Some organizations are successful while others are not successful. There has been arguments as to what causes some organizations to succeed and what causes others to fail. Some literature support the view that organizations succeed if they recruit skilled and experienced employees. Other sources argue that success of organizations largely depend on the kind of leadership they have. Still, some argue that it is a combination of leadership and employees with certain qualities because leaders are required to direct employees to achieve the vision of their organizations. But what differentiate good leaders from bad leaders? Allio (2007) argued that bad leadership is a product of personality disorders, flawed values, avoidance of reality, and poor commitment. He further pointed out that bad leadership is also partly contributed by followers’ complicity. Hogan and Kaiser (2005) contend that leadership of a person can be predicted from his/her personality. To them, leadership is about performance of organizations, groups, and teams. They pointed out that good leadership promotes effective group and team performance. Success therefore involves both good leaders and employees with desired positive qualities such as skills and good personalities.
In my past, I have worked in several places. In some cases, I have volunteered to work while in other times I have worked paid work. I have also been involved with class work which required students to work as a team. Further, I have been involved in work concerning social events. In all these previous works, there were occasions when I was a member of a team and there were occasions when I was a leader of a team. In all the occasions I was a team, the best time which I believed I performed at the peak as a leader was when I was tasked with leading a team comprising eight members to work on a project in our department three years ago. Every department had been given targets to meet by the company management. Consequently, all departments were required to form teams whose job was to help in meeting the set goals. Our departmental manager tasked me to lead one of the teams. I knew it was not going to be an easy task but I had to try my best. The team membership was composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds. We had goals to achieve. As a leader, I knew that the success of our team was dependent on my efficiency and effectiveness as a leader as well as the support of my team members. The project was supposed to take six months. At the end of the six months, our performance was assessed and we emerged the best performing team in the company. Our team was rewarded for meeting the targets and I was also rewarded for leading a successful team. I attribute my success to employment of good leadership skills.
Being a leader of my team, I knew my leadership success depends on my approach. I had to first win the support of my team members so that we can work harmoniously to achieve our goals. Although we had the best plans and goals to achieve, I knew we could not achieve much if we were not working as a cohesive team. From the topic of leadership theories, I have learned some of the leadership approaches are trait approach, skills approach, style approach, and situational approach (Northouse, 2013). Of all these approaches, the approach I employed was similar to the situational approach advanced by Hersey and Blanchard (Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson, 2008). In the course of our work, I realized different situations required the application of different leadership styles. At one point, I could be directing my team members and in other times I was offering them my support. In some cases, I was both directing and at the same time supporting them. I had to direct and support appropriately in any given situation. When there was a need to do some work, I had to assess each of my team members not only on their competence but also on their commitment to perform a given task.
I also understood that different situations demand different motivation and skills. Armed with this idea, I had to vary my level of support and direction to match the changing needs of my team members. For example, at times I was more directive than supportive. In this situation, I only offered directions as well as goals to be achieved by my team members and then supervises them carefully. In certain circumstances, I was both directing them and supporting them. This was more of coaching and my focus was not only in directing my team members to meet our goals but also focusing on their socio-emotional needs. For example, I had to give them encouragement to meet their individual goals and also solicit their support so that we can achieve our overall team goals. Sometimes some circumstances dictate that I offer more support than direction. In such a case, I had only to be available to facilitate problem solving while I give my team members freedom to make day-to-day decisions. This was also a time when I asked for input, listen, praise, give feedback where necessary. Still, certain situations demand that I got involved in less of direction and less of support. This was the period I delegate a lot of work to some of my team members. To facilitate motivation and confidence in my fellow team members, sometimes I had to lower my participation in things like clarification of goals to be achieved, controlling of work details, and also planning of work. The responsibility of executing the job was entirely left to the team members to see for themselves how best they can do so. Investigations carried out by Chen and Aryee (2007) suggest that delegation motivates employees to be more innovative, improve on job performance, enhance their commitment, and increase their job satisfaction.
