This essay addresses the information learnt whilst studying
the Practice of Leadership in Organisations module. I address my own thoughts
and how they have changed in regard to the meaning of leadership and
management, as well as identifying the key models and theories that have meant
the most. I also explain how my understanding of known managers and leaders
have changed and my current role model, along with how I hope to manage or lead
in the future.

 

Northouse (2015) defined leadership as a process where an
individual influences a group of individuals in order to achieve a common goal.
Leadership structures and organisation, and it is so ingrained into the popular
thought that the mere absence of leadership is seen as the absence of
organisation (Smircich and Morgan, 1982). I believe that leadership plays a key
role within the structure of an organisation, and that it is essentially where
the leader and its followers influence each other whilst working towards a
shared goal. There is no leader without at least one follower, and in order to
be a talented leader there is a big importance in understanding their
followers. Leaders need to initiate and maintain the relationship between them
and their followers.

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Weathersby (1999) states that leadership focuses on the
creation of a common vision and motivating people to contribute to the vision,
whereas management is the allocation of resources, setting of priorities and
the achievement of results. He adds that ‘there is no question that effective
leaders of the 21st century will need the ability to manage’
(Weathersby, 1999), which is something I agree with however I do believe there
are differences between the two concepts.  Whilst leaders have followers, mangers have
subordinates who work for them. They direct their subordinates, execute the
vision made by the leader, and establish work rules and standards. Leaders set
the direction, and they must adapt and use their leadership style to guide the
followers to achieve the shared goal. Whereas managers direct the subordinates
on tasks in order to achieve the goal.

 

At the beginning of the module my initial thoughts were that
leadership and management were the same thing, and that leaders undertook the
same tasks and played the same role as managers. I soon understood the
differences between the two in terms of characteristics and the role that they
play within an organisation, as well as the importance of followers in order to
be a good leader. In addition, I did not realise how many different elements
there are to leadership. Within the first week when learning about Assigned and
Emergent leadership, I began to understand the full extent. ‘Some people are
leaders because of their formal position in an organisation whereas others are
leaders because of the way other group members respond to then’ (Northouse,
2015, p8). This changed my original perspective, as originally I viewed
leadership as being purely related to the position within an organisation. My
other original thoughts were that leaders gained the skills and characteristics
needed to be a good leader. However, after being introduced to the traits
theory I began to understand how some leaders are born with the characteristics
to be good leaders.  My other view was
that each leader had their own leadership style which they had created through their
own experiences.

 

Throughout the module, there were a few key concepts and
theories that meant the most to me. Most of them changed or have furthered my
original thoughts on leadership and management, whilst others I simply did not
agree with.

 

The traits theory identifies five personality factors:
neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness
(Goldberg, 1990). These factors were found to have a strong relationship with
leadership, with extraversion most strongly associated with it (Judge et al., 2002). The approach focusses solely
on the leader and not on the followers or the situation that the leader is in,
but that it is the leader’s traits that are crucial to impressive leadership. The
traits approach has copious amounts of research to support it, and has granted
potential leaders with a platform of which characteristics to look for and work
on in order to be a successful leader. A main issue however with this approach
is that due to so much research into the traits of a successful leader, the
list of characteristics appears endless. In addition to this, an issue arises
when thinking about the development and initial training of a leader. The traits
of a person are hard to train, and therefore when considering training programmes,
it is not reasonable to train someone a specific characteristic. However, with
the weaknesses taken into account I feel that the traits approach has changed
my views on leadership and is one of the models that have meant to most to me
throughout the module. It provides a platform in regard to what traits are
desired in order to be a successful leader, and enables people to work out
whether they acquire these characteristics. Leaders can point out strengths and
weaknesses with regards to their characteristics, which can have a positive
effect on the organisation. When thinking about current leaders that I know, I
believe that my dad fits within the traits approach through his leadership of
his company. He is assertive yet has a positive energy at work, he constantly
thinks of his staff and is open to suggestions, and he hardly over thinks a situation
or worries about it he just simply comes up with a solution. I feel that
through my dad’s leadership characteristics, he identifies with this theory,
and was born to lead.

 

Authentic leadership, although closely linked to traits
theory, focuses on leadership in situations. Leaders who adopt this style
understand their own values and act on these values. George (2003) describes
five essential characteristics of authentic leaders: passion, behaviour,
connections, consistency and compassion, and states that in order to become
authentic leaders individuals must develop these qualities. In contrast to the
traits theory, authentic leadership is described as ‘a developmental process
that forms leaders over time’ (Northouse, 2015, p205). The theory clearly directs
leaders in the direction of the qualities they must obtain in order to be an
authentic leader, and that these qualities can be taught. However, it is not
clear how being an authentic leader can result in positive effects on an
organisation due to the small amount of research. This approach allowed me to
look at the prospect of characteristics and qualities of a leader in a way that
they can be developed, unlike the traits theory. Through the family business,
my mum has taken over more of a leadership role in the previous years. Originally,
she did not relate to the qualities needed to be a successful leader, however
through experience and training she has developed into a good leader. She is
very compassionate towards staff, always having conversations which sometimes
were not about work. Her passion and determination towards the company has
increased with her knowledge of the sector, and she is becoming consistent
within her work.

