The Function Of Leaders Essay, Research Paper
The Function of Leaders: Techniques and Tactics
At the top of the corporate hierarchy of today, decisions are constantly being made. In turn, these decisions affect all employees further down the pecking order. To be successful, these high-ranking members must know how to accomplish tasks by leading the people with lower accountability. These elite individuals share the distinct quality known as leadership. In the following paragraphs, a deeper understanding of the way leaders function will be assessed, specifically, the tactics and techniques they use to
accomplish their goals.
Fundamental Leadership Qualities
Before business leaders can successfully communicate and direct others, they must have their own set of ideas, values, and other key characteristics. Leaders know what needs to happen in order to win in their area of the marketplace. They are able to adapt and update their ideas when circumstances change, and also help others develop their own ideas. More importantly however, leaders carry and transmit values that provide a foundation for business ideas and, they have the ability to modify these values under changing circumstances (Tichy, 1997). For example, a leader may abandon old bureaucratic values in order to keep up with a fast paced industry requiring new, updated ideas. According to Noel Tichy, “Establishing or revitalizing values is one of the most crucial and toughest jobs of leaders” (1997, p. 20). Energy and risk-taking are two other critical qualities that leaders use to confidently direct and push their ideas and values. To motivate others, leaders must be highly energetic and motivated themselves. By radiating positive emotional energy, they are able to influence other employees to follow the example. Leadership also involves risk-taking. Leaders make hard decisions with conviction and urge others to do the same (Tichy, 1997, p. 21). These fundamental attributes provide a basis for many techniques and mind-sets that today?s leaders use.
Leaders must always have a clear vision of the business?s direction, and purpose. But, Robert Rosen points out that, ” a vision is only as good as its execution.” That is why leaders must always be thinking about outcomes, results, and about what it will take to translate the vision to reality (1996, p. 30). One technique, labeled “beginning with the end in mind” coined by Steven Covey, is useful to leaders who have a vision. Covey observed that peak performers and business leaders see, feel, and experience their visions before they actually begin to realize them. They begin with the end in mind. Before a sales confrontation, speech, or any daily challenge, leaders repeatedly visualize it clearly. They create an internal “comfort zone” to carryout any task with ease (Covey, 1989, p. 134).
In most situations, leaders must share their visions before they can actualize them. Rosen proposes a four-step process to create a shared vision. First, he must know exactly what he, as leader, wants to accomplish. Second, he must communicate his vision to everyone involved in an inspirational way which builds commitment to accomplish his goal. Third, he must enable the lower members of the pecking order to be heard and, weave them together into a collective whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts (Rosen, 1996, p. 37). Max DePree compiles a list of rights that leaders and other workers are entitled to. The eight principles are: (1) Right to be needed (2) Right to be involved (3) Right to a covenantal (written or understood) relationship (4) Right to understand (5) Right to affect ones own destiny. (6) Right to be accountable (7) Right to appeal (8) Right to make a commitment (1989). According to DePree, a leader must keep these eight rights in mind whenever a new concept or vision comes into play, especially in the business world (1989, p. 35-42). The principles behind these techniques are recognized by leaders and are used day-to-day when visions arise. However, leaders do not limit themselves to purely vision sharing and self mind-setting.
Leaders Exhibit and Expect Trust
According to Douglas G. Myers, executive director of the San Diego Zoo, “Upward communication only takes place when leaders are trusting — and trustworthy.” Trust is the highest for of motivation because it brings out the very best in people (Covey, 1989). But, it takes time and patience. On the other hand, distrust leads to many drawbacks – possibly to a great degree (Kotter, 1999, p. 42). Rosen states that successful leaders must be genuine, believable, dependable, predictable, and benevolent (1996). It is important for people to touch and feel leaders as real people. Their word, spoken or written, is credible. Leaders make good on their promises, whether declared or implied. Predictability is about being the same person in all situations so people can predict how leaders react. As Myers says, “I like to have my people understand what I?m thinking, and where I?m going with it. If they know we are not going to change direction every day, that we are not going to grab every new management philosophy that comes along, it gives them a sense of comfort. It give them a sense of security.” Leaders are generally consistent, which encourages safety for employees to work together. Leaders also have the capacity to put aside self-interest for the good of the group (Rosen, p. 75). To avoid defensiveness, protectiveness and legalistic language from employees resulting from a low-trust situation, leaders establish a high-trust communication level (Covey, p. 270).
Creating trust is a process that must begin from the top and move down. It starts inside the leader. He understands that he must be honest about himself and about what is going on inside the business. A leader trusts others and earns the trust of others as well. This mutual trust makes relationships and commitments more authentic (Rosen, 1996, p. 75). Deep listening skills are essential to build trust. Leaders engage in conversations for learning, seeking to deepen understanding, clarify standpoints, and find new ways of solving problems (Rosen, p. 85). There are 4 levels of listening according to Steven Covey: (1) Ignoring – this occurs when we are not really listening, but rather pretending to listen by saying “Yeah, Uh-huh, Right,” or other similar phrases (2) Selective Listening – where we only hear parts of the conversation (3) Attentive listening – paying attention and focusing energy on the words coming from the other person?s mouth (4) Empathic Listening – actually listening with intent to understand (1989, p. 240). Leaders practice the fourth level, empathetic listening, because they seek to understand instead of thinking about “how to respond to, or one-up, the person talking” (Rosen, 1996). According to communications experts, only 10 percent of our communication is represented by the words we say. Another 30 percent is represented by our sounds, and 60 percent by our body language. When using empathetic listening, leaders listen with their ears, as well as their heart, eyes, sense, and intuition (Covey, 1989). Employees recognize a leader?s genuine concern for what they have to say. Deep listening, benevolence, dependability, genuineness, and predictability are crucial skills and characteristics that leaders use to build trust.
