Leadership My Assumptions About Leadership Have Changed Research Paper

Pages: 18 (6193 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Leadership

Leadership

My assumptions about leadership have changed over time. I used to believe that leadership was simply a matter of having strong motivational skills. That remains a part of the role, but as I have become more interested in leadership a number of other different influences have come to shape my views about leadership.

I feel that leadership is about communicating a common vision and exuding confidence. Both of these stem from my original view that motivation is important, but over time I have come to believe that motivation stems not just from pep talks but from the confidence that the leader exudes. Before the team or organization can have confidence in you and your vision, you need to have confidence in yourself and your vision. A large part of leadership is believing in yourself, your people and your organization's mission. Once that confidence permeates throughout the organization, the leader can marshal the organization's resources more effectively.

I believe that marshalling resources towards an end objective is critical to leadership, because I believe that leaders are measured more on their results than anything else. In the corporate world, leaders are measured by profits, in government there are other measures such as the state of the economy, public safety and the ability to continually improve the jurisdiction. For a leader to be truly effective, therefore, he or she must be able to clearly define a set of objectives towards which the organization is going to work. Without guidance, workers will simply perform their duties, but without any inspiration, and with no improvement of results to show for it. A strong leader will clearly define the objectives and set out a path for employees to follow towards those objectives.

One of the more subtle aspects of leadership that I have picked up is that the achievement of desired results stems from a leadership style that removes the barriers to success for the members of the organization. I generally eschew the autocratic leadership style, for a couple of reasons. I believe that people today are more intelligent and better trained than in the heyday of Frederick Taylor and should be accordingly empowered. Also, the tasks involved in meeting organizational objectives today are so complex that autocracy will invariably lead to grinding bureaucracy.

One further believe I have about leadership is that a true leader must be willing to accept responsibility for outcomes that are undesired or below expectations. The leader is the person who sets up the system, who understands the resources of the organization and marshals them to meet objectives. As such, the leader must be responsible for the failings of the system as well as its successes. Leaders unwilling to accept responsibility will fail to inspire the organization and will thus lose their ability to motivate, guide, or marshal resources.

I believe that there is no one true leadership style, that different styles of leadership can work in different situations. This fundamental belief not only stems from my observations of multiple leaders in multiple situations, but also inspires me to continue to examine different leaders in different situations. I draw largely upon the corporate and political world for my primary leadership influences. In the corporate world, two distinct types of leaders emerge -- crisis leaders and day-to-day leaders. For a time, the former was a stronger influence simply because their stories were so compelling. The return of Steve Jobs to Apple to pull that company out of total disarray was certainly a case of inspiring crisis leadership. The company was without direction but immediately he was able to drive strong changes to the organization, including changes to the culture. However, I have become equally influenced in recent years by day-to-day leaders, such as Fred Smith at FedEx. A crisis can, in my view, make it easier for a new leader to galvanize the organization. But for an organization to continue to excel and exceed past performance without any crisis speaks to a softer, more complex leadership style. I seek to learn from leaders such as Smith, who inspire their organizations to excellence every day, without any crisis to compel action. I feel that the most satisfying experience for a leader must be to be able to simply sit back and watch his or her organization excel without any active management at all.

I draw the bulk of my leadership influence from the corporate world, but there is much to be learned from the political world as well. In part, this stems from the greater level of responsibility. Businesses are responsible for increasing shareholder wealth and can choose among a number of different paths to achieve that. I admire political leaders for their ability to juggle a wide range of different priorities, many of which are more important than the mere generation of capital. Furthermore, the degree of scrutiny is so much higher, because the political leader is accountable to so many more people and faces direct opposition from political opponents.

Looking at the history of political leadership has also colored my views on the subject of different leadership types. As in business, there are leaders who are inspirational in a time of crisis -- Winston Churchill, Lech Walesa or Nelson Mandela, for example. Yet, these leaders often struggle when the crisis has subsided and they are forced to lead the nation through more mundane affairs. I compare these with skilled administrators like Kublai Khan who are able to shepherd nations into a golden age of peace and prosperity, and I see that different leadership styles are ideal for different situations. History, to me, and its great leaders, have a lot to teach us about being leaders ourselves.

One of the reasons I lean towards political and corporate leaders is that for the most part, their positions are earned. There are many other leaders in this world, who inherited their positions and do a fine job, but in the modern world almost all leadership positions are earned. In situations where leadership is not earned, I often come to the conclusion that the leader is poor, or at least less than ideal. I believe that sometimes we can learn as much from poor leaders as good ones.

One lesson learned from poor leaders is that leaders, even though having been placed in a position of high authority, should never place themselves above the organization. Dynasties fail because of petty rivalry, companies fail when executives put their own interests above those of the shareholders, and nations face war and economic strife when leadership puts its interests above those of the people it represents. A strong, effective leader that is working towards the wrong objectives may still achieve them. History is full of examples of effective leaders who have caused great harm in the pursuit of their own interests.

From that, I take the lesson that as a leader I must always be guided by strong morals and values. Those are not learned from studying other leaders, but rather from one's own upbringing. For me, those values come from the home and community. Whatever other leaders do, it is important for me to always work towards positive contributions to this world and to the organization that I am serving. By synthesizing this aspect of leadership with examples from throughout the corporate and political worlds, I feel that I can develop my own leadership skills and put them to the best possible use.

Part II

It can be difficult to pin down what quality looks like. At the outset of scientific management, Taylor hypothesized that for any given problem, there was only one best solution. Quality, therefore, would be defined as finding and implementing that one best solution. Total Quality Management (TQM) is a system of managing by process, wherein there can be no one best way, at least not a best way that is static. Thus, quality is defined more as the best way for the moment to achieve the objectives of the moment (Wood & Wood, 2002). This theory essentially expanded on Taylor by recognizing that the objectives and best way were in a state of constant flux as a result of constant changes in the external and internal environments.

The notion of quality has been further expanded in management theory, with concepts such as six sigma taking hold. Quality in six sigma is defined as the reduction of errors. A system that produces high quality results is one with a minimum of defects (Hashmi, 2009). Such definitions lead to goal setting, which Ordonez, et al. (2009) point out is a flawed tool for leadership. The pursuit of stated goals is necessary for an organization, they hypothesize, but is fraught with many negative side effects. Quality, therefore, is not merely the pursuit of reduction in errors that leads to the achievement of goals.

One of the difficulties in defining quality, therefore, is that there are essentially two types of organizational objectives -- quantitative and qualitative. Management science has long focused on the quantitative objectives.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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