Leadership is the influence a person applies on others to help accomplish a mission or realize a goal in an organized and coherent way. Leadership is acquired through learning but the skills of a leader and the knowledge he/she uses may be directly or indirectly influenced by the internal and external environment, for instance, the beliefs, character, ethics and values which define a leader from others. To make a good leader, one needs to understand themselves and their abilities. Leadership may be looked at from more than one direction. A school of thought claims leadership is a trait, and according to their interpretation this means that each leader has differing qualities from the others. Everyone is born with unique traits which can effectively be used in leadership. The most common leadership traits that make one outstanding include confidence, outspoken, decisive and sociable or charismatic. Some leadership traits can also be acquired, modified or changed. Not all traits would make a good leader and a situation may demand an array of traits different from others. An effective leader is one who uses the necessary trait for the appropriate situation (Northouse, 2012).
Leadership is also thought of as ability, that is, the capacity to lead. This ability can be acquired through practice. An outstanding leader can be created through years of experience in a particular field. Leadership is also a skill or a competency that is developed for one to perform perfectly in a particular role. The leadership skills one has set him/her apart from others and this is mostly what people observe especially in elective processes. The skill of leadership may be described as the ability to know what to do and how to do it. Leadership skills can be developed through a learning process. By listening to other people’s comments and feed back, one can learn the skills to become a better leader. Other leadership skills can also be acquired through instructions from experts. Leadership has also been described as a relationship in the sense that it’s a platform based on the communication link between the leaders and their followers .From this view, a leader and his followers are in a network of unity where each decision affects both parties. The leaders and their followers are influenced by the prevailing circumstances. Some experts observe leadership as a behavior. According to this point of view, behavior described as what the leaders do when they hold their positions. These behaviors are clearly visible and it’s therefore possible to judge a leader. An effective leader is one who involves his/her followers in the decision making process (Northouse, 2012).
From the book, “Self leadership and the one minute Manager”, the leadership concepts are brought to the fore through a story of an accountant who was given a responsibility by the manager to handle a large account on behalf of the company. Steve, an accountant, who has just been promoted and is handling one of his greatest assignments on his own, makes a mistake that sees his first proposal to a client fail. This would definitely affect his work if he loses the account and could also see him lose his job. He therefore decides to resign. Steve meets Cayla and through their conversation, he learns important lessons on self leadership that he believes will help him save not only the account but his job too (Blanchard, Fowler & Hawkins, 2006).
The leadership practices that are clearly outlined in this book include; taking control or responsibility as a leader. A leader at whatever position should be willing and ready to take responsibility over a decision or a situation he or she creates. Situations arise that point towards the leader for direction and most of the times, the leader looks for the easiest way out; shifting blame. This mostly happens especially when things go wrong. Most leaders make assumptions in their decisions making and do not involve others even when the situation demands so. Leaders in many levels have been accused of making unilaterally decisions ignoring the input of their colleagues especially those below them in rank. Others do not seek guidance from those above them or the ones with more experience in handling such situations. This in most cases leads to failure. From the book, “Self leadership and the one minute Manager”, on failing with the proposal, Steve immediately looked for a way out and shifted the blame to colleagues. He felt that the manager had assigned him too big an assignment without first allowing him to gain the necessary experience and expertise to handle such a case. Steve also thought the team he was to work with on advertising failed him by not according him the necessary support as he would have wished. He forgot that colleagues did not have the supernatural powers to read his mind and tell what he wanted or would have required. He realized upon much thought, that he sought no help from his manager and that he never gave the advertising team under him, the direction to follow as required of him as manager (Blanchard, Fowler & Hawkins, 2006).
Another major leadership practice aspect is identifying the numerous types of power that each member of a team holds. Most people in leadership positions only identify the position power in an organization’s structure by which they understand the concept of power as being the leader of a particular team or head of a department. Most workers in firms or leadership positions believe that those above them possess more power than them. They fail to understand that there are many other forms of power such as knowledge, personal and task powers (Barret & Sutcliffe, 1993). In today’s world, many transformations have occurred in organizational structure. Leaders today are in charge of teams with hundreds of members. This makes it almost impossible to monitor the performance of each member. The leader or the head of such a group has the position power but obviously lacks the organizational power. For effective performance therefore, the people under him must possess some power to govern themselves in their chores without failure and hence they have the knowledge power. Similarly these people are in contact with many other important partners such as the suppliers, clients and support staff and therefore are said to possess relationship power. Since these people may not receive the day to day guidelines on their work description they must possess some power in them for effective performance; the task power. Steve only knew of the positional power he had and failed to realize the different powers his colleagues possessed which if utilized would have made him a success. It is only through working as a team that can assure success since many forms of power are combined for a common goal (Blanchard, Fowler& Hawkins, 2006).
