was in recently.
I develop strategies on how to market and sell the products of the Bridal Salon I work for. In order to achieve a higher level of growth and returns for the company, I led several colleagues and selling specialists through strategies that would work out in achieving this. Although, I already have a lot of strategies and tools in achieving this target, I did not gather my colleagues and told them to do this or to do that. Rather, I consulted them about their ideas on how to promote our products better and achieve a higher percentage of sales. Another task of ours is the identification of important trend in the market, which would lead to the accomplishment of our targets. These tasks were equally distributed among the members of the team.
Through the insights gathered from my colleagues, I asked them to take charge of several activities needed to achieve the target. I told them firmly what I wanted to happen and that through the suggestions that each one made, we will be able to do just that. Everyone started doing what was expected from him. In order to ensure that incremental goals were being achieved, I monitored the progress of my colleagues in the team. Some of them were doing good and even surpassing the targets we set, while there were others lagging behind. I provided additional help, tips, and suggestions to those lagging behind. After several attempts at boosting their output, I applied some pressures on them just to get them going.
In some instances, my colleagues felt the pressure for performance when I talked to them about achieving the targets we agreed upon. In certain cases, I could feel the tension arising from my colleagues. After the set period, however, when we evaluated performance, our targets for sales and increase in the number of contacts were met. All the pressures I applied on my colleagues paid off in the end.
My eyes were set on the goals that we needed to achieve. Yet, in order to maximize the contributions of my colleagues and followers, I needed to ensure that they would feel important and that their thoughts, ideas and contributions are important. This way, they would be more motivated in working for our goals. But if such motivation were not enough, I know that I can press them to work more and achieve more. Through this way, everyone in the team will be able to work at the best he or she can be. This team approach works for me, given my style of leadership.
Leadership Models: Path-goal and Hershey-Blanchard
Path-Goal Model. The Path-Goal model of leadership looks at the leader as a kind of mentor who encourages the followers to look for the best path in accomplishing the expectations from them. These expectations usually emanate from the overall goals of the organization. As such, the leader therefore, is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that what the followers do are in accordance with the culture and values of the organization. In fulfilling this responsibility, the leader needs to ensure that the follower is empowered with the necessary support, tools and strategies in looking for and following the best path for the achievement of such goals (Chemers, 1997).
The leader employs several leadership styles to rise to the occasion, giving him flexibility in the performance of his responsibility. There are instances in which subordinates have various ideas, personalities and approaches to various situations. The leader, therefore, needs to suit his leadership style to manage these subordinates properly. More than just a boss, the leader becomes a mentor and a coach of the subordinate. Mentoring and coaching are hands-on approach to management that assists the subordinate, or in some cases a colleague, in the practical areas of work or job in the organization (Parsloe, 2000).
This model of leadership identifies four kinds of leadership. The first one is achievement-oriented, which focuses on the completion of goals while at the same pushing the followers to their optimum level of performance. Such kind of approach is suitable for followers that lack initiative and motivation of their own. This type of leadership capitalizes on the strengths of the leader. The second approach is directive, in which a leader informs the followers of the expectations from them and the manner in which they should deliver such expectations.
The next one is participative leadership where the leader conducts regular consultation with the followers before making decisions. And lastly, supportive leadership showcases the leader as approachable and friendly. He inspires confidence in followers who lack such. These four types of leaderships may be employed by the leader depending on the situation and on the attitude of his subordinates. Given this flexibility, the leader can easily flit from one style to another as the need arises (Neale, Stroh & Northcraft, 2002).
Hershey-Blanchard Model. The Hershey-Blanchard model of leadership holds that leadership styles may be displayed by the leader depending on the situation that the organization is in. Moreover, this kind of model seeks to analyze the situation first, and then prescribe the leadership style suitable for such a situation. This style has been popularized by Paul Hershey and Ken Blanchard who wrote the “Situational Leader” and the “One Minute Manager” series, respectively (Hershey & Blanchard, 1982).
The two authors identified several styles of leadership alongside the traits and characteristics of followers and sought to bring a balance between these two set of characters. There are four types of leaders. The first one is the directing leader, who acts as a supervisor who looks at the activities of the follower and evaluates it according to the goals and objectives of the organization. The role of this leader, then, is more of the boss who specifies almost exactly all the things that need to be done by the follower.
The coaching leader, like the directing leader, specifies the job description and tasks of the followers but is more consultative than the first type of leader. He seeks out suggestions and tips on how to go about doing the work from the followers. The supporting leader, on the other hand, provides a greater degree of freedom to his subordinates. This is because he passes on to them the responsibility of implementing the tasks. Such kind of leader is still involved in the decision-making process, but the follower has a greater degree of freedom. Lastly, the delegating leader gives an even greater degree of freedom and choice to the follower than the supporting leader. In this case, the follower actually decides on how much involvement the leader will have. These four types of leadership styles may be implemented by the leader, depending on the follower’s character.
In addition to the leadership styles, the two leadership experts also identified four developmental levels of the followers. This developmental level consisted of the combination of their competence and commitment. Depending on the followers’ level of competence and commitment, the leadership styles may be matched with these. It is the responsibility of the leader, however, to adapt and not the followers since he is the one responsible for ensuring that the organizational goals are met while at the same time ensuring that the followers are satisfied with what they are doing. In employing these styles of leadership, however, it is important to communicate expectations and the consultation with followers. This will provide the leader and the follower with a benchmark for the nature of their relationship. The leader will also be able to analyze more the leadership style suitable for the follower (Brown & Barker, 2001).
Evaluation of the Two Leadership Models. Both the Path-Goal theory and the Hershey-Blanchard model are situational, which gives the leader the flexibility to employ the kind of leadership that the situation calls for. However, not every leader has the capability to use all of leadership styles contained in the two models. Not every leader has the ability to analyze different leadership situations effectively. As such, in the same way that communication is two-way, the followers should also adapt with the leader since both are responsible for the completion of tasks and achievement of the goals and objectives of the organization. It cannot be denied, however, that the main responsibility and accountability, still falls on the leader (Kotter, 1999).
What if the follower is given too much leeway in his or her responsibilities? If this happens, then the goals of the organization might be compromised. In this regard, what the leader needs to do is to have a consultation with the followers, empower them to make important decisions, while at the same time monitoring such decisions to ensure that the goals of the organization will be met (Manning & Robertson, 2002).
In leadership, it is important to analyze the organizational situation and the character of the followers working for it. This way, the appropriate style of leadership may be effectively employed. The Hershey-Blanchard model would greatly help optimize the accomplishment of the goals of the organization, but in cases where greater leeway is given to the follower or worker, there should still be a means of consistent monitoring in place just to ensure that the goals and the objectives of the organization are being accomplished.
It may be a challenge to flit through the styles of leadership best suited for the situations that arise in any given organization, but because the leader’s role is to ensure that the organization works well and that objectives are met, then he should have the courage and the perseverance to learn these styles by heart. By continuous practice and application of these styles to the appropriate situations, he becomes a better leader.
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