This is an reflective report about leadership theory that I wrote based on literature materials, personal experiences and own thoughts as well as notes from class discussion I had at school. The structure of report will be defined as a leadership self-analysis and development plans that will give me a clear picture of what I need to accomplish to become an effective leader. From this assignment, many findings will be represented and discussed including the nature of leadership and managerial work, managing relations, participative leadership decision procedures, managerial traits and skills, charismatic leadership as well as the role of culture and gender in leadership.
Nature of Leadership and Managerial Work
Leader VS Manager
After reading carefully the book "Leadership in Organization" from Gary Yukl, I think that it is quite hard for me to find a definition of leadership given by the author. In the book, he just listed some famous leadership definitions from other academic scholars. One of the definitions in the book that I found gives me a clear picture about leadership is: "Leadership is the ability of an individual to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organization." (House et al., 1999, p. 184) For example, in a magnificent performance of chamber music concert conducted by a master violinist, when the violinist is in the middle of demanding solo, the unpredictable happens: a string breaks with an inelegant twang. As a result, the audience gasps and falls silent. In this situation, the master violinist still smiles and reaches over to borrow the second violinist's instrument and continues with the music. Following this example, we can say that the violinist has the characteristic of a leader who can confront successfully to pressure, demands and make consisten decisisons. (Mackoff 2000, 7.) Somehow, leader can be a person who can support other people from behind as a facilitator and follow them to help subordinates work more effective (Michael 2006a, 16).
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The problem here is what will happen if a team have a manager who has strong leadership skills and vice-versa. Kotler even developed a model of typical outcomes in term of maintain management and leadership skills (Michael 2006b, 17-18):
Figure 1: Kotler model of typical outcomes from management and leadership
After reading literature and getting more ideas from class discussion at school, I try to summarize a table that can help me easily to identify and differentiae a leader and manager by the following section:
Have followers, influence
Have subordinates, power
Require inspirational in work
Require productive and effective
Manage external and internal changes
Manage the complexity of tasks, structures
Empower, mentor followers
Control, instruct and direct subordinates
Promote innovation, creative, proactive
Ensure standards, procedures, reactive
Develop new opportunities, take risks
Solve problems, risk avoidance
Align team to the vision and long-term goals, people-oriented
Organize group and allocate resources, executive plans to achieve short-term objectives, task-oriented
Motivate, inspire people
Administer, maintain orders
Do right thing which can benefit to values and beliefs of followers
Do thing right which is set by superiors and follow rules and regulations
Figure 2: Differences between Leader and Manager
From my point of view, it is not difficult to recognize "leader" in the real life. In my family, I can consider my mother as a role model of leadership. I was nurtured by her since she had breastfeeding me as a child. She not only can balance the work at the company but also can work hard to take care for the whole family. I myself was empowered and taken initiative from her. She always encourages, supports and follows me in each step of my life to help me moving forward in a better direction and achieve success in my career. As a result, mother is a person who tends to have empathy and put the needs of her child ahead of personal interest so that all the best will be saved up for children. Also, whenever I have joyful or sorrow, she can become both good listener and mentor that I can share my emotional feelings and teach me skills and lessons.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Another example from leadership is coming from cheerleader. This type of career can be defined that a cheer captain will be in charge of representatively leading a team squad to learn and perform cheers and various duties for school or community. At first, instead of behaving bossy or rude, you must have the ability to make other people willing to do what you want and be responsible for keeping peace between each fellow member. Secondly, as a leader, the cheerleader needs to have a strong-decision making roles due to her duty of choosing and deciding cheers for the squad. Thirdly, a good cheerleader who has good leadership skills always thinks in a positive way for any situation and encourages other fellows to do the same. In addition, the team spirit will be built and maintained by the cheerleader by treating each other with respect. Finally, the cheerleader captain will become good example to others if she puts the needs of the team into her first priority. She always is supportive and confident as well as stays focused and never gives up to help the team overcoming any obstacles.