Collaboration is a leadership practice that is of paramount importance in any organization. For successful achievement of goals, collaboration is not only necessary but inevitable. It eliminates the element of power and control and allows for distribution of authority among participants with an aim to achieving the same vision. Solving problems in a group setting provides a platform for synergy and interpersonal connections. With it, creativity flourishes as well as enhanced teamwork. Analysis of data, critiquing and finding the most appropriate answers to questions all help in realizing improved quality of work. Leaders should ensure that staff development involves acquisition of collaborative skills (Blanchard, Fowler & Hawkins, 2006).
Through collaboration, people get to know each other more deeply and understand the common purpose of their work and the rules governing them. Conflicts arising are easily tackled through collaborative approach as opposed to one directional approach in which the leader is looked upon to make a decision pertaining such a case. With the advent of technology, collaboration is enhanced. Through it people are able to share ideas and strategies as well as create more links for more networking. This will act to strengthen leadership practices. In reference to the book, “Self leadership and the one minute Manager”, Steve only needed to admit his weaknesses and the help he would have required from his colleagues. By assessing his ability, he realized he needed guidance. The manager and his team, on request willingly supported him, since they were all working to achieve success as accompany. Through collaboration, he learnt that nothing was impossible (Blanchard, Fowler & Hawkins, 2006).
According to Ken Blanchard, an effective leader must be able to challenge assumed constraints. These constraints are beliefs that are linked to past experiences mostly associated with failure which happen to clog an individual’s willed to overcome future experiences. He argues that lack of position power negatively affects many people who assume that they have no authority to influence outcome or contribute in decision making, since to them, “its only leaders who have the power to do that. “Leaders should realize that constraints are inevitable and that there is no link between power and constraints. Everyone always faces constraints in one way or another such as lack of time or money. As a leader one requires the right mind-set to succeed. One should aim at creating an environment that causes self motivation and take control of their mind with a clear resolve to conquer any obstacles (Blanchard, Fowler & Hawkins, 2006).
Leadership is a stage-wise learning experience and one becomes better in leadership skills with continued exposure. Leadership can also be looked at as a continuous development process that requires one to take an initiative to become better. The initial stage is characterized by low level of competence but high commitment. One is willing to learn and succeed. This is followed by a stage of low commitment and competence in which one feels as though his effort is not bearing any tangible results and gets de moralized (Bloom, 2003). Most people at this stage nearly give up and need support. In the third stage, one has varying commitment trends but with some experience or competence. At this stage, one is not at ease with his ability and may be distracted easily or even contemplate quitting, but with the necessary support, most people come out strong as leaders. In the final stage, one demonstrates both high levels of commitment and competence and is an effective leader who can comfortably give direction on matters entrusted on him or her (Blanchard, Fowler & Hawkins, 2006).
From all the information pertaining leadership, it is clear that no single definition stands for leadership. There are hundreds of definitions from historians, sociologists, economists, academics, religious groups and many others. However the qualities of any leader seem to cut across all these groups. It is almost universally agreeable on the qualities of a good leader and what makes some leaders labeled as bad. Among the most outstanding qualities of a good leader are; trustworthiness, honesty, positive, communicative, dependable, decisive and a team builder. On the other hand, negative attributes of leaders that do not appeal across all the divides include dictatorial leadership where the leaders only give commands and orders that have to be followed irrespective of their outcomes or impact on the followers. Other leaders are irritable in the sense that they make unreasonable demands or make decisions that go against the grain making their followers uncomfortable. Others are outright ruthless or brutal for example those that fire their employees without substantial reasons for doing so. Another class is made of the egocentric and non cooperative leaders who never consult juniors as they feel their input is inferior. An effective leader is therefore one who takes responsibility and control, collaborates with others and has a positive mindset with determination to overcome all challenges.
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