Defining leadership as a process and property

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11th Feb 2020 Nursing Essay Reference this

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In defining leadership Jago (1982, p.315) states “leadership is both a process and a property”. The process involves influencing group members to undertake activities that will lead to the accomplishment of the group objective, while the property refers to the set of characteristics believed to be held by those with influence. Leadership theory began by focusing on traits but has since followed a varied course in the search for conclusive evidence on the factors that affect leadership. In this report we will focus on the dyadic process of leadership, looking at the leader as an individual (Lussier & Achua, 2009) and will assume that leadership effectiveness will only be understood by looking at the influence of the leader on their followers. We will concentrate on three major theories trait, behavioural or style and situational.

Trait

Lussier & Achua (2009, p. 16) proposes that leadership trait theories “attempt to explain distinctive characteristics accounting for leadership effectiveness”. Traits were initially thought to be innate or heritable qualities of the individual(Zaccaro,J.S,2007)  This perspective shifted to include all the other enduring qualities that distinguished leaders from Non-leaders. (Kiripatrick and Locke,1991 as cited in Zaccaro,J.S.,2007) There is strong evidence to prove that traits contribute significantly towards leader effectiveness, leader emergence, and leader advancement.()The following are some of the traits which each of us believed lacked in us following group discussion:

Decisiveness – Barlet

Decisiveness is often identified as a key trait in leadership (Ghiselli, 1971 as cited in Lussier, 2008). It involves the ability to logically analyze a situation and make a decision in a timely manner. A leader’s decisiveness also provides clarity and direction and gives others confidence in that leader. Readiness to make decisions was identified as a key personality trait that predicted a managerial advancement (Howard & Bray, 1983 as cited in Hogan, Curphy and Hogan, 1994). Barlet has identified decisiveness as a weakness, especially in high stress situations where a quick and effective decision was required. After discussing with the group and analysing situations where Barlet lacked that ability to make the decision, it has been identified a number of steps to improve decisiveness. One was to have a procedure where a situation could be analysed and decision made quickly. It’s also important to trust yourself and not be afraid of making the wrong decision.

Motivation – Saran

Motivation is a key element of any type of leadership, whether the leader is informal, bureaucratic or and expert it is vital for the individual to be motivated. Three types of motivation stand out with regards to leadership. The first is the goals to which human behaviour is directed, the seconded involves how these goals are selected and pursued and the last involves the process of influencing others. (Huczynski and Buchanan, 1991)

After discussion of these three factors with regard to Saran’s ability to lead, we found some serious flaws in his motivation. The clearest point that emerged from the discussion was that to lead one must be able to achieve the targets of the task, build and develop the team and have concern for the individuals in the team. (Pettinger, 2007)  It was found that Saran had a clear and genuine concern for the individuals he was responsible for. The problems arose when trying to achieve the task. This problem was there because the goals to which his behaviour was directed did not compliment the task. The priority that Saran gave was based on his own goals, what motivates him to do the task in hand was not what necessarily what motivated Saran. This ultimately led to the problem becoming more and more difficult, and in many cases a serious trade off between time and quality had to be made.  This task has lead Saran to look at the basic attitudes towards goals, by changing this we believe he will be able to look at the prioritisation of tasks in a whole new light, completely transforming his ability qto  leaded.

Self-confidence – Jenny

Research on leadership traits has consistently shown that self-confidence is considered to be an important characteristic (Hollenbeck & Hall, 2004). McCormick (2001, p.) describes self-confidence as the following: “Self-confidence refers to people’s self-judgement of their capabilities and skills, or their perceived competence to deal successfully with the demands of a variety of situations”.  Up to now Jenny has persistently shown a lack of self-confidence when undertaking tasks and leading others. She feels particularly uncomfortable when she has to make a decision for a group as she usually has doubts about whether or not it is the correct decision. The group suggested that by increasing her task understanding, by breaking it into specific components, and knowledge Jenny could become more confident as she would have evidence to support her decision making. Hollenbeck and Hall (2004) suggests that self-confidence is built up by a process of taking a small risk and making progress towards achieving a certain goal. Success in this will lead to increased confidence in your abilities. therefore Jenny would need to begin to take small risks also.