Leadership Style and Motivation to Engage in the Project
The formation of teams was democratic. Our manager gave us the freedom to choose which task we feel we could offer the greatest input. The decision to engage in the project of my choice was mainly motivated by the skills required to complete the task and that I enjoyed working on what the project involves. When I was appointed to be a team leader, I felt I would give my best because I had the relevant skills required to accomplish the project task and I also enjoyed doing the project activities. Being a team leader required that I employ a particular leadership style. It has been found that leaders have certain competencies. According to Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (2008), the three general skills required for one to be a leader include ability to diagnose, adaptability to different situations, and ability to communicate effectively. Different kinds of leadership exist and include transformational leadership, charismatic/value-based leadership, self-protective, humane-oriented, servant leadership, participative, authentic leadership, autonomous, and team leadership (Northouse, 2013). My leadership style was in line qualities expected in a team oriented leadership style. Northouse pointed out that for teams to be successful, the prevailing organizational culture should promote employee involvement. Further, he asserted that many teams have been found to fail because they either abhor upward communication or because they do not allow decision making at lower levels. To him, teams working in organizational cultures which are not supportive of decision making or collaborative work encounter a lot of difficulties. Sometimes, leaders have been found “hide” when their followers are in problems or when they encounter challenges. As a leader I could not underestimate the importance of being with my team in all situations especially when it comes to offering them my support. According to Ciulla (2010), the physical presence of a leader is very important not just for empathy and sensitivity but also to show concern, solidarity, and commitment.
Achievements and Enthusiasm
As a leader my greatest aspiration was to lead my team to achieve our goals. Our contribution was part of a larger contribution by other teams. I wanted my team to perform well. This was the only positive way our contribution to the organization could be measured. In order to ensure our team made a significant contribution to the organization, I had to build enthusiasm and excitement so that team members enjoyed performing the tasks. Developing enthusiasm and excitement involved building interrelationships among team members. To achieve this, I had to coach team members on how to develop good interpersonal skills. All the time, I had to stress the importance of collaboration and that every decision or action about the team had to involve all members. There were minor power issues and conflicts, and I had to manage them objectively when they occurred. Building the team commitment as well as spirit de corps required that I develop and sustain an environment of optimism, socialization, innovation, and recognition in the team. I did not forget to satisfy the needs of individual members by trusting and offering the necessary supporting. Finally, we agreed with my team members on certain values and principles that were going to guide our team to ensure that we maintain a culture of fairness and consistency.
Team Values and Principles
Working harmoniously to achieve our goals required that our team had to be guided by certain values, ethics and principles.
An assessment of our team membership showed that all members came from diverse cultural backgrounds. Dooley (2003) suggest that achievement of organizational excellence in a multicultural environment requires a firm understanding of cross-cultural behavior in the workplace. Culture has been defined as learned rules, beliefs, traditions, symbols, values, and norms common to a group of people (Northouse, 2013). This imply that individual team members had certain learned rules, beliefs, traditions, symbols, values, and norms common to the communities they were coming from. Leading a multicultural and diverse team was a great challenge. This is because there were bound to be issues such as ethnocentrism and prejudice. Ethnocentrism and prejudice are bad vices in a team because it interferes with the team members’ ability to not only understand but also appreciate human experience of others. As a leader of the team, I had to find avenues for reducing cases of ethnocentrism and prejudice. The multicultural and diverse nature of our team also requires that I find means of encouraging my team members to embrace and diversity and foster inclusion. As a leader, it was also important that I understand each member on the context of his/her culture. Research has shown that there are nine cultural dimensions which include assertiveness, in-group collectivism, power distance, humane orientation, gender egalitarianism, future orientation, institutional collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, and performance orientation. A good understanding of these cultural dimensions helps a leader who is leading a multicultural and diverse teams.