Mintzberg Ten Managerial Roles
There are ten managerial roles according to Mintzberg which can define all types of manager's activities including interpersonal roles (leader, liaison and figurehead), information-processing roles (monitor, disseminator and spokesperson) and decision-making roles (entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator and negotiator) (Yukl 2012a, 45). To summarize the function of each role in managerial work, the table below will describe about it (Kenney 2012):
Figure 3: Mintzberg Managerial Roles
From ten different managerial roles, I think that resource allocator and leader are my strengths. When I was a manager in a group to conduct a research at school last semester, I was the person who always had to think and develop detailed plan, divided and allocated tasks for each member as well supervised them for giving help or suggestions. Before having any group meeting at school, I made a to-do list for the day and assign priorities for each agenda that I will discuss with the team. Especially, in term of workloads, I think twice how to give equally responsibilities for the whole group. In addition, I try to encourage team members to share their difficulties when they had trouble with project tasks. I supported them by giving relevant and useful materials which can help them to accomplish the overall objectives of project. In the project, I sometimes witnessed some people delay delivering their tasks on time as they promised. To solve this problem, I often divided the whole group work into smaller parts that made team member easily to follow. In each task for every member, I put deadline for him/her to hand in his/her work which must be earlier than the date of the whole team work should be completed. On the other hand, disseminator and spokesperson roles are my weaknesses that I need to improve. For example, if I have a presentation about my group work for the commissioner of project, I need to learn and develop more communication skills by how to delivering a good oral presentation to other people.
In this section, I will tell about my strengths and weaknesses in managerial behaviour that I had in school project as well as give improvement to build and maintain cooperative relationships in the team. At first, we need to understand the five types of managerial behaviour including supporting, developing, rewarding, recognizing and conflict management.
In general, supporting are behaviours that a manager shows considerations, acceptance and concern for the needs and feelings of other people. Developing is a concept included several types of managerial behaviours such as coaching, training, mentoring to facilitate a person's skills and career advancement. While recognizing involves giving praise and showing appreciation to others for effective performance and important contributions to the organization, rewarding is a behaviour that involves giving benefits to someone for effective performance or helpful assistance to increase subordinate effort in doing the work. Finally, the purpose of conflict management is to build and maintain cooperative working relationships among subordinates, peers and superiors as well as mediate conflicts. (Brandino 2002, 2-7.)
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From my point of view, supporting and recognizing are my strengths. To get the work done, I understand that it is easier to work with someone who is friendly and supportive than with a person who is cold and impersonal. As a result, I can gain trust and willingness to do extra works from other team member. I remembered some experiences I had from the last semester when I have a research about HRM at school with my team. When a lot of workloads came, I decided to reduce the stress by listening to problems and providing detail assistance for each part of work that my colleagues were in charge of. Whenever we had a group meeting at school, I tried to make the work environment more enjoyable by playing favourite songs that I collected from each member's preferences. This is quite important because it is good to spend time to get to know your team better by finding out their interests. In addition, I often express my confidence to members when assigning difficult tasks. Even if the mistakes occur, I will try to help them overcoming instead of criticizing. Be a good listener is the golden key to help me supporting members. I always avoid judgmental responses to my group members such as "You are totally wrong about it" or "That is a stupid advice". Instead, I use restatement like "You are sayingâ€¦Is that correct" or "Let me see if I understand. You propose toâ€¦" When other member was upset by stress from the work, I took time to listen to person's concern to show my empathy and encourage suggestions for dealing with problems like "What could I do to help you?" About the recognizing, when someone in the team suggested an ideas that I thought not feasible, I often thanked this person and explain the reason why it could not implemented to encourage more suggestions such as "What are the alternatives?". When someone completed his/her tasks well, instead of giving a general comment like "Well-done" or "Good job", I would prefer to give explanation why this accomplishment is important to our project. By doing this, it can demonstrate that I actually know that the person has done.
On the other hand, developing, rewarding and conflict management are still my weaknesses. To get improvements for these managerial behaviours, I suggest that a lot of things need to be done as well. If a member feels anxious about implementing difficult tasks, I would rather share how I experience the same situation like him and encourage that he will be able to make it. If appropriate, I will encourage him to seek for help and suggestion from teacher who can provide good advice. In addition, I am a person who tends to give detailed instruction and plan to my team members when doing any tasks. Sometimes, the best approach to let my group members developing their skills is to assign a challenging task without giving any detailed instructions. Moreover, I think it is good to have coaching inside the group. For instance, if a member has a difficulty in oral presentation or academic writing, the other competent member who is experienced can help him to do the work better. To avoid conflicts, all members should perceive the achievements in the team as the result of group work, not just only few best individuals. The way I allocate workload for each team member should be clear and equal. For example, with difficult tasks, I will give the person who has to be in charge of to have more time to complete than others. At the end of every group meeting, it is good for leader to summarize and verify that every member has a clear understanding of his responsibility and what he committed to do by written memo like meeting minutes.
Decision Procedures and Managerial Traits/Skills
Participative Leadership Decision Procedures
There are varies of decision procedures may be used by manager in participative leadership including autocratic decision, consultation, joint decision and delegation. Autocratic decision is the way that manager makes a decision alone without asking opinions or suggestion of other people. While in consultation, the manager can ask other people for opinions and ideas before considering and making his own decision, the decision making will be made by manager discussing with all participants. Finally, delegation is the way that manager gives totally the authority and responsibility for making decision to the whole group. (Yukl 2012b, 115.)
