Effective Leadership of Employees

When I started this course I had a lot of misconceptions about leadership. First and foremost I had a very narrow point of view as to what a leader should be. I thought leaders were to take care of just themselves and their department(s)/area(s) and really did not need to be very concerned with other areas of where they were employed. I did not take note of the importance of the overall picture and how interacting with other departments, staff members, etc. could lead to successful leadership in one’s own area. I seemed to have what Bennis referred to as the “Lone Ranger Syndrome (Bennis)” where I thought it was more the workings of one great leader who made accomplishments happen, rather than looking at the accomplishments as a group effort both within a department and collaboratively outside of it. The importance of collaboration cannot be overlooked as it is through team effort that great changes are made, and without the proper communication this can never be accomplished (Kanter). One very important thing to remember when involved in communication/collaboration is that it is very important to listen and respect and value the differences of others in the group (Lucas). This was another point read that I took to heart. I learned that it isn’t necessarily being a great leader on your own that works the best at facilitating success, but more that it is the ability of the leader to find the way to bring the best out of a very diverse set of people so that they are inspired to want to work together and do a great job (Hickman).

I also learned that trust plays a phenomenal role in leadership success. People who are more apt to trust their leaders are also more apt to be productive, inspired, and enthused to do a great job (Bennis).

Another issue I feel very differently about is the issue of transition. I have always had the attitude that when change comes along you should just Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½go with flow’ or do what you are told. I failed miserably in seeing the importance of properly transitioning big change so that employees are better able to accept it and even advocate it. What I was neglecting to note was that transition can be very hard for some people to accept, especially if a position they love or are used to is being affected. I think this may be sometimes hard for leaders to accept because they have spent so long in dealing with the changes that are to come about (in the planning stages) that they have grown accustomed to them. Also, in having their hands in the mix, so to speak, they have been an active participant in the change, and so can relate to it differently than can their employees who most likely have had little or nothing to do with the planning process. I learned that it is important for leaders to give their employees a fair amount of time to process the new changes in order for (many of) them to be willing to accept them (Bridges). Initiating and defining the actions will many times simply not be enough. Care must be taken to ensure that the transition period offers not only the definition of what the changes are going to be, but also shows how the changes will positively affect the company and the employees. It must conjecture what the future will look like once the changes are made and tell how the group is going to get there, step-by-step (Bridges). This also relates back to the trust issue in that if the leader is trusted by the group, the transition period will also probably be an easier one for them.

Because change is the norm (Bridges) it is important for a leader to learn to effectively implement them without creating or adding to a terse environment that may go along with it (in so far as the employees may be resistant to it). Leaders must also be willing to admit difficulty during this timeframe, and acknowledge it so that the do further garner the trust issue and help the employees to feel more empowered and in control of their own destiny in the scheme of the things (Cuilla). Trust and self-empowerment will give the self-confidence needed to help spur more great ideas to further help the plan along, and help to implement the ones already in place because they put people in the thrust of the action instead of having them to be on the outside of the problem (Lucas). If people are comfortable in their environment they are able to be an effective part of their team if they choose to. This too, requires honesty from leaders as they help employees to see their strengths and weaknesses and better determine their roles in the changes that are taking place (Bridges). Employees are very prone to reacting to honesty in a favorable manner and on the reverse side, retreating or worse when dishonesty is present (Hickman). Patience must also be executed in the transition period because rushing ahead will only serve to hinder the development being made in the processes of the transition.

There is another great point that I picked up on in the reading that astounded me. I learned that it is crucial to accept and even embrace the differences of others. I have always tended to believe that someone’s personal life is their personal life, plain and simple, and that it had no place on the job. I am starting to believe different and see that the differences that make up people are something to be revered in every situation, in one way or another. Finding out about a person and what makes them tick, so to speak, is fundamental to finding ways to inspire them. It helps to make the decision making purposeful because you are taking background information and finding ways to personally relate what is going on to each individual, and it shows that you, “value inclusion,” (Lucas).

My philosophy on education has drastically changed, and I am very glad to report it so. I think the lessons we are taking with us from this class are immeasurable and exponential in value. I know that I for one will be using these lessons in my future endeavors as a leader, be it in the home, in the classroom, or in the work environment. Along the way I have been picking up tidbits that have shown me just how important it is to listen to those around me, and how valuable that listening can be in accomplishments for everyone. I intend to be more cognizant of what is being said, and why it is being said, and how it can be used in the positive towards the future. I also intend to be more careful on trying to learn only for the benefit of myself, but also in seeing how what I am learning can be beneficial to the team I am working with and others that may be involved in whatever process I am being a part of.

