Reflection on Leadership Styles

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1          Requirements for Good Leadership

Good leadership comprises of combination of values, skills, behaviour, attitude and the applied leadership style. The qualities of exceptional leaders are outlined in (Goffee and Jones, 2006) and are diverse in nature. Leaders have core values that may affect their attitude and behaviour (Bass and Steidlmeier, 1999). Leadership is highly debatable and researchers have varied approach on good leadership (Vroom and Jaago, 2007). For developing leaders (Adair, 2007) leadership levels helps in planning ones leadership goals.

As my leadership has been limited to sports teams and university level activities, analysing myself based on the “The five-stage model of adult skill acquisition”, I have observed that I am at the “Advanced Beginner Level”. After developing the necessary skills and adhering to my development plan in the next five years, I would like to be at the “Expert” stage of this model (Dreyfus, 2004). I have identified some of the leadership qualities I have and few more that I want to develop to grow as a leader.

  • Effective Communication
  • Integrity
  • Open Minded
  • Delegation
  • Motivation
  • Receptive of criticism

Situational leadership style is the one that inspired me the most and is the one that I aim to achieve in the near future. People are the main resources of an organisation who can be trained, developed and motivated to work better. According to (Hersey, Paul and Blanchard, Kenneth H and Natemeyer, 1979), Identification of the maturity of the followers is one of the key areas required for situational leadership. The leadership styles has to be applied based on the maturity level of the team members. I have selected this leadership model as it gives a leader the flexibility in adapting leadership techniques across different levels of maturity in the team. It gives a crucial insight on the abilities and skills of the team members as every team member differs and bring with them their individual strengths to the table. This technique helps to lead teams with diverse skills and backgrounds. Although (Yukl, 1981; Graeff, 1983) do not agree with some concepts of this model, this model is simple and easy to apply for an emerging leader like myself.

My module activity was based on teams of less than 20 people, which has helped me develop leadership skills to become an effective team leader. After which I aim to grow as an operational leader and eventually reach my entrepreneurial goal of managing an entire organisation by being an effective strategic leader (Adair, 2007). My personal development plan consists of identifying personal and professional goals, setting objectives to achieve them, reflect and follow up every quarter (Thomas, 2004).

2          How you meet the requirements

The first stage of leadership involves identifying my leadership qualities. This module has guided me to distinguish between values, attitude, behaviour and skills. Transition to becoming a leader from a non-leadership role requires a good mentor. The leadership module tutors have played the roles of a mentor to initiate the leadership learning curve within me. They were able to identify my mistakes and provide feedback on my leadership capability. They provided me with constructive advice on how I can develop my leadership ability reflecting on which, I have made the following changes on myself. After evaluating my leaderships strengths and weaknesses, I have come up with a personal development plan built on (Adair, 2007) and the leadership module.

2.1         Communication

Leaders influence, guide, inspire or motivate others, for which effective verbal and nonverbal communication is essential (Adair, 1973; Barrett, 2008). I feel although everyone is able to communicate, good leaders possess the skill of effective communication. Effective communication is an essential part of transformational leadership (Bass, 1990). Good leaders are able to negotiate and manage conflict through effective communication building trust and confidence within the team (Leen Sawalha, 2017). Team performance can be achieved by knowledge sharing which is achieved through effective communication (Srivastava, Bartol and Locke, 2006).

In the hollow box activity, there was a lot of confusion, where I took the opportunity to communicate between my team members to manage conflict and share information. This helped drive our activity in the right direction. From the feedback received, I am delighted to know my communication was clear and my team members were able to understand me with ease. They also mentioned that I am a good listener and I am approachable which relates to my effective non-verbal communication. I believe that good leaders not only communicate well but also promote communication within team members. In my observation of other activities, I think other people could develop good listening skills, where they actively listen but not simply hear.

In my communication development plan, I want to extensively develop my vocabulary, as it will help in my verbal communication. I want to be able to radiate positivity and inspire through my non-verbal communication. As I move into my professional career, I want to develop my writing (emails, reports, official documentation) and presentation skills. I would also like to expand my area of reading so that I have an extensive access to information, which will help me connect with people.

2.2         Integrity

Integrity commonly consists of various terms that include ethics, honesty, trustworthiness, authenticity and a consistency of words and actions (Lowe, Cordery and Morrison, 2004; Palanski and Yammarino, 2007). As a leader, one has to be true to oneself and enhance their existing skills to maintain the authenticity of who they are (Goffee and Jones, 2006).  Leaders exhibit their ethics and moral values in their day to day to actions (Badaracco, 2001).

