John W. Gardner. Positive and negative emotions
What I liked about the topic (positive emotion)
John W. Gardner’s ‘On Leadership’ is one of the most valuable books on leaders and leadership. It is a must for anyone who aspires for a career in management. The book discusses leadership qualities and analyses what it means to be an effective leader. The book projects several leadership ideas to me, which provided a positive outlook for me, most of which I wasn’t aware of before. Distinguishing between leadership and management, Gardner notes that they often overlap. While managers at times exhibit leadership skills, leaders sometimes may require executing managerial functions.
An important aspect of leadership is delegating of tasks. While a leader can delegate tasks and functions to other members, the role of leadership itself cannot be delegated. Another function which Gardner says cannot be delegated is the envisioning of goals. The leader has a sense of the direction, along which the enterprise should go, which is described as the core and essence of leadership.
Another interesting and valuable information which aroused positive inspiration in me is the concept of followers. While leaders have subordinates, it is their responsibility to transform them into followers. While followers like to have their say and exercise their own initiatives, there are times when they expect prompt and clear decisions from the leader. Therefore the effective leader cannot stick to one particular style as they may require providing support at times, while also make authoritative decisions at other times.
What I did not like about the topic (negative emotion)
But certain aspects of leadership in the book also raised negative feelings in me. Gardner says that the earliest days of an organization is bound to be with much hectic activity and commotion, while it would be quite orderly once it begins to mature. I personally think commotion and orderliness has nothing to do with the inception or maturity of an organization. It is all reflective of the planning and management of its activities, which once again is reflective of its leadership. A new venture can progress in a very orderly manner while it could be chaotic at times for an established organization too.
Also it is highlighted that an aging organization would trend to have reduced communication. I don’t agree with this; in fact its communication should have improved with time, if it had progressed on the right path. Only when an organization is falling apart with time, shall its communication be impaired.
With regard to reorganization, Gardner says leaders would have to resort to reorganization to set things right. Sometimes they would have to cut through established relationships or even undertake radical measures. The need to make major changes as part of reorganizing doesn’t seem good to me. When reorganization requires huge overhauling, it only means that the new measures are implemented too late. Had it been implemented on time, it would have required minimum efforts.
What did I learn (Summarize)
Leadership is associated with several attributes and values like sharing, trust, power, courage confidence and assertiveness. Good leaders can make a big difference to the performance of the organizations they lead. They ensure that the parameters of organizational effectiveness like quality, employee satisfaction, productivity, profit etc., are excellent.
It is therefore no doubt that an effective leadership with a vision is essential for the growth of any organization. The ability to set goals and encourage subordinates to work towards it, through devolution of responsibilities and motivation is crucial for effective organizational growth. These leaders are adaptable and flexible and have strong beliefs.
Gardner emphasizes several characteristics and functions as being vital to leadership and organizational effectiveness. One of the leadership attributes quoted as being important in the book is communication between the leader and followers. Communication is very important for effective leaders, and they should ensure that it is a two-way. Both research and experience has shown that this communication is essential for the leader-follower relationship. There must be a free flow of communication from the leader to his followers and also considerable return communication from them, including all dissent if any. This would also enable leaders to pick up emerging signals from among his followers.
On the whole the book is indispensible for anyone associated with leadership. Although certain points might not look too convincing at an individual level, the rest of the book is very interesting and valuable. The book ‘On Leadership’ truly gives an image of an effective leader and the path it take to become one.