Leaders Encourage and Harvest Creativity
Managing the process of creativity is one of the most important elements for success and survival as individuals and organizations strive to adapt to the accelerating changes that are occurring in business on a global level (Dilts, 1999). First, leaders discover their own creative potential, allowing them to release the creativity of others. They help employees find their talents, and link those talents to the task at hand (Rosen, 1996). Leaders understand that people are born with natural gifts. So, “the secret is to discover what people do well – and ask them to do more” (Rosen, p. 246). Once people?s talents are discovered, leaders must uncover this creativity. They do this by establishing an environment that allows people to make full use of their creative gifts. Leaders must support self-expression, spontaneity, innovation, independent thinking, and nonconformity. As Rosen explains, a leader “learns to uncover it (creativity), unleash it, and channel it in the best direction for the business” (1996, p. 256). Robert E. Koski, founder and chairman of Sun Hydraulics, gives some insight on creativity in the workplace. He says that a leader must eliminate “intimidation” and “hassle” factors that get in the way of people?s sharing their creative virtues with others. Also, it is important for leaders to give others the freedom to fail. An employee can learn a great deal from failure, and become much more effective. Under all these conditions, leaders provide employees the freedom to utilize their creativity to accomplish company goals efficiently and to the best of their ability.
Scheduling and Leaders
A leader must self-manage his schedule because he is the only one who can identify his roles (Covey, 1989). In business, a leader might have many specific roles. For example, one man might identify his roles as being Manager of New Products, Manager of Research, Manager of Staff Development, and Manager of Administration simultaneously. Once roles are clearly set, the next step is scheduling. Leaders use a variety of methods to plan ahead in order to keep up with the business cycle. Covey suggests planning two or three important tasks to accomplish in each of the roles during the upcoming week. Setting up time-blocks for specific events allow leaders to physically visualize the week on paper. This time-block strategy allows time for unanticipated factors, shifting appointments if necessary, and to concentrate on relationships and interactions with employees (Covey, p. 165). Ideally, these weekly goals should be incorporated with long-term goals and be prioritized according to his/her set of values and visions. When prioritizing, leaders understand that urgent matters aren?t always important. Important matters require more initiative (Covey, p. 151). Scheduling is a method by which leaders stay in touch with their deepest values through review of key roles. By satisfying every role that a leader occupies in his company, he is better prepared to carry-out visions and goals.
Dealing with Resistance
Even with scheduling and prioritizing, leaders must still deal with resistance from employees when a change occurs in the workplace. This resistance can be caused by many factors. Sometimes workers are resistant due to a lack of understanding of a change. A leader must educate people beforehand. The education process usually involves one-on-one discussions, presentations to groups, and memos or reports (Kotter, 1999, p. 37). Other times, a change brings increased workload and extra effort for employees. In such cases, a leader provides training in new skills, or gives employees time off after a demanding period, or simply practices empathetic listening on a regular basis and provides emotional support. Although leaders have the authority to use any method, they stay away from manipulation when instituting a change. According to Kotter, manipulation is “the very selective use of information and the conscious structuring of events” (1999, p. 41). Leaders are aware that manipulation undermines their own capacities for developing power and trust for influencing others. Therefore, leaders avoid manipulation and stick to more honest methods previously mentioned to deal with resistance to change.
Leaders are Needed, Not Managers
Business institutions succeed over the long term not because of their cultures, or their use of modern management tools, but because they regenerate leaders at certain levels (Tichy, 1997, p. 43). Managers are not necessarily leaders. A manager supervises, inspects, and demands (Rosen, 1996). A manager can treats his employees as tools to make a profit. On the other hand, leaders accomplish the same results with regards to employees as people. No one says that leadership is easy. It is hard because people that are at the top of the corporate hierarchy are often caught in a management paradigm (Covey, p. 102). As Covey humorously quotes it, “Efficient management without effective leadership is, as one individual phrased it, ?like straightening deck chairs on the Titanic?”(p.102). Leaders don?t get trapped in thinking of control, and rules. Instead, their focus is on direction, and purpose. Leaders enable organizations to fulfill their desired goals, and redesign those goals as circumstances change while maintaining trust and encouraging creativeness in employees. In time, under good leadership, some employees will become leaders themselves. One implied trait of a leader is the ability to personally develop new leaders. Larry Bossidy, CEO of Allied Signal, comments, “When confused as to how you?re doing as a leader, find out how the people you lead are doing. You?ll know the answer” (Tichy, 1997). Leaders must personally oversee the development of new leaders, otherwise, the business won?t be sustainable. They spend much time teaching. This is what makes them so valuable. According to Kotter, most organizations lack the leadership they need, and the shortfall is 200% to 400% up the hierarchy (1999, p.1). There is not a lack of talented, energetic, risk-taking individuals. However, too few of these people are providing the leadership that is increasingly need in business (Kotter, 1999). Instead of nurturing talent, encouraging people to lead, and to learn from mistakes and successes, organizations all too often ignore leadership potential.
Researchers have acknowledged the importance and scarcity of leaders. The tactics and techniques of leaders differ from the strictly-managerial approaches. Leaders build trust, create and harvest creativity, deal with resistance without manipulation, and prioritize with business goals and visions in mind.
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Kotter, J. (1999). What leaders really do. President and Fellows of Harvard College:
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