Initiative – Sandy

Initiative has been defined as a leading action or a commencing movement, often associated with the first action of a matter. Effective leaders take initiative. This involves being proactive and making decisions that lead to change instead of just reacting to events or waiting for others to take action (Kirkpatrick and Locke, 1991). In most situations, Sandy has been finding it difficult to demonstrate initiative because she has high agreeableness, and very often prefer to listen to other members’ suggestions. She lacks self-assurance that she is uncertain about her own opinion, and therefore finds other people’s opinion more favourable. Research on leadership and personality has stated the importance of initiative and persistence in relation to effective leadership, and so by having other qualities such as conscientious and tenacity which are related to the above traits may help (Judge et.al., 2002). Sandy felt she do not have experiences in taking initiative because she felt she is not knowledgeable and informative enough. Our group agreed that Sandy should believe in herself and try to improve by gaining more knowledge, and do not have fear to speak up and be arrogant in a good way.

Dominance – Athmika

Dominance was amongst one of the important traits associated with leadership and leader perception (Mann, 1959, as cited in Lord, De Vader and Alliger, 1986). Smith and Foti (1998) have listed several studies that show that dominance has positive correlations with leadership perceptions and people that score high in dominance tend to find themselves in a leadership position. Anderson and Kilduff (2009) found that people who are deemed as being highly dominant in relation to traits were likely to be categorized by other group members as more competent than they actually are. Athmika has always been a team player and values team opinions over hers. From her personal experiences and while discussing with the team, she realised dominance was a trait she lacked the most. To be more dominant, she should have faith in her ideas and be able to influence her group with her ideas. She can do this by reading extensively about the task which would guide her to make  informed decisions. Also, she should voice her opinion out strongly which would make her feel more in control of the situation.

Behavioral

Leadership theory progressed from researching traits to looking at the impact of behaviour style. Two main types emerged from the research body; task and relationship behaviours. Task behaviours facilitate goal accomplishment (Northouse, 2004) and relationship behaviours focus on how comfortable subordinates feel in a situation (Northouse, 2004).

Communication – Barlet

Communication is essentially the ability to transmit a message from one person to the other, whether this is information, an idea, a feeling or an emotion (Pardey, 2007). Pardey (2007) also identifies communication as one of five critical skills for all leaders and according to Bass (1990, cited by Bligh and Hess, 2007) as “communications distinguishes leaders who are successful and effective from those who are not”. An effective leader is one who has a deep understanding of others and has the ability to establish a shared vision and motivate those around them (Parker and Stone, 2003). Effective communication is instrumental for all those things to occur and frequently it is the solution to many difficulties faced by an organization (Ashman and Lawler, 2008). So far Barlet has not been particularly effective in communicating his ideas clearly, and this in some cases has undermined the quality and depth of his work. After discussing this with the team members, it was identified that oral communication and presentation skills specifically were his weaknesses and it was suggested that thorough knowledge of the subject being discussed as well as practice would help in getting the message through and eventually improve communication.

Improving tolerance – Saran

Tolerance is described in many sources as a prerequisite to leadership, not having it places a cloud over ones judgment and leads to inefficient use of resources. Drucker 1993 believed “to achieve results, one has to use all the available strengths – the strengths of the associates” A lack of tolerant behaviour comes from two elements, ones own ego and personal aspirations, as well as the personality and views held. This as an issue as not being able to get the full use of the people being lead is a poor form of leadership. After discussion it was found that this behaviour became more dangerous when leading people who are described as total miss-fits and poor fits by the eligibility versus suitability quadrant.

Trusting others ideas – Jenny

Jenny sees herself as task focused. When working on projects she has difficulty trusting others to deliver top quality work. She finds herself carefully double checking other team members’ work and this can make the team members feel degraded. According to Blake & Mouton’s Managerial Grid® she would have an Authority-Compliance style. This makes her concern for results high but her concern for people is at the lower end of the spectrum. Based on this Managerial Grid one way that Jenny’s behaviour could be altered would be to engage in more people focused activities. She could become more concerned in the interests, needs and problems of her followers (Doyle & Smith, 2001). The group suggested that one way to also improve this was match the task at hand to the abilities of each group member, meaning that Jenny’s trust in them would be increased by her knowledge that they were skilled in that task. Another suggestion was to attempt to communicate more clearly to the group members the task requirements and thus reduce ambiguity. Finally Yukl, Gordon and Taber (2002) suggest that increasing time spent monitoring may make leaders more effective.

