Leadership Essay, Research Paper
The book entitled Successful Leadership by, Carol O’ Conner discusses seven areas that are essential for successful leadership. Developing Awareness, understanding people, power and authority, communication, decision making, creating a vision, and taking charge are important leadership requirements and skills. Seven chapters in this book are based on the seven concepts just mentioned.
Chapter 1 Developing Awareness covers four aspects of the development of self-awareness: leadership basics, self – assessment, following the leader, and personal development. Three common beliefs about leadership are leaders are born to their role, certain qualities make a leader, and situations create leaders who emerge to meet the needs of a specific group, time, or place. When the task is complete, these leaders retire from their roles. Leaders need to assess their own performance first. This offers a baseline against which colleagues’ comments, considered carefully, may be set. A leader can judge whether or not their coworkers comments are helpful, appropriate or signal a need for a change in behavior by using their own strong, self-image, personal goals, and high performance standards. Effective leaders are able to practice self-assessment by being honest with themselves and not trying to create a fantasy image. People are more willing to follow someone who exhibits positive leadership behaviors rather than negative ones. A positive leader shows fairness, listens well, exhibits integrity, motivates team members, and knows project thoroughly. On the other hand, a negative leader is impatient with slow thinkers, shows favoritism, gives unclear directions, does not share information/knowledge and chooses friends regardless of their skills. Assessment of both positive and negative leadership behaviors provides a basis for improved performance. Positive and negative items can be organized into three areas for development, which are skills, knowledge, and experience. A plan of action uses these three areas and goals are set to improve upon these areas.
Chapter 2 is called Understanding People. Topics related to this theme are motivation, rewards and values, and inspiration. Individuals are motivated to satisfy different needs at different times. One pioneer in the study of motivation is Abraham Maslow. He proposed there is a hierarchy of needs with five different levels. As individuals satisfy all of the needs on each of these levels, they are then naturally motivated to progress and satisfy the needs on the next level. The hierarchy of needs is generally presented in the form of a pyramid. Meaning, purpose is at the top, next self-confidence, creativity, individual achievement, then family, friends, caring relationships, followed by personal safety and a source of income, and at the bottom is food, clothing, and shelter. This model suggests motivation develops in a sequence. Leaders need to recognize each individual’s starting point and build upon this. Individuals develop a strategy to obtain their needs by using one of these patterns. Individuals are ambitious and assertive, caring and supportive, and analytic and cautious. Leaders need to encourage their followers to be more self-aware of their behaviors. The creation of positive relationships and mutual respect is a major source of inspiration for both leaders and followers. The leader’s task is to create bonds of mutual respect between themselves and their supporters.
Chapter 3 is called Power and Authority. This chapter explores topics that concern the proper exercise of power and authority: managing power, styles of leadership, adapting to events, and delegation. There are four kinds of power: designated, expert, charismatic, and information. Designated power depends upon a specific and formally recognized organizational role. Expert power depends upon the personal talents, skills, and experience of the individuals who posses it. Charismatic power leaders posses both a blessing and a curse. Information power focuses on new electronic technology and allows the management of vast amounts of information. Styles of leadership include democratic, autocratic, and permissive. All three styles have benefits and frustrations. Paul Hershey and Ken Blanchard suggest a four-stage model in the development of every group. It also helps determine which leadership style is best for the group. Four stages of the delegation process are defining the task, showing why it is important, explaining expectations, and evaluating and discussing the results.
Chapter 4 is called Communication. The essential components of effective communication are listening and speaking, social skills, and creating understanding. Listening requires a leader to be aware of three essential features: bias, visual signals, and vocal sounds. Speaking involves an ordered and logical presentation of thoughts. Socially skilled communication is goal directed, coherent, appropriate to the situation, controlled, and able to be learned. Understanding enhances a group’s sense of purpose and contributes to their sense of unity. Discussion skills include coaching, paraphrasing, and intervention.
Chapter 5 is called Decision-Making. Decision making skills are improved by focusing on these issues: identifying priorities, setting clear goals, and using a systematic approach. Leaders need to prioritize decisions by separating the issues into “future important” and “current urgent”. Making list helps to organize and assess decision making for the sub-tasks as well. Identification of priorities allows leaders to focus on the urgent and important decisions first. The successful outcome of these decisions depends upon setting the right goals. When formulating goals, decision-makers should make explicit what they want to achieve through their discussion of goals. In a systematic approach, leaders guide their discussion by discovering what the primary and secondary requirements are. This gives structure to the debate and allows those who are involved in the decision to express their views easily. When trying to decide which features are more important, a weight from one to ten can be assigned to show its importance.
Chapter 6 is called Creating a Vision. Other related topics to vision are vision and purpose, the big picture, and framing and reframing. Vision transforms an ordinary manager or administrator into a leader. Vision empowers individuals and gives them the confidence that is both convincing and inspiring to their colleagues. Leaders have vision, take risks, present dreams, explore possibilities, and in general invite their colleagues to join them for a journey into the unknown. Leaders more than anyone else are in charge of promoting a belief in a happy conclusion, even if this seems the remotest possibility. “Big picture thinking” allows achievement of credibility. This refers to the ability to shift attention from the details of an immediate situation to see how it fits into the big picture. In this way, leaders are able to gain a fresh perspective and find solutions to nagging problems. Framing is defined as “an established order or system, or the way that a thing can be constructed, organized, or formed.” It is also a term used to describe the habits of the mind that people use to interpret the world. Each person frames the world in a unique way, so that two people who witness the same events may interpret them differently. Frames are based on personal values, background, and understanding. Big picture thinking is an example of a challenging frame of reference. Shifting perspective in this way is a healthy, creative, and leads to innovative ideas. This process of mentally stepping back, up, or away from a frame is called reframing. This refers to making a conscious choice to interpret the world in a new way. Leaders should not be praised for single-mindedness. They need to recognize that theirs is just one of the many possible interpretations. Those who are unwilling to see this limit themselves and their leadership ability. The skill of reframing is a valuable one for leaders because it encourages development of insight as well as mental flexibility. Reframing creates the possibility of new outcomes and new ideas.
Chapter 7 is entitled Taking Charge. The seventh step to successful leadership draws upon the skills, knowledge, and experience gained through reading this book. Each step highlights an important leadership topic. These include personal development and awareness, relationships with colleagues and understanding motivation, the right use of power, communication skills, decision making, and the creation of vision. Improved performance means leaders must take charge of their thinking about each of these topics as well as take charge of changing their behavior. Activities within the chapter help review the book. The review at the end of the book assesses strengths and weaknesses of leadership performance.
Ultimately, in order to accomplish successful leadership one must understand the definition presented in this book. Leadership is the ability to present a vision so that others want to achieve it. It requires skill in building relationships with other people and organizing resources effectively. Mastery of leadership is open to everyone.