 

The situational approach focusses on leadership in
situations, and states that different situations demand different kinds of
leadership, either supportive or directive (Northouse, 2015). Leaders must
determine what type of leadership is needed through evaluating the situation
and the followers, and how committed the followers are to achieving the goal. Blanchard
et al. (1985) identifies four
leadership styles: delegating, supporting, coaching and directing, that are
identified on the levels of supportive and directive behaviour. In order to be
effective, leaders need to determine where the followers are on the scale of supportive
and directive behaviour, and adapt their leadership style accordingly.
Followers attitudes change depending on their commitment and competence to the
given goals, and through the correct leadership style leaders can effectively
lead their followers to achieve the goal. The concept of situational leadership
is easy to understand, and has meant the most to me throughout the module. The approach
is well known and it has been reported that it has been a factor in training
programmes for more than 400 of the Fortune 500 companies (Hersey and
Blanchard, 1993). Leader flexibility is significant within the approach, as
leaders cannot effectively lead using just one leadership style and they must
be willing to change it accordingly. Throughout the module I have understood
the importance of followers, and this approach ensures that the followers needs
are met regarding the leadership style they need. The principles of the
situational approach can be introduced at all levels of the organisation, and
is applied during the first stages of a new goal or project. Whilst working
within the retail sector I experienced, first hand as a follower, this
leadership style. My supervisors and managers changed their leadership style
depending on how busy the store was, what season it was, and what stock was in
store. The stock would change on a regular basis, sometimes changing a complete
department, and therefore different levels of supportive and directive
leadership was required.

 

Transformational leadership is concerned with improving the
performance of followers and developing them to their fullest potential (Avolio,
1999), and is one of the approaches that has meant less to me throughout the
module. It describes how leaders can initiate, develop and carry out
significant changes in organisations (Northouse, 2015). Transformational
leaders attempt to empower followers into change, however it is a known fact
within organisations that people do not like change. Quast (2012), identifies that
employees have a fear of the unknown in regard to change, and that differences
exist in peoples tolerance for change.  The
approach covers a wide range of activities, and it is therefore difficult to
define exactly what it is the transformational leaders do. Linking with the
traits theory, transformational leadership treats leadership as a personality
train or personal predisposition rather than a behaviour that people can learn
(Bryman,1992). Training a trait is difficult and sometimes impossible,
especially in regard to the previously discussed traits theory, and therefore I
find it hard to relate with the approach. It has not been proven that
transformational leaders have been able to transform, it has simply been proven
that it is associated with positive organisational outcomes. ‘Transformational
leadership is concerned with changing people’s values and moving them to a new
vision’ (Northouse, 2015, p179), but who decides whether this vision is the
best way forward for the company. It therefore has the potential to be
disruptive to an organisation if it is used in a negative way by leaders.  Although it is widely recognised and used, I
feel that the criticisms and weaknesses greatly outweigh any positive outcomes
to using the approach.

 

Learning about gender within leadership was a session that
opened my eyes to the stereotypes that are still associated with different
genders, and that unlike I originally thought women are still at a disadvantage
in high level jobs. During the session, it was interesting that both genders
had the same view on the characteristics associated with the different genders
in leadership. Women are disproportionately concentrated in lower-level and
lower-authority leadership positions compared to men (Powell and Graves, 2003),
three types of explanations within a Leadership Labyrinth are highlighted as
the reasons for the underrepresentation. The gender bias and stereotypes
assumed between genders within leadership, although improving, are still at
large. This topic changed my naivety that the business had changed, however I
have learnt that it is improving.

 

Thinking about how I would like to lead and manage in the
future has changed throughout the module as I learnt about different styles and
approaches, and how they positively impact an organisation. The
transformational approach is not something that I wish to implement into an
organisation where I am an active leader, as I feel that the prospect of
changing follower’s views and values will prove to be an overall negative
effect on the organisation. The situational approach however, is something I
hope to implement. Different followers need different leadership dependant on
the situation, and therefore I hope to be able to analyse the situation and
change my leadership style accordingly. I feel that this approach will have the
best positive effect on an organisation, the flexibility involved means that it
can constantly be adapted and changed to deal with different situations that
may arise. In regard to the traits approach, I feel that I already obtain some
of the key characteristics of a good leader. I acquire high extraversion with
good communication and sociability skills, I am calm and react to stressful
situations positively, and I am imaginative and open to new ideas. In addition
to the traits theory, I feel that within my future leadership style I can develop
some of the desired qualities outlined in the authentic leadership approach. My
self-awareness could be developed to analyse my actions more and understand my weaknesses
without bias, as well as my focus on long term results. However, through
experience and training these qualities can easily be learnt in order to be a
more successful leader.

 

My role model for the first poster assignment was Jeff
Bezos, the CEO and founder of Amazon, whose net worth is $105.5bn and owns
nearly 17% of Amazon (Forbes, 2018). Bezos attains some of the key
characteristics and qualities associated with the traits theory and authentic
leadership. He is known for his laughter and positive energy but he is a
straight talker and if an employee fails to meet his standards they will know
(Edwards, 2013). He is always curious to know what his employees are doing and
keeps in contact through regular emails, as well as using the phrase “disagree
and commit” which he states saves a lot of time (Ward, 2017). Bezos’ passion
and behaviour towards Amazon is one of the main reasons of its success, along
with his understanding that the communication between employees and the
gathering of feedback is important. However, after further research into Jeff
Bezos I have identified him as a transformational leader, an approach that I do
not relate to. Bezos seeks to innovate and is committed to act on his vision,
leading his team to do so. He inspires his followers, especially when his original
competitors doubted his creation. Although, this is a transformational
approach, I do not believe that Bezos changed his follower’s views and visions.
He is key on communication and is a good listener, therefore in this case being
a transformational leader has a positive effect on the organisation.

 

To conclude, this module has enhanced my understanding on
the roles of leadership and management within an organisation. It has supported
and sometimes changed my views on how to lead, providing me with an idea of how
I would like to lead in the future. It has enabled me to learn more about my
role model Jeff Bezos, including why a leadership approach that I am not keen
on works for certain companies. 

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