Not only have I picked up sound leadership tips in the reading, but I have also picked up good tips that will help me to be a better team member when someone else is leading. I have changed my philosophy from thinking it is okay to just sometimes sit by and let those lead who would like to. I see that my standpoint, views, thoughts, etc., could actually be beneficial to the team as a whole, and that I need to speak up. So many times I have thought of ideas in response to questions being generated in group discussion that could have been helpful, but have kept them to myself assuming that I needed to just let the leaders lead. From now on I am going to try to be more participatory and involved in what is going on around me. I am going to make my contributions liberally, and realize that there may be something I say that will spawn another thought from someone else that will develop into a great plan, or realize that something of what I am saying may have great value and actually be instrumental itself in the thought processes going on.

Leadership has always been an Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½iffy’ issue for me. I tend to do a good job when assigned to it, but never really volunteer for it on my own. In the future I am hoping to improve upon that, and realize that every time I volunteer to lead; I am honing my skills to do so, and learning more and more each time at how to be more effective at it. Perhaps someday I will even lose my Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½turtle’ status and become closer to being an eagle.

I love that I am learning what I am, but there are still some issues for me, as far as leadership goes, that are unresolved. For one, how do you encourage integrity in others? People just seem to be either honest or dishonest. We have read that integrity, honesty, etc., are very important characteristics for a leader to have, but what about the followers? What if they are not honest: how does that affect leadership issues, and what can be done about it? I realize that as leaders we have to facilitate trust by offering it, but what about the employee(s) who simply will not be honest, regardless? It is just a thought, and I realize that for the most part people will live up to high expectations, but I also know there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. The thing that worries me most about this is one person with a bad attitude or dishonest nature can throw a kink in the work environment, and if it continues on long enough, even lower work morale for those around him/her. As leaders, what do we do in those situations, and how many times are we really even made aware of them?

Another thing I am left wondering is how much involvement should the staff really have in leadership issues? Should it be an equal playing ground? I keep reading in various places that the traditional top-down approach is ineffective, but my thoughts keep returning to, Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½how could that be?’ For so many years there were many successful businesses that were run this way. In my own position at work there was a healthy combination of the two. People were given autonomy, trust, and respect, but on pertinent issues, they were not really given much say so (upper education/administration) and it truly seemed to work out just fine. We were given a healthy dose of support and ample time to adapt to changes that were being introduced, but many people really did not have the opportunity to be a part of the processes of change, and truthfully it worked out fine. In having worked there for many years and knowing many of the staff members, it seems to me that if employees were given too much say so in the plans for conceptual change that chaos would have run abundant. There were just too many differing opinions and a lot of negativity on the part of one department in particular that I think would have slowed down progress tremendously. Yet I agree with what we have been learning in this class that collaborative efforts between staff and employees are integral to future success. The way things are being led in business/education truly are changing from the days of top-down leadership, and I think it is a very good thing, but I also thing some type of leadership standard must be in place to allow structure to remain, and I also think that employees want to have those boundaries in place, not be on precisely equal ground in every situation, because they need to know that there is someone they can turn to for direction or help should the need arise. These are just my thoughts, and I realize they are a bit on the see-saw, favoring both team work and top-down employment to some extent, so you can see I still have some issues of my own to work out on the leadership take we are studying, but I do absolutely agree for the most part that employees should be a part of the planning process, I am just not sure about the correct doses to take in doing so, or for a lack of a more efficient phrase, I am not sure when enough is enough. It is a fine line and I do struggle with it.

The other issue I have as I look into the future regarding leadership is the definitions we have been reading of gender based leadership. It was noted that men are generally prone to transactional leadership and women transformational leadership (Matusak) and I find this to be totally untrue. Perhaps it is just my own experience, but I find that women are not simply categorized into being, “gentle, emotional, and compassionate” and men are not easily categorized as being, “aggressive, competitive, and action-oriented,” (Matusak). The women I have worked with in leadership positions were more transformactional than anything else. In fact, there was never a problem of a female leader standing her ground against a male leader in my workplace, and many times it was just the opposite. The women leaders we had were very aggressive go-getters and in no way did they fit the stereotypical standards of being meek or mild, which is what I interpret Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½gentle, emotional, and compassionate’ to be. I think that perhaps in the past this may have been more of an issue than it is now. In a relatively short amount of time I think women have crossed gender lines in a way that is absolutely mind blowing. No longer are the days of, Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½yes sir, no sir’ in place. Women are very much on equal ground in how they lead and in the ways they are thinking when it comes to implementing their leadership.

