Leadership Strategies for a Changing World
I have just been appointed as the District Manager of an electronics company, a position which I have been eagerly anticipating for a long time. Having recently been appointed to this new leadership position at a company which I have wanted to work at for years, I can easily see in my first days that there are substantial organizational cultural problems that must be overcome. While the organization is extremely viable, there are power struggles between managers and an organizational culture that does not properly inspire its workers.
There is often a sense of friction between middle management and department heads, as they seem disinterested in their subordinates beyond whether or not they can do assignments on time. A significant amount of time is spent between other managers talking to each other behind their back, and having trouble delegating tasks between departments. A lack of communication also means that some tasks simply fall through the cracks of responsibility, so no one thinks to pick them up. In order to address these issues, varying levels of transformational and empowering leadership will have to be employed, finding new ways to influence workers and team members in order to reduce this friction and play a more transformative role in the organization.
Transformational and Ethical Leadership
One of the most significant attributes to a good leader is transformational leadership. Unlike transactional leadership, in which employees and group members are viewed as resources that the leaders uses in order to get something from them, giving something in return, transformational leadership involves taking an extremely involved, inspirational role in the lives and careers of their followers (Avolio, Bass & Jung, 1999). Transactional leadership has a unique set of failings in that its utilitarian nature precludes leaders from being able to truly inspire and motivate their workers to their fullest potential. With transformational leaders, these individuals have the capability of providing and coaching employee development, making them better employees in the long run, and consequently increasing productivity.
Transformational leadership is particularly useful for improving organizational culture, but proper ethics must also be implemented as well. Ethical leadership is an important component of transformational leadership, in which there is a moral component to the way a leader runs an organization. Ethical leaders are “honest, caring, and principled individuals who make fair and balanced decisions,” indicating a commitment to fairness and adherence to company and governmental standards for ethics and organizational behavior (Brown & Trevino 2006, p. 597). Leaders set much of the tone for the way their workers relate to the organization and how to work in it, so they must set a strong moral example in addition to showing great productivity and efficiency.
Organizational culture often relies on leaders that are either controlling or empowering. Controlling leaders provide an authoritarian bent to organizations in varying degrees, seeing the organization as their playground under which they have ultimate authority. To that end, they are less concerned with the welfare or well-being of their workers, seeing them as primarily a means to an end. The opinions and needs of their workers are relatively immaterial, instead using a fear of punishment as the primary motivator to be productive. The will of controlling leaders is conducted through punitive measures, such as disciplinary action, termination, and more; workers are largely considered as-is, and are largely seen as resources to be utilized.
Empowering leaders, on the other hand, hold themselves and others in equally high esteem. Opinions are always welcome and encouraged, as empowering leaders wish to cultivate their resources in order to get the most use out of them. Instead of issuing orders and being strict and authoritarian, empowering leaders simply develop their workers’ critical thinking skills and further their own sense of motivation and development. This keeps their followers highly motivated, empowered and striving for more. The followers, in turn, become more willing to follow commands, as they hold the leader in high esteem and wish to do well for them.
Empowering leaders place a lot of focus on finding the best way to utilize a worker’s particular skill set; the goal of any good empowering leader is to locate the ideal spot for an individual’s talents and gifts, uplifting their best workers and putting everyone to best use. This allows each worker’s potential to be fulfilled and cultivated, establishing greater shared knowledge and higher morale in the workplace.
In order to have an empowered workplace, empowered leadership must take place. Arnold et al (2000) outline eight prospective categories of leader behaviors that can facilitate empowered leadership. First, there is leading by example, in which the leader demonstrates a commitment to their own work, and that of their team members. Coaching involves educating team members and facilitating a sense of self-reliance. Encouraging workers is also an important task, as positive reinforcement improves morale and motivation. Performance decision making involves leaders making smart choices regarding their team members’ knowledge and information when making decisions.
Informing requires leaders to be concise, clear and efficacious regarding the dissemination of company information. Empowered leaders must also show concern for their workers, making them feel welcome. In addition to that, an overall sense of team interaction is required to build trust and perfecting team-wide communication. Finally, group management is necessary in empowered leadership, these leaders knowing the dynamics of the group and how to manipulate them most successfully (Arnold et al., 2000).
