Trying to analyze the notion of leadership through a real example, we will now investigate the enterprise I work for and its Managing Director in particular, being a leader of the enterprise, but also a representative of the local authority. The enterprise in question is Aitoliki Development Enterprise, the company I work for since 2006, which was established in 1994 with the title "Development Company Apodotias - Ofionias SA (ANETAPO SA)" for the better use of natural resources of Mountainous Nafpaktia. Nowadays Aitoliki Development Enterprise S.A. represents 13 Organisations of Local Authorities, 2 Agricultural Cooperative Unions, 1 Commercial and Small Industrial Union of Nafpaktia, 1 Organization of Cooperatives of Îafpaktia, 1 Nautical Association, the Local Municipality and Community Association of Aetoloakarnania, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Prefecture of Aetoloakarnania, the Technical Chamber of Greece, 1 fishermen association, 1 association of people with special needs and the Local Association of Solid Waste Management. It represents Local Authorities in the prefectures of Aetoloakarnania, Fokida and Evrytania and is considered a transrregional company (Regions of Sterea and Western Greece).
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The company intends in the rational utilization of natural resources of Aetolia, through activities that contribute in the creation of initiatives, programs and collaborations and point out the comparative advantages of the region, giving answers to the following pressing challenges of our time: Pace acceleration for the creation of new work places, reduction of income divergences and upgrading of regions standard of living, extended reproduction of social capital, regional completion and balanced growth, aid of decentralisation for the standardisation of regional inequality, more efficient operation of Local Authorities in all sectors (economic, social policy, etc).
The foundation of AITOLIA S.A. is the result of convergence of mature reflection with regard to the completed local growth and the needs of creation of new pioneering frame. Its duty, together with all the institutions and citizens of the region, is to contribute in the social and economic growth of Aetolia and more specifically in the growth of the disadvantaged regions of the mountainous volume of the past provinces of Nafpaktia, Messolonghi, Trichonida and Dorida. It was created so that there is a scientific institution that responsibly and systematically will investigate, study the various developmental possibilities and coordinate the diffuse efforts for the sustainable growth of the general region.
Aitoliki Development Enterprise S.A. aims to change the disadvantaged areas belonging to its area of intervention, into healthy, safe, viable and sustainable growth models, but the success of each effort is always connected with the suitable human potential that rightly possesses the first place in the policy of the company, for the quick and positive response in the institutions and citizens increasing expectations. The quality of human potential is one of the most powerful advantages for the construction of dynamic enterprises in a frame which is characterized by globalisation economy and international competition. With the objective purposes of the company in the human potential sector being the attraction of high educational level scientists of various specialities, the achievement of homogeneity in the level of technical training and scientific constitution of executives, the utilization of new technological means that the company has or can acquire, by applying actions for development, planning and management of human potential, the network operation of relations between the workers and the management and respectively all those with the exterior environment, the company nowadays occupies several remarkable executives.
What leadership is
Moving forward to the leader of the organization, it would be first useful to define "leadership", as a basis of the further development of the assignment. Although in the ancient times, being a leader was an inherited trait and it was believed that certain individuals were born 'natural' leaders, or that certain patterns of behavior could enable them to influence others, further recent studies lead to a number of important conclusions. According to John Kotter "Leadership is a set of processes that creates organizations in the first place or adapts them to significantly changing circumstances. Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles. Moreover, leadership is central to enabling group and organizational performance. However, the nature of leadership required differs in different parts of the organization. At higher levels in the organization leaders are largely concerned with strategic decision making. At middle levels, leaders are concerned with implementing strategies. At lower levels, leaders are concerned with ensuring the continued efficient running of the organization - they operate existing structures. Clearly the influence of the leader is affected by different internal and external factors which are present at the organizational level that he or she operates" (University of Leicester Handbook, 2008: 243).
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Several other writers have defined leadership, as it appears to be a rather interesting chapter in the field of management, as follows: "the ability to influence people towards the attainment of goals" (Daft, 2005: 590) or "leadership revolves around vision, ideas, direction and has more to do with people than with day-to day implementation" (Bennis, W. 1989:139), or "leadership is a combination of strategy and character" (Schwarzkopf G.), or "Leadership is a development of a clear and complete system of expectations in order to identify evoke and use the strengths of all resources in the organization the most important of which is people." (Batten, J.D.1989), or "Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential. (Bennis, 1989), or "Leadership is a process of giving purpose (meaningful direction) to collective effort, and causing willing effort to be expanded to achieve purpose" (Jacobs & Jaques, 1990:281), or "Leadership is a process of influence between a leader and those who are followers." (Hollander, 1978), or "Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal." (Northouse, 2004), or "Leadership is an attempt at influencing the activities of followers through the communication process and toward the attainment of some goal or goals." (Donelly, J.H. & Ivancevich, J. M. & Gibson, J.L., 1985), or "Leadership is an influence process that enable managers to get their people to do willingly what must be done, do well what ought to be done." Cribbin, J.J. 1981), or "Leadership is defined as the process of influencing the activities of an organized group toward goal achievement." (Rauch & Behling, 1984)". (http://www.leadership-studies.com/lsw/definitions.htm). Finally, Scarnati T. James (2002) mentions that "leading people is more an art than a science. With practise, forethought and experience, becoming competent in the art of leadership, is possible. It is linked to an art because it seldom deals with quantifiable absolutes. Unlike science, a myriad of human variables interact, making it impossible to predict cause-effect relationships accurately".