All in all, I would like to end this paper on a positive note because as I noted in the beginning of the paper, I do intend to be broader in my thinking scope as to how leadership should be implemented. I tend to adhere to the old-school approach of leadership, or the Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½good old boys’ syndrome, far more than I even thought to be true, and I realize in the ever-changing world of leadership that this concept is very fast, if not already, becoming outdated. As Hackney noted though, there is a historical grounding in the way women have been perceived as leaders (Hackney) that is really not favorable (women are perceived as being somewhat soft in their leadership roles), and even though changes are abundant I still think this can be the mentality of some people, including from myself, to some degree (although as I noted it has not been that way in my own work environment). I do, however, appreciate the fact that women are very involved in the process of leadership and I appreciate that honesty and openness are becoming more and more prevalent in the decision-making process, and I do see this mentality rapidly becoming a thing of the past. What I appreciate most and what I have the most to learn from is that team members can and should become key players of the decision making processes that go on into running a successful department/business. I think a lot of headway can be made if this becomes the norm and I am excited about the prospect of learning to embrace this type of thinking pattern and very interested in seeing where my own leadership skills will take me should I successfully do so.

No one knows exactly what the future holds, but it is our responsibility as leaders to research and embrace change (where applicable) and be certain that our leadership skills are not permitted to stagnate. It is our duty to reach out to those under our leadership and find the most effective ways that we can to bring out their best qualities and harmonize their abilities with one another to ensure work productivity and harmony is at its highest. Reading, researching, watching, and practicing implementing changes that are positive is a proven way towards finding the best leadership skills that we have within us. Gauging the responses in our employees and in the changes themselves will dictate what changes are successful and which ones still need fine tuning. With practice and a willing team, we can all become great leaders; this I believe. It is my duty to myself and to those working with me to lead in a manner wherein positive changes and atmosphere are the rule. I intend to do so and am very thankful for all that I am learning as I go, both in this class and in my own experiences. And so I leave this class with a feeling of remorse that it will not continue, for the reading and fellowship has been inspiring, but it is also with many thank-you’s that I go, because the tools I am taking with me are singularly and easily the most abundant of any course I have taken. I have great ideas, and plans to take with me and use in both my home and the workplace regarding leadership and my mind is racing with abundant places to start. To me, this is just how a course should end, leaving you feeling inspired and in touch, and leaving you with a sense of having actually learned something worthwhile that you can use exponentially as your future takes you along. It is with great appreciation and much kudos that I leave the course, and thank you profusely for taking the time to make it a class worth taking.

Bennis, W. G. (1997). “The secrets of great groups.” Leader to Leader, No.3. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. Available at http://www.pfdf.org/leaderbooks/L2L/winter97/bennis.html

Bridges, W. & Mitchell, S. (2000). “Leading transition: A new model for change.”

Leader to Leader, No.16. The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. Available at http://www.pfdf.org/leaderbooks/L2L/spring2000/bridges.html

Cuilla, J. B. “Leadership and the problem of bogus empowerment.” Academy of Leadership. Available at http://www.academy.umd.edu/publications/klspdocs/jciul_p1.htm

Hackney, C. E. (2003). Struggling for authentic human synergy and a robust democratic culture: The wellspring community for women in educational leadership.

Advancing Women in Leadership Journal. Available at http://www.advancingwomen.com/awl/spring2003/HACKNE~1.html

Hickman, G. R. Transforming leadership in transformistic organizations: A framework for institutional and societal capacity building . Academy of Leadership. Available at

Kanter, R. M. (1999). “Enduring skills of change leaders.” Leader to Leader , No. 13.

The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management. Available at

Lucas, N., Komives, S.R. & McMahon, T.R. (1998). A new way of understanding
leadership. Exploring Leadership for College Students Who Want to Make a
Difference.Jossey-Bass. Available at http://www.academy.umd.edu/publications/leadership_education/exploring.htm

Matusak, L. Leadership: gender related, not gender specific. In Concepts, Challenges, and Realities of Leadership: An International Perspective. Selected Proceedings from the Salzburg Seminar on International Leadership. Academy of Leadership. Available at http://www.academy.umd.edu/publications/global_leadership/salzburg/chapter3.htm

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