In my opinion, I often use consultation and join decision procedures when making decision as a manager in the group. The important thing is I need to evaluate how important the decision can affect to my own work or the overall goals of my team. For example, in project work, if I have an individual task that makes me difficult to solve it but does not influence to all members, I will use consultation by sharing my problem with relevant team members in the group who I think they had data or experiences about it to get ideas and suggestions. Then I will try to make good decision by myself after getting enough necessary information from other members.
Joint decision is very essential when decision making should be discussed together between team leader and other members to solve complex tasks. But what will happen if there are many possible alternatives from each member. As a result, the work of a team leader now is trying to identify person whose ideas have relevant knowledge and expertise to choose as the final decision. (Yukl 2012c, 124.) In my case, I will take note of each member's ideas and suggestions to have the best choice.
Managerial Traits and Skills
While traits can be referred to individual attributes including aspects of personality like self-confidence or extroversion, skills are referred to the ability to perform something in an effective manner such as intelligence, interpersonal skill or persuasive ability (Yukl 2012d, 143). The graph below is the list of all managerial traits and skills in leadership (Freemind 2012):
Figure 4: Mind map of managerial traits and skills
From my point of view about personal strengths in traits, I think I am not too self-confidence about myself. It means that I am not arrogant and I don't behave like taking too many risks even if I am aware of my limited ability. Secondly, I am a high performance orientation valued so that I always want to push for improvement and do my best in every work of project. Finally, I don't have defensively self-esteem so that I often work with my team member to gain cooperation, trustworthy and reliability instead of exaggerating my own achievements or blaming mistakes to others. But on the downside, I seem to be lack of high energy level and stress tolerance. It is quite difficult for me to struggle with fast pace, stressful and long hours of project work. In addition, due to not high self-confidence, I often lack of decisive and try to avoid risks when implementing work that required creative or innovative. My third negative trait is not independence which means that during project, I sometimes depend too much on group manager's directions or rules to perform tasks.
About the strength in skill, I think I have good technical skill. For instance, I have competent knowledge of using Microsoft Office Tools when preparing an oral presentation for the project work. Also, interpersonal skill like empathy is a good point from me. On the downside, I have some weaknesses like lack of persuasive, creative and fluent communication skills. In order to get improvement for managerial traits and skills, it is good if I can receive a lot of both positive and negative feedback from my group member, teacher about what they perceive my leadership behaviour in the project. Moreover, an effective way to develop personal traits and skills is actively participating in workshops or coaching program. For example, I can improve my interpersonal skill by joining a debate club at school.
Charismatic Leadership is the ability that leader can gain trust and understand other's needs as well as take personal risks and motivate subordinates to perform well their tasks. The way to identify a charismatic leader is from how a person interacts with other people. With different people, charismatic leader will change their attitude and presentation such as body language or speeches to convert others to his point of view. Some famous examples of charismatic leaders are Winston Churchill, Adolph Hitler or Bill Clinton. For instance, Gandhi, as a peacemaker, inspired his people with self-sacrifice and commitment to his beliefs to gain follower's attention to peacefully end the British rule of India. (Frenz 2012.) Another example is an military leader who can led his troops into battle and share the dangers and hardships with subordinates rather than staying behind in safety and comfort (Yukl 2012e, 325).
There are some points that can support me to become a charismatic leader. From my point of view, I think I am a self-confident person. I always have a strong belief on whatever I do not only at school work but also in my life. Also, when I have to face with problem, for example with assignment or report, I try to think out of the box like how to do and make it more interesting and understandable to the person who read my work. For many people, the concept of charismatic leadership could be complex but I think we can develop and improve ourselves to become a charismatic leader. At first, presentation skills are one of the important aspects I need to take into consideration. The way how to make the speech simple and straight-forward to the main points is very essential. If other people can't understand you, they won't follow your speech anymore. To solve this problem, I would prefer to go debate club to learn from other people how to speak and the way to speak as a good communicator. Secondly, as one of the soft skills, I need to learn how to become more confident by paying more attention to my facial expressions, body language and other non-verbal communication when interacting with other people. For example, to have a good impression with other partner, I must not have lack of eye contact, nervous gestures or weak posture. Finally, to become a charismatic leader, I need to become risk-taker which means that I won't fear for any mistakes I made. Instead of that, I try to learn and achieve experience from them. In addition, it is important that I should always be positive and optimistic to do what I think is right for me because no one can understand me better than myself.
