Term Paper: Applied Leadership

Pages: 8 (2526 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Leadership  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Leadership

Throughout my career, I have worked with numerous people utilizing many different types of leadership styles. I have observed different levels of leadership effectiveness, and sometimes have had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership ability myself. his paper will attempt to present some background information on various leadership theories, concepts such as power and influence, and tying this knowledge with personal experience. t will also discuss how this new knowledge of leadership skills and effectiveness can be applied towards attaining future goals in my personal career path.

Leadership, although give considerable lip service by scholars and organizations, is difficult to understand without some degree of analysis and introspection. Even when analysis and introspection are applied however, these efforts to understand leadership clearly require an integral understanding of theory and how theory translates into practice. Using this as a basis for investigation, this research considers my understanding and experience of leadership in an effort to provide a more integral understanding of the concept. Through this reflection, it is hoped that the challenges that exist when it comes to understanding and evaluating leadership and its overall impact on the organization will be effectively elucidated.

Leadership: Theoretical Underpinnings

Leadership Theory

Although the central focus of this investigation is to better understand how leadership can be understood, conceptualized and translated into practice, it is first necessary to consider the theoretical issues involved in examining and understanding leadership. Thus, to begin this investigation, I have chosen to review the two leadership theories with which I am most familiar: path goal theory and cognitive resources theory. By examining these two theories, it will be possible to later relate practical instances in which these theories were applied to address leadership problems in my organization.

Considering first the premise and context of the path goal theory of leadership Yukl (2006) argues that this paradigm focuses on the leader's development of a specific path for followers to achieve goals. According to this author, leaders support and encourage their subordinates by providing them with the tools and resources that they need to develop a clear path to success. In this process, Yukl argues, situational variables can play a significant role in the overall success that the leader and subordinate achieve. As reported by this author:

According to path-goal theory, the effect of the leader behavior on subordinate satisfaction and effort depends on aspects of the situation, including task characteristics and subordinate characteristics. These situational moderator variables determine both the potential for increased subordinate motivation and the manner in which the leader must act to improve motivation. Situational variables also influence subordinate preference for a particular pattern of leadership behavior, thereby influences the impact of he leader on subordinate satisfaction (p. 219).

These specific issues are important as they will impact the specific methods used by the leader to motivate the follower and the specific response that is elicited as a result of applying leadership practice.

Of particular interest in path goal theory is the idea that the leader can assume a number of different roles in developing the path for followers. As reported by Yukl (2006) leadership under the path goal theory can be: supportive, directive, participative or achievement-oriented. The specific type of leadership that is employed under the path goal paradigm will have a direct bearing on the outcomes that are achieved. In this context, it seems reasonable to argue that the leader employing the path goal theory must examine the situation and provide appropriate leadership guidance to produce results that are commensurate with the objectives of the project and organization. This is where the talents of the leader become imperative. Understanding which type of leadership role to assume will lead to specific outcomes. If the outcomes produced through the type of leadership provided do not create needed outcomes, leadership will be ineffective.

The second theory that must be examined in this investigation is cognitive resources. Yukl (2006) in his review of this theory reports that "This theory examines the conditions under which cognitive resources such as intelligence and experience are related to group performance" (p. 235-6). Yukl goes on to note that this theory takes into account the dynamic interplay that occurs among a host of variables. Specifically, this author reports that: "According to cognitive resources theory, the performance of a leader's group is determined by a complex interaction among tow leader traits (intelligence and experience), one type of leader behavior (directive leadership) and two aspects of leadership situation (interpersonal stress and the nature of the group's task" (p. 236). In its simplest form, stress moderates the intelligence of the leader and the performance that is achieved by the follower.

What is perhaps most interesting about the cognitive resources theory is it brings to light the importance of individual characteristics and individual experience in the development of leadership action. Further, while the theory recognizes the importance of individual cognitive and experience variables, the theory also supports the understanding the external variables -- i.e. most commonly stress -- will impact the ability of the leader to perform and further will impact the outcomes achieved by subordinates. This theory appears to provide a more integral understanding of why otherwise experienced and competent leaders face challenges when they are placed in new leadership positions. A lack of experience in a particular leadership position coupled with external stress from the organization or subordinates can markedly impact the ability of the leader to perform. By the same token however, matching the leader to a leadership situation in which he or she has garnered experience and reducing the overall stress impacting the leader can have marked implication for improving the overall results that are achieved through leadership practice.

Power and Influence

While leadership theories are important to understanding the translation of leadership theory into practice, there are other important leadership concepts that must also be considered in the context of theoretical understanding. Specifically, power and influence have significant implications for the leadership behavior employed and the outcomes achieved by the leader. With this in mind, it is pertinent to consider each of these concepts in theory. Examination in theory will provide a more integral understanding of how these issues can impact leadership in practice.

Considering first the concept of influence, Yukl (2006) argues that influence is an essential component of leadership. According to Yukl, leaders must be able to influence others in order to effectively carry out ideas and programs. Although this description of influence suggests a positive process in which the leader encourages the follower to engage in a specific behavior or change, as noted by Yukl, the process of exerting influence can have a number of different impacts on the individual overall; influence can lead to commitment, compliance or resistance depending on the nature of the request, in influence of the leader and the specific environment in which the request occurs. Yukl further argues that the variables mitigating influence will also impact individual response. For instance, if the individual is promised a tangible reward for behavior, he or she may be more committed to the leader's request. Internalization of the request and personal identification with the request can also impact the overall manner in which the leader is able to influence the follower.

Integrally tied to the development of influence in leadership is the concept of power. Describing power, Yukl (2006) makes the following observations: "Power involves the capacity of one party (the agent) to influence another party (the target)" (p. 146). Yukl goes on to argue that power has a number of different sources which will impact the type of influence that is exerted and the overall impact the influence has on the behavior of the target. Reward, coercive, legitimate, expert and referent power are all sources of power that can be used by the agent in order to create influence with the target. Based on the names provided it is easy to understand how the response produced would be different. Reward power would produce commitment based on the individual's desire to reap a specific benefit; coercive power however would mean that the target performs a specific behavior to avoid a punishment. Thus, the type of power employed will have direct ramifications for the experience of the target.

Personal Experience

While the theory provided above clearly demonstrates the myriad of variables that are involved in the development of leadership, the most pertinent manifestation of this complex issue can be seen through a review of personal experience. For instances, it examining my current leader, it is evident that this individual employs a path goal theory for overall leadership practice. This individual however is incredibly intelligent and it is easy to see how cognitive resource theory could be applied to understanding his leadership style. The path goal theory appears to be more reliable in this case because this leader is responsible for decision making in a number of different areas. In this context, this leader must adapt his leadership behavior in order to meet the unique needs of the followers he… [END OF PREVIEW]

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