Leading effectively also implies that a leader practice and encourages the promotion of values that are universally desirable and avoid those values which universally undesirable. Universally desirable values are positive leadership values which include excellence oriented, trustworthiness, intelligence, foresightedness, informed, motive builder, positivity, win-win problem solver, confidence builder, dynamic, effective bargainer, just, honest, plans ahead, team builder, dependable, administratively skilled, motivational, and encouraging. On the other hand, undesirable values are negative leadership values and include being a loner, dictatorial, ruthless, asocial, egocentric, explicit, irritable, and non-cooperative (Northouse, 2013). I managed to succeed to lead my team because I upheld the positive attributes and condemn the negative attributes. Alahmad (2010) added that a leader ought to be a person who is not judgmental but showing dignity, justice, humility, punctuality, truth, and respect.
Ethics was another guiding principle in our team. While making judgments of whether our team decisions or actions in a particular situation were bad or good, right or wrong, we had to invoke ethical theories such as Kantian ethics, altruism, egoism, utilitarianism, and virtue ethics (Moon, 1998; Northouse, 2013). In Kantian ethics, Kant suggested that when one is choosing a principle or a maxim on which to act, one ought to consider whether that maxim is either universally right or wrong. In our case, the choice of our guiding principles had to be agreed by all members that they are universally right or wrong. Further, utilitarianism also formed the basis of our guiding principles. In utilitarianism, the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the badness or goodness of the anticipated outcome. At times, the consequences of a member’s action was determined as right if it resulted in a good outcome otherwise the action would be deemed bad.
Leadership involves influencing other people to reach their goals. In my case, I was leading my team to achieve our goals. In this context, I had the ethical responsibility to act in a manner that shows respect and dignity to my team members. Respect in this context implies that I had to be conscious of their concerns, needs, and interests. Being an ethical leader also enhanced my ability to reinforce good values in my team. Northouse (2013) pointed out that sound ethical leadership are founded on the principles of justice, respect, community, service, and honesty. To him, leaders who are ethical respect others, serves others, shows justice, manifests others, and build community (p.431). I set an example by adhering to these principles of ethical leadership in my daily interaction with my team members. The ability to practice them made reinforcement in my team easier.
Every time we achieved a milestone, we moved to the next activity as soon as possible because our aim was to deliver in time. But before we start the next activity, we had to sit as a team and find out if everything is fine with the completed activity before we moved to the next. Finishing activities early also gave us time to identify faults/weakness that needed to be corrected before we moved to the next activity. Luthans (2000) pointed out that one of the key aspect of effective leadership involves not just motivating but also reinforcing others to do better. Luthans argued that a combination of financial and non-financial resources can be employed for this purpose. One of the non-financial tools suggested by Luthans is employee recognition. We celebrated success in various ways including going out for dinner and drinks with my team members after work. I had also set up a board where other people could check our achievements. The board had all the names of our team members with a photo beside it. The board indicated responsibilities of all members. At the start of meetings, I had to acknowledge success in our previous activity. Sometimes, I had to offer simple rewards such longer lunch breaks or leaving for home early. Finally, in all success, I always remembered to say “thank you” to individual members and the team. All these actions, despite being looking small, played a key role in motivating my team members.
Effective team leadership involve many things. When the project eventually came to an end, I had learned that a combination of good leadership skills and team members with appropriate skills and personality are the key ingredients for successful teams. Various leadership approaches have been proposed. I found that the situational approach is ideal for team management. It offers a leader a chance to employ leadership style that matches different situations. An effective leader also has to lead by examples in positive virtues. This include working with a team to come up with values and ethical principles which are used as a guideline for the team. A leader also ought to rally team members to collaborate, build enthusiasm, and motivate team members when they achieve a milestone. Motivation of team members can be in form of either financial or non-financial rewards.
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Moon, L. (1998). The basics of ethical theory. Retrieved from: http://www.miracosta.edu/home/lmoon/ET.html
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