To summarise all required recourses in terms of training, education and experience to improve my leadership skill, it is good to have formal training, developmental activities and self-help activities. (Source) Until now, I am still studying leadership course at Porvoo campus which can be seen as an example of formal training. During this course, I have learnt leadership not only through lectures but also from group discussion to let me understand leadership deeper. Developmental activity I have at school now is team tutoring sessions from Helen Blässar (teacher tutor) for Brunberg project. This session is very helpful for me because I not only can share personal objectives of what I want to learn or experience but also what I expect from my team leader, what atmosphere he/she should bring to the team. Then teacher will give advice how to handle specific challenges in term of leadership responsibilities. Self-help activities can include reading books, viewing videos or using interactive computer programs for skill building. (Source) For instance, I think all aptitude tests, personality tests and situational tests from the website http://www.123test.com/ are quite useful for me to understand my traits and skills in leadership. As I remembered that in the end of each project, we have a written self and peer assessment report to evaluate and give feedback to each member as well as team leader. I think that it could be more effective if we can have a workshop that each member can present and discuss directly to team leader about what improvements or suggestions the leader needs to take into consideration. One kind of activity I can think about leadership is quite similar to what I have in the sales course. In the sales course, I remembered that I and each person in my class had to prepare personal sales pitch to present in front of the class as a demonstration of selling skills. About leadership, we can let each person has five minutes to present and convince other people about his/her abilities and skills to master leadership qualities. Then the whole class will vote to determine who is the most appeal leader.
Role of culture and gender in leadership
From my point of view, I can see culture like a person. When we look at a person, we can say something about him/her due to the appearance including body, hair colour, clothing, etc. But it is very complex in deeper if we can understand somewhat make this person become unique with other people. Things are invisible like language, religion, communication style, gender roles and views about conflict make culture shape each person and vice versa. On the other hand, culture things also express leadership.
There are six culture value dimensions that affect to leadership including power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism and collectivism, gender egalitarianism, performance orientation and humane orientation. At first, power distance is the acceptance of unequal distribution of power and status in organisations. In high power distance culture, people will expect leader to have greater authority, rules and directives like autocratic leadership who can make all decisions by himself. On the other hand, subordinates are less willing to express disagreement or consultation to leader. This situation is seem to happen in Russia, China while in low power distance cultures like European countries or US, participate leadership is preferred more in decision making. Secondly, in term of uncertainty avoidance, especially in low avoidance status of uncertainty like US and UK, leader is needed to be flexible, innovative, risk taking than cautious and reliable. For example, managers in UK tend to expect more decisions involving change or innovation from subordinates while in Germany, they expected more reliability, punctuality, formal rules and detailed plan. Thirdly, the concept of individualism is needs and autonomy of individuals while collectivism is the needs of groups and society. In individualistic culture, it could be more difficult for leader to inspire commitment to team about organisation objective than in collectivism culture because each person is motivated to satisfy self-interests and personal goals beforehand. (Yukl 2012f, 352-353.)
Fourthly, gender egalitarianism is how men and women receive equal treatment in both masculine and feminine attributes. In some countries with high level of gender equalitarianism like Sweden, Norway, Finland; women will have equal opportunity to be selected for high and important leadership position in a company. As a result, there is less of bias in the selection and evaluation of leader's behaviour. In low level countries, leaders are needed to use more masculine values such as toughness, assertiveness and interpersonal skills than participative leadership. In addition, performance orientation is a value that we can't forget to mention. In high performance orientation culture, leaders are more emphasized on setting challenge, goals, detailed plans and individual achievement. In low performance cultures, leaders even can make a selection of members for a team due to friendship and family relations, not based on talent. Finally, the last dimension of culture is humane orientation which is strong concern for welfare of other people and willing to sacrifice self-interest to help others. This concept is quite totally different with performance orientation because leaders need to have kindness, sympathy and compassion to support subordinates to achieve goals. A leader with strong humane orientation values will be tolerant, patient and helpful with his team when he provides mentoring and coaching to encourage cooperation and gain mutual trust. As a result, these things can indicate this leader as a participative leadership. (Yukl 2012g, 354-355.)
In my own thoughts, there is no culture with purely or absolutely individualistic and collectivistic. Instead, a culture may be more individualistic or more collectivistic than other cultures. As the world is changing every day, culture also rapidly change. For instance, Japan is considered as a collectivistic society but as I study from the website of Geert-Hofstede with the address: http://geert-hofstede.com/; this country nowadays is more influenced by Western culture. In addition, younger generation of Japan will behave more individualistic than their parents or older generations. So when we label a culture as collectivistic, it does not mean that every person in that country is a collectivist.