Qualities of a leader
Outlining the characteristics and qualities of a leader and the way he determines the course of an organization, we could say that, according to Kotter (University of Leicester Handbook, 2008: 244), and "by taking for granted that the direction is a fundamental element of leadership, a leader sets direction by creating a vision, that is an inspiring, but an achievable image of the future. Having determined and articulated the vision, a leader stands back to allow his or her people to achieve that vision. A leader takes a broader perspective allowing others within the organization to manage the short term perspective whilst he or she establishes the wider vision. A vision is long-term, creative and ambitious. It has a strategic focus and requires scanning the environment and looking towards the horizon for opportunities for significant organizational gain.
In addition, it would be interesting to refer to the aspect of alignment, that is the process by which the organization's strategic objectives and operational practices are made congruent. Alignment ensures that all levels of the organization and all people within the organization are pulling in the same direction. A leader focuses on creating a shared vision and culture. By aligning the values and beliefs of organizational members with those in the organization there is little need for imposed rigid structures. People align their practices to the corporate strategy because they see the value in doing so. Controls and boundaries become redundant as people develop the individual skills and abilities necessary to contribute to the organizational vision.
As far as relationships in an organization are concerned, we can say that a leader forms relationships throughout the organization often on a one-to-one basis, aiming to inspire and motivate people, using coaching and facilitation to help them grow and fulfill their potential.
The personal qualities of a leader are usually seen as more individual in nature. His or her main aim is to contribute in the wider benefit of the organization as a whole. As it is abovementioned, a leader demonstrates concern for individuals, often forging one-to-one relationships. He or she is emotionally connected to those around him/her and has a well developed sense of his/her own personal strengths and weaknesses. A leader recognizes the potential of others and rewards their contributions, encourages creativity and innovation.
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Finally, outcomes deriving from the above qualities are often less predictable or less clearly defined and prudent risk-taking often leads to exceeding initial expectations, moving forward by radical change.
Summarizing all the above qualities of a leader, we can say that leaders adopt a more personal and active attitude towards goals, they create excitement in work and develop choices that substance to images that excite people, they have empathy with other people and give attention to what events and actions mean and their sense of identity does not depend upon membership or work roles and they search opportunities for change". (University of Leicester Handbook, 2008: 247)
The living example
Having analyzed the notion of leadership, it would be now appropriate to introduce the real example in question, Mr. Ioannis Boules, the Managing Director of the specific organisation, who is a graduate of Athens School of Economics and has a Master's degree in Operations Research and Economic Systems of Polytechnic Institute of New York. He has an MPhil from Pace University of New York. He has worked in the USA in various private enterprises until 1980. Since that time, back in Greece, he has worked as an advisor in the Ministry of Labour Affairs, the Ministry of National Defence and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. In the private sector he has worked in the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ATE Bank, Training Center and the Division of Agricultural Industries) during 1985 - 1995. In 1995 he was elected as an Assistant Professor in the School of Business Administration and Finance of Technological Educational Institution (TEI) of Kalamata. In 2006, he was elected as Mayor of the municipality of Pilini (Prefecture of Aitoloakarnania - Western Greece), post which he holds until now. Well before his election in the municipality of Pilini, he was involved with the management of the AITOLIA S.A., where he has now the post of the Managing Director. During his involvement in AITOLIA S.A., in ATE bank and various ministries, he has coordinated many regional, national and European projects.
Venturing to prove whether this person deserves to be characterised a leader or not, we will now investigate elements of his personality that are relative to the qualities appropriate to leaders, which are abovementioned. Firstly, Mr Boules is a man with a vision. He has a clear picture of where he wants to take the organization and how he intends to get there and then creates a strategic plan for achieving his goals. Not only does he have a vision for the organization but also for its members, which is considered the first responsibility of a leader, but also a man who has always tried to create a reachable vision for the employees of the organization. From the very first day of each person's professional career in Aitolia S.A., the Managing Director would make sure the employee has a vision. Combining the personal goals of the employee, as well as the general objectives of the organisation, Mr Boules would manage to set the direction ahead, as well as to inspire the employee, visualize future achievements, thus boosting his performance. In short, he tries to influence the thoughts, the attitude and behaviour of the employee. What he would afterwards do is to provide employees with all the necessary tools, training and advice, so as to let him flourish in the specific work environment.
