The leaders and their leadership styles set the tone of organizational culture. Whether a person is leading a project or organization, they must keep in mind that the people follow what they see and not necessarily what they hear…
The most fundamental argument around leadership is whether leadership is inherent to a person or whether it can be taught. There have been many studies, debates, and opinions on the subject of leadership. Some would argue that leaders are born, but others strongly believe that leaders can be created. Though there are no definitive answers for these arguments, there is certainly some research data showing that a greater amount of factors impacting a person’s leadership ability can be taught but require certain personality traits that people may possess from birth or learned via internal desire. However, other approaches like style, skills, etc. can be learned as part of education or experience.
The transformational leadership is truly driving a lot of research as this relates to a mutual relationship between a leader and a follower. As Northouse (2010, p.172) defined, “Transformation leadership is the process whereby a person engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower.” It is impressive how transformational leaders attend to each followers needs, act as a mentor, give empathy and support and keep communication open. They encourage people to be innovative, creative and articulate a vision that is appealing and inspiring to others. These leaders can be seen as charismatic people, who can influence groups to follow blindly.
Characteristics of Leaders
Several theories have presented multiple characteristics of leadership including trait, styles, behavior, confidence, ethics, education, etc. In general terms a leader must have proactive approach to tasks and should be able to think three steps ahead to avoid problems and reaching the goals. A good leader should also be flexible and adaptable during uncomfortable situations. One of the characteristic a leader must possess is good communication and must be a good listener. A good leader listens to his peoples’ concerns, asks many questions, considers all options, and provides directions. They must treat everyone with respect, show confidence in others and themselves, evaluate situations, be organized and interested in feedback, and be open to change.
A leader must always remember that his people learn more from observing the behavior of their leader and there is no better way to teach an employee than to set an example. Heathfield (2014) states that there is nothing more powerful for employees than observing the “big bosses” do the actions or behaviors they are requesting from others. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Become the change you wish to see in the world.”, and it will happen.
There have been examples of leaders who are brutal with their employees, yet successful in their own careers. As Kaiser, McGinnis, and Overfield (2012) defined Steve Jobs leadership as intense, brutal, and obsessively controlling, yet under his leadership, Apple became a highly profitable and deeply admired company. However, this type of leadership is defined as innovative with a technology style that is appreciated but cannot be considered or combined as people leadership.
Measuring and Benchmarking
Every leader must measure their skills from time to time in order to continue learning to be better in their capabilities. There are several measuring tools provided, such as leadership personality surveys like Myers and Briggs, DiSC Leadership profile, and others. It is recommended that these survey tools are used to measure personality, style, and skills every three years for the whole organization. There are other surveys that can be used as a fun exercise randomly within a smaller group, i.e. a leader can pull out a survey with his or her team every so often, just to check how he or she is doing and where some improvements may be needed.
A 360 feedback from direct reports and other members who work with the leaders in different relationships is another mechanism that can be utilized to get feedback about a leaders’ performance. Each leader and their ratings should be benchmarked against other leaders within the organization or outside organization. One of the methods, called calibration, is a good method in improving leaders’ performance, where managers within the organization are calibrated for their performance to each other.
Improving Leadership Skills
A true leader never stops learning, there are always options to continue learning via education. However, one of the key learning activity leaders must follow is learning on the job and take all criticisms as positive and constructive. Leaders must also set high expectations for themselves and measure these expectations with achievements. Education is a foundation for an individuals’ career, but experience is a re-iterative building that everyone keeps building for a long time. Strategic leaders are the focal point for organizational learning as they promote a culture of inquiry, and they search for the lessons in both successful and unsuccessful outcomes. These leaders study failures of their own and their teams’ in an open and constructive way to find the hidden lessons.
Preferred leadership improvements
We have been working and measuring ourselves on what we deliver and how much we deliver. Though quality of delivered projects/products has always been a top priority, the quality of improvements to team members have been put on the back burner. It never loses sight but also has never been made a priority. One of the changes we need to make is to focus on how we’re going to deliver and how we are going to manage our teams. We as leaders should appreciate each moment to benefit everyone, be proactive in sharing leadership insight and lessons, and commit to constant and never ending improvements. As described by Northose (2010), we need to become authentic leaders to be transparent, morally grounded, responsive to people’s needs, offering help to people who want to be true leaders, and for follower who need more authentic feedback.
Several studies, debates, and opinions on the subject of leadership, present that there are many styles of leadership that can be adopted by individual leaders. Though some researchers may argue that leaders are born, others strongly believe that leaders can be created. However, there are no definitive answers for these arguments. The more individuals can learn and adopt to frame their leadership styles the better it is for organizations.
The leaders and their leadership styles set the tone of organizational culture. Whether a person is leading a project or organization, they must keep in mind that the people follow what they see and not necessarily what they hear. Leaders must set examples by working towards the goal they expect their followers to achieve, as well as influence followers’ behavior and make an impact on their life.
Northouse P. G., (2010) “Leadership: Theory and Practice,” p. 172,
Kaiser R. B., McGinnis J. L. and Overfield D.V., (2012), “The How and the What of Leadership” Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol.64