My integrity stems from the strong ethics and values of my 16 years of schooling in a catholic institution. The motto of my educational institution “Service and Excellence” is strongly embedded in me. I have a strong sense of accountability; as growing up my parents ensured, I took responsibility for my actions and decisions. Leadership requires decision-making, and decisions may not always have the desired outcome. In such situations, a good leader for me is the one who takes responsibility and is accountable for their actions (Petrick and Quinn, 2001). In the classroom activity, when we failed to succeed, I was able to stand up for my team and take responsibility for the failure as their leader. My friends and family have commonly told me that I am dependable and would be the first person they contact if in need.

In the classroom activity, I got a similar feedback that I was available for any assistance with any particular task. I believe this is one of the good qualities that people could learn from me. I take inspiration for integrity from my parents, tutors and world leaders. Good leaders are able to inspire others through their integrity. The malicious tampering activity showed me that integrity extends to protecting your consumers and stakeholders; not just your team and yourself. For my future development, I would like to volunteer for activities once a year that relate to my values and build stronger social responsibility.

2.3         Open Minded

In the current fast developing organizations, open-minded leaders have the ability to bring out the best ideas from the team members. Open-minded leaders encourage creativity and empower their team by building an approachable culture (Özarallı, 2015). They have strong confidence in their own skill set and are not threatened by high intellect team members. They are open to learning and developing themselves as well as their team, which is strong quality I see in myself. I believe this module has made me flexible and open to other’s views and ideas. For me it is important not only to listen, but to value and act upon the suggestions of my team members. As a leader, I am flexible and able to change my decision when I am wrong. This has helped me to make better decisions for my team and myself. The module helped me move to the next stage of open mindedness. This is where I realised that I need to thank my team members for their suggestions and give credit to great ideas. I believe people can learn from my ability to give credit to the ones who deserve and bring them to the limelight than taking all the recognition as the team leader.

One of the main reflection for me from this module was recognising that peoples perspective can vary and one’s culture and background has a strong effect on their views (Hofstede, 1980)

I was fortunate to have an exposure to different cultural views, as there were students from around a dozen countries in this module. This has made me realise that it is not all black or white and I have learnt to respect others opinion. Since the module, I have constructively developed myself to not force my opinion on others and understand that someone else can have a better idea due to a different perspective. I need to be aware and conscious of stereotypes that exist and be cautious not to use them. To make sure I change, I am paying attention to my words and actions while making a list of any stereotypes I may use and avoid them in the future.

3          Required areas of development

Leadership requires a combination of skills and qualities. It is always beneficial to have multiple skills, which can prove helpful for a situational leader to adapt their leadership to different tasks and people. Current organisations have a very dynamic structure and keep changing, requiring multiple skills the leader may need to develop (Mumford et al., 2000). In this section, I have outlined three leadership qualities that I intend to develop to become a good leader.

3.1         Delegation

According to (Lewin, Lippitt and White, 1939) leaders need to delegate so that the followers develop decision-making skills and are able to work independently to meet the end goal. I need to develop delegation as a skill, as I am a micro manager and get involved in the nitty gritty of the task. In the hollow box activity, delegation was one of the factors for the success of the activity. I observed that although we were provided with a solution to the puzzle, I spent time duplicating the task solution.

In the learning-puzzle activity involving willing, unwilling and unable team members. I observed that with the willing team members, I kept verifying if they had completed the task as per my directions and did not just take their word for it. This affected my ability to delegate task to my team members of maturity level M4 who were capable of completing the tasks by themselves and trust on their capability (Hersey, Paul and Blanchard, Kenneth H and Natemeyer, 1979). This made me realise the importance of being able to trust the team. I received the feedback from the tutor that in practice a leader cannot always work on the task themselves and needs to trust the ability of their team members.

I realise that this is essential for good leadership and would like to act upon this in my development plan. I would like to build a relationship based on trust with my followers, so that delegation comes easily to me. Research from various literatures has shown the substantial impact of trust on team morale and performance (Dirks, 2000).

According to me, I would follow these basic steps for delegation.

  • Delegate a task that matches the skills of the followers.
  • Make sure the team members understand the task requirements including task completion dates.
  • Need to let them know that I am available and approachable of they need me.
  • Measure the outcome after task completion and reward through intrinsic motivation (Deci and Ryan, 1975).

For my development plan, I have started applying to engineering project team of five that I am guiding. Since the module, I have been able to give the team members space to work independently which has given me time to work on the overall project and seen positive results in my team members work. The feedback from my team members suggests that they seem to be involved more in the project and able to contribute innovatively. This is an initial step of my development plan and I intend to grow better with practise.