Giving instructions – Sandy

As leadership is about gaining power to influence others through communication (Northouse, 2010), it is essential that a leader should be able to give instructions. Lussier and Achua believes that in any supervisory role, such as how well a manager give instructions will directly affect their leadership ability of leading and motivating employees in accomplishing the task (Lussier and Achua, 2003). Sandy finds it difficult to state her objective in a precise and clear manner, due to the lack of confidence and partly because she is not able to use her voice effectively to catch the attention. Therefore, her message becomes difficult to transmit and deliver to other people. Moreover, Sandy described herself as the democratic decision-making leadership style, that she allows people to make their own decisions and only state her opinion in the final stage of the discussion (Lewin’s leadership style). Therefore, she often fails to give instructions as a leader and become more of a facilitator when reaching consensus in the group. In order to improve, she should develop a relationship with her group and become more empathic in their needs, as well as checking the receivers’ understanding to ensure they know what objectives they have to attain. And also make sure these tasks are achievable and have it done by a certain amount of time. Sandy should use her influence power and be more persuasive as an authority to follow up at these situations (Lussier and Achua, 2003).

Time Management – Athmika

Schuler (1979, p. 854, as cited by Macan, 1994) asserted that “time management means less stress for individuals, which means more efficient, satisfied, healthy employees, which in turn means more effective organizations”. Athmika has always faced problems with proper time allocation of her work. She tends to procrastinate her work until the impending deadline. This leads to unnecessary stress and has also impeded her performance significantly. On discussion with the group, the group suggested that Athmika has to be more task-oriented and should organize her work as described under initiating structure in the Ohio state studies (Stogdill, 1974, as cited in Northouse, 2004). She should prioritize her work by preparing time audits. She also can improve her time management skills by setting realistic and attainable goals.

Situational Leadership

Fielder (1967) stated that “there is no ideal leader”, and that both relationship-oriented and task-oriented leaders can be effective if their leadership style fits the situation. Fielder’s Contingency Theory is one theory where the effectiveness of a leader’s behaviour is determined by the situation he or she confronts. Fiedler stated that it was much easier for individuals to find a situation that matched their leadership style than to change their style to fit the situation (Stroh, Northcraft and Neale, 2002). In contrast to this, the Situational Leadership Model suggests that leaders should adopt their style. Hersey and Blanchard (1993, as cited in Fernandez and Vecchio, 1997) stated that leaders are most effective when they employ a leadership style which is most appropriate to the situation they face and to the followers readiness and maturity to complete the task. Path-Goal theory is another model which states that an effective leader is able to clarify the path to various goals of interest and provide the opportunity/path for the follower to achieve such goals. This then should promote job satisfaction, leader acceptance and high effort (Stroh, Northcraft and Neale, 2002).

Delegating situations – Barlet

Delegating is one of the four leadership styles characterized by Hersey and Blanchard (1977 as cited in Graeff, 1997). It involves the leader passing tasks or responsibilities to an individual or group while the leader is still involved in monitoring the progress. So far, Barlet has not been particularly effective in these situations, and this has often delayed progress and limited performance as he. This has mainly been due to his lack of trust in the team member’s ability to do a certain task, but also due to his indecisiveness. Hersey (1985) stated that a good leader develops “the competence and commitment of their people so they’re self-motivated rather than dependent on others for direction and guidance” and in this case, the leaders high expectations causes high performance by the followers. Therefore trusting your people and showing confidence in them by passing responsibility and allowing them to complete a task will get the best out of your team and it is a situation where Barlet needs to improve. While playing vLeader, Barlet’s natural style was very directing, speaking most of the time and controlling the conversation and kept scenario length very short. In scenario one, Barlet did most of the work in every idea and did not let Olie participate or speak much. While in this case it worked, in many other situations the leader has to focus on the overall objective and delegation becomes more important. This was clearly demonstrated in the Wolfgang Keller case study (Gabarro, 1997 (part of module readings)) where Keller realised that being able to delegate operations was important in allowing him to progress further in the organisation.

Supporing situations – Sara

Supporting situations require a low directive and highly supportive behaviour. (Northouse, 2004)   The S3 square in the four leadership styles is a situation where the task receives more focus than the people.  Being able to act with this leadership quality would allow a leader to flourish in a situation where low motivation  and a some level of skills were present. This situation is becoming more prevalent as Druckers knowledge worker theory become more common place in the work place. Saran finds that when leading a team he does not always actively acknowledge another team members input, this will lead to individuals feeling that they have not been appreciated. After discussion it was decided that Saran should be more empathetic and less task orientated. He could achieve this by  dedicating more time to handing out instructions for the task. Setting goals could also play a part with regular progress reviews forcing a more supportive role. Another strategy could also be to change his leadership style to a less authoritarian one.

