STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP ESSAY

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP

Introduction

Leadership is a complex concept and there are different ways of becoming a leader. There are leaders like Nelson Mandela who prepare themselves mysteriously behind the scenes for decades, while others like Dalai Lama are handpicked in the childhood and are trained for the task. What they have in common is that they are what they are meant to be by living the life their own way and by being true to themselves (Bass, 1990; Mandela, 1997) (Krosigk, 2006). There are several definitions of leadership but in my view it involves persuading other people for a period of time to set aside their own concerns and to follow a common goal which is vital for the welfare of the group. Leadership is about influencing and not dominating others, leadership occurs when other people happily accept the goals of as organization as their own (Hogan, 1994). The complexity of organizational leadership demands capable leaders to lead the organization in a culture where firms are working in different locations globally with the advancement in technology and with intense competition around to have an advantage over others.

This assignment helped me in evaluating my leadership styles in two totally different organizations with different work culture. I have discussed and compared my leadership practice in both the organizations and the intricacies involved in it and how change in leadership style was required with strengths and weaknesses. The comparison was necessary to explain the change in styles according to requirement of the sector which plays an important role in decision making process as a leader. The analysis comprises of different ways of my approach towards organizational leadership supported and criticized by some key points mentioned by many authors. The reflective journal is used to understand and implement some new dimensions to my approach towards leadership practice.it was a great help to recognize some of my drawbacks as a leader in an organization and to overcome it in future.

Leadership in a highly competitive market:-

I worked in a firm of my uncle as an Ass. Manager and handled sales and marketing of engineering tools and job work of the same for two years. One more responsibility was given to me as I had knowledge of law that was to council the clients and to look after the legal matters. As it was my uncles company wide powers were given to me in terms of handling the employees. As I was dealing with sales and marketing power influence approach was a necessity. If power is given to the leader by an organization or group for the purpose of getting the job done, may well enhance the influence of the leader. (Fiedler and Garcia 1987; feidler, 1997) (Doyle and Smith, 2001)Power is significant not only to influence people like client and suppliers but also the employees as well as the superiors (Yukl, 1989). I was asked to prepare a proposal regarding the up gradation of the company and to train twelve people who worked in the company as marketing executives. Power was given to me not as an authority but power in terms of access to internal information and to take my decisions independently. Workers had specific knowledge in the field in which they were working with autonomy in their functions and were assigned tasks to convince different clients about the product. As it was a highly competitive market higher officials in the hierarchy gave them training to update them with recent happenings in the industry and my duty was to teach them to follow the procedures laid down by the company as per the requirement of client to complete the task (Mintzberg, 1980). According to Mintzberg (1980) as bureaucracy in leadership of the past and future lies in adhocracy this organization demanded creativity and timely opportune appraisal from time to time for the workforce.

Therefore I have not adopted one leadership style as the responsibilities were more but multiple range of leadership styles like democratic as well as situational. The power and the position was very much available for me to be autocratic as the old school of leadership or a bureaucratic style which is still prevalent in the industries in which I was working but I chose to be democratic.

The reason behind exercising democratic leadership was that it is a participative leadership (Wagner, nd). Under democratic leadership employees participation is more in decision making. The probability of employees to excel in their position and development of skills increases as they feel empowered with their involvement in decision making (Fleming, nd). This style is suitable when the employees are knowledgeable about the process of the organization as was the case in this organization (money-zine.com). This style is a need in vibrant and fast changing environments where nothing is constant and this organization was also fast moving so the consideration for improvement was given to keep the group up to date (leadership-toolbox.com).

Examples of my democratic leadership in the organization:-

  • Asking each and every member of the group about their opinions and ideas before taking the final decision.
  • Using the voting technique to decide on the best course of action for sales and marketing of the product.
  • Motivating employees to work with strength to the best of their abilities while training them and delegating work accordingly.
  • Allowing members to set their deadlines to meet the targets according to the requirement of the firm.

Criticism of Democratic Leadership:-

It can backfire on you as some employees will meet the targets and finish their work in time but some will delay and that can be a disaster. So for a neutral democratic leader it may be necessary to learn some traits of autocratic or bureaucratic leadership to have a backup (Fleming, nd). Employees can start arguing by forgetting who the leader is, even if the leader is democratic he does not have to justify his decision (Matt, 2009). This style of leadership is slow than autocratic approach as participation takes time (mindtools.com).it can develop a situation where responsibilities are not clear cut to everybody. More participation can be viewed by the employees as leader not being competent to handle the job responsibilities (wiki.Answers.com).

Situational leadership:-

In the competitive market of engineering tools, democratic style of leadership just on its own was not sufficient and as I had multiple responsibilities like counseling the clients with a higher position and power situational leadership was also applied. Bernard (1926) statement that leaders are born have been criticized by other researchers as they mention that while accessing the traits environmental and situational factors were ignored which can be applied by a leader. The traits of leadership are not born with the leader but are instilled later when the leader works in unusual circumstances which are proved by categorizing various styles in comparison with invention. It is a cycle of a continuous process with different stages like invention, divergence, convergence, and synthesis. This cycle is explained by noting that when new leaders come to an organization they apply their own approach which becomes an invention resulting in the growth of divergence by the employees and then different approach is followed which brings synthesis of a new thought which leads to development in future(Mackenzie, Barnes, 2007). Good leaders are those who do not follow a single leadership style throughout their life but exercise different style with different people or a same leadership style at different occasions identified as situational leadership where there is an excellent balance between the people and the task, the type of leadership which occur out of a situation (Kelley, 2002).