I myself can recall my memories about culture concept until now. I and my friend are still studying in Finland which is considered as an individualistic culture. Before I came to Finland, we had received education in Vietnam for 12 years. At school, the idea of collectivism was introduced to us when we were told that serving country should be our priority regardless of what we want to do in the future. The reason here is that we believe our nation is defined as the big family whereas each household is a small family within this big family. As a result, it is very common that we emphasize group goals over individual goals and think more in terms of "us". As I remember when my friend heard an oral presentation contest at school, he decided to sign up on behalf of my class to compete in this competition because he wanted to be the person that my class needed to be the winner, not because he had the ability to do it. To him, the reputation of my class is meant more than anything. It is quite total different with individualistic cultures like the United States, I can watch many television shows with contests that recognize individual accomplishment. People are publicly rewarded for being the most beautiful, strongest, fastest, tallest, funniest or the best at whatever they aspire to.
Another example about how culture can influence leadership style is from my teacher in high school. In Finland as a low power distance cultures, raising hand to give opinion or suggestion is not only acceptable but also encouraged at class. But in my country, the classroom is centralized by teacher which is similar to autocratic leadership. There is a strict order in class where my teacher can initiate, rule all the communication and have more than power than students. Even if a student sees himself as an active participant of the class, it is not recommended for him to speak up because it can demonstrate his insolence toward the teacher. Teacher, as a leader is treated with high regard due to seniority so it is not surprising that students become habituated to do only what they are told to do and are reluctant to give their opinions for fear of being scolded.
Gender in Leadership
Nowadays, the number of women who hold important level of leadership position is still low in comparison with men. This can be called sex based discrimination or "glass ceiling" which people have strong tendency to favour men over women. By following theories of male advantage, effective leader must be a person who is confident, task-oriented, competitive, assertive and decisive due to gender stereotypes and role expectation. These masculine dimensions are traditionally viewed as from men. Many people think that women are unable to use masculine behaviours that are considered essential for effective leadership. For example, make manager is seemed to be more effective than women in positions that required strong task skills. On the other hand, women have their own feminine advantage by themselves which are kindness; compassion and sharing that belong to interpersonal skills. These skills are quite important for an effective leader who wants to gain mutual trust, build morale and get satisfaction or commitment from subordinates in organization. These indicators can approach women to participative leadership as opposed to autocratic leadership from men. (Source) (Yukl 2012h, 358-360.)
I think it is totally wrong that women can't become a good leader. Somehow, they need more required skills than men to be advanced in positions that traditionally held by men. Women not only can do excellent work on typical female jobs like secretary, nurse and flight attendant but also can work well with typically thought to be male jobs like managers, doctors, pilots, and policeman. In my case, I can tell that in a typical Vietnamese family, father is obviously considered to be the head of the house. He is in charge of all aspects in the house and the family must obey and treat him with respect and honour. It is quite interesting that if he has two children including a daughter and son, the son will receive more parental encouragement to pursue his own goals than the girl. As a result of this childhood socialization, women are stereotyped to be less well-suited than men for leadership roles. Other reasons I think that leaders often are chosen by male because women not only have to work at the company but also have significant responsibility for the care of their own families and home which can bring more difficulty to devote them in leadership position.
Another example I can see is from project work. For example, male manager in a team received a task from commissioner and directed a female member to perform it. After thinking about the tasks, the female member recommended an alternative way to her manager that she had successfully experienced about it. The male manger rejected it and assumed that as a group member, she should understand her role and follow his instructions. For her, she only thought that helping the group by giving benefit recommendations was the most important thing to the team. These two different thinking can demonstrate that who can become a good team leader.
When working in project at school, I think it is quite hard to manage group with different diverse selections such as sex, religion, age and race. As I perceived from the first semester, many people tended to think that Asian students are often hardworking and technical while African students are viewed as lazy or unmotivated. To become an effective leader, we should eliminate the stereotyping in our mind first when forming members for a group. If I am a manager, I will prefer to concentrate on each member's strengths and weaknesses to assign suitable tasks. In addition, it is acceptable if individual can volunteer to do for tasks if he thinks he is good at than being cast into default role. In term of size of the group, I think it will be easier to work in small subgroups with mix of difference cultural so it is easy for me to follow all team members' progress. To allow different people interact and understand each other member more, I will have informal gatherings including every one such as lunch or coffee breaks with friendly atmosphere. During these informal meetings, people are encouraged take part in problem solving and decision making process for the common goals of project. Finally, as a leader, I should actively seek more information of backgrounds and cultures from each member and get suggestions from teacher to manage the team well.