Unstructured situations – Jenny

A situation where Jenny felt she was weak in terms of leadership was one with little structure or direction on how to complete it. Typically in these situations Jenny finds herself being hesitant to direct the group in case she is not undertaking the correct procedure to get a positive end result. Fiedler’s Contingency Theory (1964, as cited in Northouse, 2004, p. 109) looks at the impact of a unstructured situation in terms of leadership. Fiedler’s Contingency Theory attempts to match the leaders’ style to the situation as a means of attaining effective leadership. Fiedler’s model is based on the leader being task or relationship focused. Situational variables are also taken into account and these are characterised by looking at three factors: leader member relations, task structure and position power (Northouse, 2004). This theory does not however offer an explanation of what can be changed if the leader style cannot be matched to the situation. The group came up with several ways in which Jenny could improve in this situation. These included focusing on the goal of the task and try to use the other team members to contribute ideas about how to develop a plan to reach it. Jago (1982) also mentions that in such situations one should try to alter the situational variables by training although the usefulness of such training is not unequivocal.

Stressful Situation – Sandy

Sandy often feels difficult in dealing with stressful situations, especially in demanding situations that focused specifically the performance of her work in a social environment setting. There are conventional views of leaders being a crucial and significant impact on their performance in organizations, that they are constrained with respect to different performance outcomes (Thomas, 1988). The Cognitive resource theory also proposed that stress has been a key factor and had a great impact in determining how intelligence can affect performance (Fielder 1987). And therefore in most stressful situations, since intelligence become less important but higher performance is required; Sandy experienced difficulty in using her knowledge to solve problems and these expectations has created an uncomfortable and undesirable feeling in which Sandy felt challenging in accomplishing the tasks. Situational Leadership theory by Blanchard (1985) discussed that different leadership style has to be applied appropriately to a given situation, depending on the competence and commitments of the subordinates (Northouse, 2004). So Sandy should try to include both directive (task-orientated) behaviours and supportive (relationship-orientated) behaviours, and focuses on goal achievement, and also be supportive and meet the needs of the subordinates (Northouse, 2004). To improve, Sandy should try to anticipate and plan ahead, establish objectives and goals at an early stage, and to prepare herself for the unexpected. She also needs to reflect on her performance, learn from the failure experiences and make necessary changes.

Directing unfamiliar situations – Athmika

Athmika finds herself handicapped when faced with new, unfamiliar, or critical situations when the team faces a challenge where she is required to take on a directive leadership style. Directive leadership is defined as “providing the members with a framework for decision making and action in alignment with the leader’s vision” (Fiedler, 1989, 1995; Sagie, 1997; Stogdill, 1974, as cited by Somech 2006, p. 135). Being directive requires the leader to communicate their knowledge and expertise to the group and also telling them how to complete the work (Murphy, Blyth & Fielder, 1992). In order to lead in such situations, the group suggested that Athmika should have a good working knowledge of the task and a clear vision on how to achieve it. Athmika should play an active role in problem solving and decision making in order to be more directive (Bass, 1981, as cited in Murphy, Blyth & Fielder, 1992).

Conclusion

Hackman and Wageman (2007) believe that despite the reams of research that have been conducted on leadership the field still remains notably unformed. Building on this Zaccaro (2007) states that within the trait theory of leadership a general consensus has also yet to emerge from the research regarding the role of leader traits, the degree of their influence and how they influence leadership, and the part they play in leadership situations. However leadership is still seen as being an important construct to undertake research on as well as being important as a social phenomenon (Hackman & Wageman, 2007).

Avolio has proposed the idea that new research are required to acknowledge how leaders have learnt from their past experiences, particularly how they respond and cope in difficult situations. Failure and error has provided opportunities for learning than success, and these experiences will generate data to affect one’s assumptions and actions for improvements next time (Hackman & Wageman, 2007). However, such decisions are not easy because it require an individual to overcome one’s own reasoning, mental model, behaviour routines and may provoke anxiety (Hackman & Wageman, 2007). One may argue that if we have already developed a leadership style, it will be rather fixed and consistent that will be difficult to change, others may argue that leadership styles should be changed according to situations in order to be more effective. Fielder’s contingency theory (1964) has introduced the idea that leadership effectiveness is depending on the suitability of the leader assign to a particular context. As a result, different leadership styles will be matched to different situations; and therefore our group believe that there are still room for improvement for our traits and behaviours to match with a specific situation.

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