3.2         Motivation

Motivation is the ability to drive oneself and others to achieve the best results for a given situation (Adair, 1998). Motivation is more complicated than it sounds, as it is a toughest outcome for a leader to achieve as motivation has come from within, making self-motivation as important as motivating others. Researchers over the years have worked on various theories such as McGregor’s Theory, Herzberg’s Motivation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Thomas, 2004), which outline the importance of motivation and factors influencing it.

Motivation can be characterised as intrinsic and extrinsic and how it can effect performance (Amabile, 1993). Extrinsic motivation comprises of monitory rewards, whereas intrinsic rewards motivation through encouragement and intellectual stimulation. Research studies have shown that in the long term intrinsic motivation helps achieve better results through flexibility, creativity and innovation (Eisenberger and Cameron, 1996). Motivation has shown to be a driving shown in transformational leadership (Bass and Steidlmeier, 1999). However researchers also suggest that extrinsic motivators have to work in synergy with intrinsic motivators to achieve the best results (Deci and Ryan, 1975). Transformational leaders achieve positive results by providing individualised support and emotional stimuli to achieve inspiration rather than authority (Melita Prati et al., 2003). This aligns with (Adair, 2007), where a good leader pays attention to the task, team and individual needs.

I observed how motivation could play a crucial role in an organisation in the activity where the employees were requested to work more. This task was complex, as the leaders were not allowed to provide any extrinsic motivation. At that stage, I realised that intrinsic motivation is complex and is built on relationships with your team over time. It was surprising to observe that most of us thought extrinsic motivation was the only way to lead a team in such a situation and how easily we felt pressurised to oversell. However, this module enlightened us on how extrinsic motivation would lead to a routine failure to motivate eventually.

However, in learning puzzle activity, I was keen on not just giving direction to them but also providing support throughout the task to keep them motivated. The feedback given by the teams highlighted the motivational quality in me and it was appreciated that I kept trying to get them on board.

As this is a skill I am very keen on developing, I have outlined a development plan to develop the skills of motivation. In the last few weeks, I have been enhancing my knowledge on motivation and its impact on leadership and team performance. Research by Amabile, El Deci and RM Ryan were a good start to my reading list. The first stage to be a motivational leader is to be self-motivated as motivation is contagious. To develop my self-motivation, by being physically active and mentally alert, have a positive attitude and radiate positive energy, be excited and happy to try new things. I have realised the need to have a healthy relationship with my team as this makes motivating them easier.

3.3         Receptive of criticism

Leaders come across criticism regularly in their day-to-day tasks. However good leaders are able to use this criticism constructively. A leader sometimes has to go against the grain and take decisions that calls for a new approach, requiring change. In such situations, it is common for the leader to be criticized for his suggestions and decisions (Kleinnijenhuis et al., 2007). Criticism to a leader can come from their followers and mentors in various strengths and forms. A good leader is able to manage this criticism effectively. I believe good leaders have strong levels of confidence allowing them to be open to criticism. By accepting criticism, leaders are able to send a message across the team that feedback is a two-way street building positive collaboration within a team.

One of the key learnings in the module for me was how a leader should be able to handle criticism and use it constructively develop themselves. Before the module I lived in a world of denial and always had a perception that I was right, as a result overlooking the criticism I received. Initially when I got feedback in the module, I was hesitant to accept it. However, as the module progressed I was able to reflect back on the feedback and realise it was accurate and applicable to me. This brought about a realisation within me for the need to change, as most of the feedback was helpful for my personal development. By the end of the module, I found myself no longer overlooking criticism and delighted to observe the initial inclination for change within me. I have outlined three stages for my leadership development plan to accept criticism constructively.

  1. Learn to accept criticism graciously when it is given, just as I would accept appreciation.
  2. Next would be to reflect on the criticism to see if it applies to myself
  3. To develop myself positively in the area of critique.

I have been applying this learning since the module and have noticed that I no longer argue when I receive criticism. As I continue to develop as a leader, I would like to be able to filter criticism and differentiate between constructive criticism and criticism based on emotional outburst  (Baron, 1988; Eubanks et al., 2010).

4          Conclusion

This module has been very constructive in slowly building up my views on being an effective leader. It has helped me to identify my core values and reflect on what I strongly stand for. I also now believe that leadership is not very rigid and structured within boundaries. A leader now, I think should be flexible and use situational leadership to get the best outcomes. I believe my leadership journey has just started. This module has developed within me a new level of confidence to become a good leader. Now, I find myself to be supportive and look out for team members who need additional support. Becoming a leader is a continuous development and not a onetime activity. I aim at leading by example and inspiring others to be a leader through my words and actions. To achieve my leadership goal, I have outlined a specific development plan and I aim to achieve them in the given timeline. In addition, continuous reflection of myself and self-analysis will help me better myself to become a great leader.

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