The theory of situational leadership is timeless as it addresses both the changing complexity of tasks and the changing abilities of the followers moving together towards the attainment of a common goal (Costanzo, 2005). The practice of Situational Leadership allows the manager or leader to adopt the most suitable leadership style by analyzing the need of that particular situation (California State University, 2006).

The basis of Situational Leadership is on interplay among the amount of direction given by leader i.e task behavior, socio economic support provided by the leader i.e. relationship behavior and the readiness level exhibited by the followers on a specific task, purpose, or objective that a leader is trying to achieve (Schermerhorn, nd). Adaptation of their own leadership style to meet the employees' needs for different tasks giving them direction and encouragement based on their willingness to complete the task is the primary concern and responsibility of a situational leader (Costanzo, 2005).

Example:-

A new member was recruited and I was the duty to train him. He had great enthusiasm for the task assigned to him but his skills needed a polish. I have concentrated more on him and provided him with additional motivation and direction in the beginning. While counseling the clients on different issues I had exercised situational leadership in convincing them about the quality of our product.

Criticism of situational leadership:-

  • The situational leadership Model is unsuccessful in differentiating leadership and management, the style is not a leadership style but a management style (Matt, 2009).
  • This style is not for taking decisions but is only for motivated actions and to change the directions(voteforus.com)
  • Too much emphasis is given on what the leader in charge does (Matt, 2009) (voteforus.com).
  • It is time consuming and difficult to manage at crucial circumstances.(leadership and supervision, nd)
  • Leader can misinterpret the follower's eagerness or ability to complete the given task can disturb the team's progression which is harmful for the achievement of final goal (Costanzo, 2005).

But where I was lacking in my approach was a part of charismatic leadership style (Reflective journal, pg2). To make my life easy and comfortable I was putting more burdens on my employees on finding and making solutions for some problems, where I could be able to show some charisma in finding out solution for the crisis(Doyle and Smith,2001). The same thing happened when our group was given the responsibility of completing a presentation and our seniors were having exams a crisis situation I was unable to show some charisma in finding out solution resulting in less contribution of mine in the presentation, but I had the ability to contribute more(Reflective journal, pg5).

Leadership in a legal process outsourcing industry:-

The legal process industry in India is growing at a good pace because of availability of human resource that has knowledge of law and they are well worse with the technology, cost efficiency and round the clock operations. These are Manpower intensive functions like legal transcription, document alteration, legal coding and review of documents etc (legallyours, 2009). I was leading a team of 9 executives as a project manager; I had to keep the track of latest improvements, updates and the performance of my team members. In case of complaints I had to identify the cause of the problems and then communicate it to the senior legal manager. The job was monotonous and not like what I handled in my previous organisation so continuous motivation to team members was required to meet the deadlines of productivity as well as quality. The project manager has a responsibility to achieve objectives of a project with the limitations of the project and is accountable for the success or failure of the project (Babou, 2008)

"The project to be successful depends a great deal on the systemic integration and scheduling of multifunctional inputs into a single point of responsibility, authority and leadership" (Cleland, 1990:1 -18; Mantel, Meredith, Shafer & Sutton: 2001, 38 - 52) (Brown, 2008).

According to the situation prevalent in the company I exercised Transactional leadership as it was suitable to meet the necessities of an organization where the environment is relatively stable with some marginal changes (anantraman, nd). Transactional leadership has a clear expectation, goal, and path in terms of performance that will create a link between goals and rewards (smith, 2004). Transactional leadership can think critically which can be proved by their ability to construct functional organizational (Smith II, 2004). In Transactional leadership there is clarity of the requirements and expectations from the subordinates. It also mentions that if they complete their tasks within the stipulated time they will be rewarded for their effort and same was the position in this organisation (kirnik, nd) The contract with the employees with fixed salary, benefits and rewards according to the performance was fixed. In Transactional leadership a leader have an understanding of how the organisation is working and there is no doubt on how the employees are motivated and what are their duties and rights (Transactional leadership part III, 2008).

Just the technique of problem solving was not effective here the requirement was to empower the employees to work according to the laid down procedures and being innovative at the same time to attend the deadlines. It was important for the leader to understand what will motivate the employees and to make it sure that reward system is aligned accordingly (leadership-and-motivation-training.com).

Disadvantages :-

Transactional leadership is just a way of management rather than being a leadership style as it focuses more on short term goals. It is a limitation for knowledge based or innovative work (managementparadise.com, 2007). Original thinking is not encouraged in this style of leadership. The result of it is it creates lack of imagination in an obedient workforce. The probability of new leaders emerging out of the group will be less. The work environment will be stressful in this model (buzzle.com, 2009). Transactional Leadership is less effective from other styles when there is more demand for skill (changingminds.org, nd)

I always suffered in time management while I was the project manager. I always gave preference to other issues rather than concentrating on the deadline. I always managed to submit the project within the stipulated deadlines but only at the eleventh hour. I am learning to manage my time(Reflective journal, pg6)

RESOURCES
  • A holistic exploration of leadership development, B. von Krosigk*, Department of, Psychology, University of South Africa, Received July 2006, S.Afr.J.Bus.Manage.2007,38(2)
  • A comprehensive organisational model for the effective management of project management, C.J. Brown*, University of Stellenbosch Business School, University of Stellenbosch, PO Box 610, Bellville 7535, Republic of South Africa Received June 2008
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WEB REFRENCES

  • http://www.money-zine.com/Definitions/Career-Dictionary/Democratic-Leadership-Style/ (Accessed on, 16 Dec 2009)
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