Applying these principles in a framework of empowering leadership has a tremendous effect on organizational culture. Concrete gains can be made when empowering leadership is employed in practical organizational settings. Empowering leadership has been shown to have dramatic and positive effects on knowledge sharing and team efficacy, which can in turn improve performance (Srivastava, Bartol & Locke, 2006). Knowledge sharing occurs when team members relate and share ideas related to tasks, as well as suggestions and information; when workers are empowered, they feel more comfortable sharing these ideas with one another. This then leads to a greater sense of team cohesion, as well as permitting the best ideas to come to the surface. (Srivastava, Bartol & Locke, 2006).
Analysis of Leadership Influence on Organization Effectiveness
Obviously, the way one leads an organization is directly related to how effective said organization is. The way a manager approaches their role in an organization affects staff productivity, as the leader is chiefly responsible for establishing the organizational culture others must follow. The way in which managers perform decision-making, delegate responsibilities and speak to and interact with their coworkers has a trickle-down effect that can affect the organization as a whole.
With the wrong leadership style, productivity and communication can be hindered. Leaders have a great amount of power at their disposal, which they often choose to leverage into getting what they want. Bureaucracy can be both a blessing and a curse for these types of leaders, as communication can get slowed down when leaders work too hard to follow strict guidelines and policy. Furthermore, leadership can place an individual in a bubble where they do not hear criticism or anything that does not further their own echo chamber, leaving them unable to grow and improve upon what they are doing. Employee input is a tremendously important thing for a leader, making it particularly disappointing when leaders do not listen to their employees. When a leader stops being the voice of the employees’ collective needs and skills, they stop becoming an effective leader.
Politics can come into play as well; the reputation of certain workers, leaders or third parties can influence decisions in a way that would not be present if only productivity and merit were considered. Decisions like hiring or transferring employees based on personal connections, or deliberately being less helpful to other leaders in order to advance in position at the company, among others, only serves to lessen the company for the sake of the individual leader. Organizations can become less efficient if a leader is not focused on empowering their employees, but instead playing politics to serve their individual needs. To that end, empowered leadership must be able to help leaders use their power wisely, and find a way to deftly play politics in a way that minimizes corruption and maximizes productivity and efficiency in an organization.
Given the aforementioned explorations of ethical, empowered leadership, I believe I can use these principles to great advantage to repair the damaged organizational culture of this company. As it stands right now, the employees of this company are demoralized, feeling unappreciated and unable to truly cultivate their skills. The middle management and fellow leaders of this company are too busy competing with each other and looking after their own bottom line to care for the workers in any way other than a cursory expectation of job performance. These are systemic issues that must be addressed if the company is to get back on track and restore a sense of positive organizational culture.
Taking from Arnold et al. (2000), I plan to implement the eight categories of empowered leader behaviors in a systemic and practical way to improve the culture of this organization. First, I plan to lead by example; by refusing to engage in the petty competitiveness and negative communication regarding my peers, I will inspire others to do this much less. I also wish to show the hard work and dedication I expect of my workers by working hard myself, setting high standards for my behavior so it can bleed off into others.
Coaching and encouraging are two empowered leader behaviors I plan to implement in full force towards my workers. Instead of ignoring their issues and leaving them to work autonomously, I plan to learn about my workers’ skills, wants and needs, so they may be addressed. If I feel that I can help a worker work harder, I will coach them and offer them suggestions for improvement, allowing them to become more confident in themselves and their own work. By encouraging my workers, I also feel I will instill trust in them, allowing them to believe in me as their leader – this will also be accomplished through participative decision making, in which I field suggestions and input from my workers as I make a decision. This will make them feel as though they are part of the process, thus motivating them to work harder.
I plan on keeping my workers more informed than they currently are; as it stands right now, the workers only receive company-wide information about once a week, which is criminally low to the point of negligent. To that end, every day I will make sure all workers are apprised of the latest company information so they can do their jobs as effectively as possible. By showing concern and interacting with my team, I hope to further build that sense of trust and get my workers to believe in me. By taking an active interest in them, I hope to create more effective interfacing with the entire team, and have a better idea of how they are doing on a given project. This will also play into my use of group management to inspire them to do good work.
The organizational culture of this new company to which I have been appointed has been plagued with a number of systemic issues that hinder our ability to be effective workers. These include manager/leader infighting, a transactional, authoritative outlook on leader/employee relations, and an overall uninspired, low-morale workforce without a transformative element to it. A transformational, empowered leadership style, such as the one I hope to implement, should help to increase productivity and effectiveness, creating an organizational culture that is more conducive to cohesive, focused work. If these principles were to be implemented, a greater set of organizational outcomes would be found.
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