Secondly, a quality that can definitely be attributed to Mr. Boules is the fact that he makes sure the vision is communicated to the members of the organization. No matter how stimulating the vision is, a successful leader has to communicate it to the employees and clarify it, as well as adapt it to current circumstances and situations, but most of all to the employee's culture. Thus he makes sure all parties move towards the same direction, sharing a common vision. What is more, he thus commits people to pursue something that belongs to them too, while he allows the employees to develop their own skills and abilities within the professional environment, by providing enough freedom for development.
Moreover, as far as interpersonal relationships are concerned, Mr. Boules has always tried to create strong bonds among members of the organization, on a one-to-one basis. Relationship building includes several steps, such as effective communication. Active listening to others is an important issue, as well expressing thoughts and opinions to interested parties. What is more, Mr. Boules tries to adjust his style of conversation according to each case and person, trying to be understood, but also understand between the lines the desire of his interlocutor. Being fair towards staff members in cases of conflict, is another quality to be mentioned at this point, while trust building is considered one of the most important issues affecting interpersonal relationships. In addition, continuous feedback, coaching, advice and encouragement in difficult times and reassurance in cases of crisis, as well as his motivation, have created a feeling of respect and appreciation, from all staff members towards Mr. Boules. Finally, our Managing Director is a leader who has always encouraged team work, thus trying to enhance collaboration but at the same time strengthen relationships among staff members and facilitate work.
Mr. Boules's personal qualities are numerable. First of all, he is a man whose primary objective is the better future of the organization and his is committed to it, rather than his personal promotion. He is very much interested about his collaborators and considers them members of his family. Having personal relationships with them, he energizes others and sits back to help them achieve their full potential, through their new ideas and creative minds, thus benefiting the organization. Our Managing Director has also the gift to be able to motivate people. The personal contact with staff members has lead him to be aware of how each person can be motivated, depending on his/her needs and not only does he convince his collaborators of the value of their ideas, but also inspires them to work towards common goals and to achieve things they never thought they could do, by empowering them every day. Moreover, he is a man who has the courage to take risks and he is willing to risk failure. He is aware of his strengths and recognizes his weaknesses, he is willing to receive criticism and advice and make changes when necessary. He is not afraid to make difficult decisions, due to his strong self-confidence, but also undertakes the responsibility in cases of negative outcomes and in these cases he learns from his mistakes and moves on stronger, although in the majority of cases his actions have led the organization in great successes, due to his hard work, study, adaption to changing circumsances and instinct on future steps. It also worths to mention that despite the fact that Mr. Boules is a man who has made remarkable studies, he is not content with what he has achieved and since technology is advancing rapidly and current affairs affect progress in all fields, he is always trying to be up to date, has the desire to continuously learn new things and is always open to innovative ideas as a source of inspiration. In addition, "without complete honesty, ethics and courage, any leader would face significant challenges, if not failure. Hardly anyone would follow unethical people and few would trust a dishonest executive" (Brassem, 2009). This is why Mr. Boules, who posses all these qualities can be considered a successful and ethical leader. What is more, Mr. Boules has always tried to set the example which is a very important leadership quality and an effective way to show others the proper way to conduct themselves. Finally, Mr. Boules is a man with a sense of humor, which makes him a pleasant company to others, but also an enthusiastic and passionate person, full of excitement about innovative ideas and energy to pursue them. These qualities are considered very important and resemble to "infections that can inspire the entire organization" (Brassem, 2009). In a few words " he is a leader who asks questions to set the direction, puts the right people in the right positions, seeks insight from all levels and ensures resources are allocated in the right priority, while acting ethically at all times and engaging people to stretch beyond what is comfortable to maximize results" (Adler, 2009). To conclude, we can say that Mr.Boules is a dreamer. "He dares to dream impossible dreams, new possibilities and creates blueprints and fantasies that lead to better products and services" (Shelton, 2008).
The results that this man's qualities and the atmosphere that he has managed to create in the organization have brought are several. Apart from creating a development company that is considered one of the top five in Greece, not only because of its scientific staff and the projects implemented, but also for the wider benefits that it has offered to the area, it is important to mention that significant funds have been rewarded to the area, due to remarkable project proposals submitted to the Greek Ministries and the EU, managing to develop a disadvantageous area into an attractive tourism destination. Moreover, since Mr. Boules is also a Mayor in a mountainous community, he has managed to engage people to innovative ideas, to wider their horizons and add value to the wider region.
As a conclusion to all the above, we can say that "leading is a crucial and difficult part that a person plays. Not surprisingly, the person who seems to have known the most about leadership was a man of the theatre. William Shakespeare was acutely aware of the leader as actor, both in the sense of a person who acts-or is expected to act-and in the sense of a performer on stage. Shakespeare knew that a play about power captivates an audience, as well as that both great actors and great leaders make the audience part of the performance. They engage us and leaders are successful only to the extent that their followers share that vision" (Bennis, 2009). Therefore it is fair to say that Mr. Boules has played this role successfully over the years, by setting the direction, encouraging, inspiring, energizing, risking, evolving, caring and supporting, in one word Leading the organisation towards a "happy end".