Using several theories/models from class, explain how leaders impact individuals, groups, and overall organizations. Make sure to explain, with the theories and models, what the leaders should do and what outcomes could be expected.
Leadership, although somewhat hard to isolate or define, is a key component to the success of any group endeavor, whether personal or professional. Even a trip to the mall involves some sort of leader – the person who motivates the others to get moving, leads the discussion about when and where, etc., etc. There are many different ways to go about being a leader and there are good leaders and bad leaders, but leadership almost always has a profound impact on the people, groups, and organizations that are involved.
On an individual level, leadership can help or hurt followers in a number of different areas. The components of transformational leadership — individualized consideration, idealized influence, inspirational motivation, and intellectual stimulation — are especially formulated to consider how a leader can (hopefully positively) affect her followers (Cherry 2015). Transformational leadership’s entire purpose is to grow the follower both personally and professionally; Langston University says that “it creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders.” In order to best facilitate this growth, leaders should be understanding, diverse in their thoughts, strategic, motivating, empowering, have good communication skills, and not be afraid to challenge their employees and let them handle responsibilities that are maybe outside of their job description or experience level (Hein 2013). This will cause employees to be more confident, efficient, and effective, and they will also grow into better leaders themselves. The theory of situational leadership is also concerned with leadership’s effects and practice as they pertain to individual followers. When using situational leadership, leaders change their style of leadership according to the competency and receptiveness of each individual follower (May). This will give each level of follower the amount of help and encouragement that they need as an individual and their performance will continue to increase.
As for a more macro level, leaders have a huge impact on the functioning of groups and organizations. Transformational leadership plays a large part in group leadership as well as individual leadership, but there are also a lot of other factors at play (Bodner). One of the most important styles of leadership for groups is adaptive leadership, which comes into play when a group or organization is going through a transitional period (Torres, Reeves, and Love). Adaptive leaders look at the big picture, identify the adaptive challenge, regulate distress, maintain disciplined attention, give the work back to the people, and protect leadership voices from below. In essence, they need to pay attention to both the problem at hand and how it is affecting both each individual follower and the group dynamic and morale. These techniques help groups and organizations transition through difficult times such as organizational change with as little stress on the employees as possible (Northouse 2010).
Simply put, leaders make sure that everything runs smoothly and that followers are getting the care and attention they need to grow as employees, people, and leaders themselves. This results in better performance from both individuals and groups. Good leadership is essential in the successful functioning of groups of any size, and has a tangible effect on the people within its impact radius.
1. Based on what we’ve learned in the class, what is your definition of leadership? Define leadership, then demonstrate why you define it this way. Give insight about why your definition has or has not changed, and why.
My definition of leadership has done A LOT of evolving. It started out as this:
Leadership is when a person or group of people take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire followers to work together to achieve a common goal.
Then, at week seven when I last did this look-back-evaluation-thing, it looked like this:
Leadership is when a person or group has the knowledge and skills to successfully take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire each follower to work with the group to achieve a common goal.
Since then, it has changed even more:
Leadership is when a person or team has the knowledge, skills, drive, adaptability, and vision to successfully take initiative, whether they choose to or have it thrust upon them, to inspire and empower followers from all cultures and backgrounds to develop their skills, grow, and work with the group to achieve a common goal.
As you can see, it has gotten very unwieldy. I think it’s impossible to contain all that leadership entails in a simple one-sentence definition. There are so many factors that affect it and different choices you can make and they are all still leadership, even if they are bad leadership choices.
If I had to take everything I learned about leadership and compile it all into a manageable form that isn’t like six pages long, I guess this would be it:
Leadership is when you take responsibility for yourself and for those working with you to achieve a common goal.
I think responsibility is the key component of leadership; as a leader, you are ultimately responsible for the effectiveness of your team, but there are a lot of other small responsibilities that go into that. You’re responsible for leading your followers through stressful situations like organizational change, you’re responsible for not overloading your followers and helping them grow, you’re responsible for making sure your followers work together well as a unit. Really, it’s just being concerned with everything that the group needs to function, and being responsible for making sure it functions as well as it can.
2. State your level of agreement to the following statements on a scale of 1 to 5 and provide a short justification for each.
a. I am a leader – 5, strongly agree.
As I said in week 7, I have a strong tendency to end up the lead in projects and work situations, even if I’m actively trying not to. I like to lead discussions and hear ideas from people, I’m confident in my own abilities, and I love to help others, and that just lends itself to a leadership position.
b. I see myself as a leader – 5, strongly agree.
My confidence in myself as a leader has strongly risen as the semester has progressed, largely (but not solely) due to this class. I still know that I might not always have the best solutions and prefer to implement more of a team leadership atmosphere, but I’m comfortable being a leader and I am confident that, in most situations, I’m good at it.
c. If I had to describe myself to others, I would use the word “leader” – 2 disagree.
I still believe that describing yourself as a leader in so many words is a little pretentious. I think if someone asked me “Are you a leader?” I would say yes (see question 1) but I wouldn’t say “I’m a leader” like I would say “I’m a reader” in regular conversation.
d. I prefer being seen by others as a leader – 4, agree
I still have a preference for being seen as a leader rather than a follower, but I realize that there isn’t anything wrong with being a follower.
3. What are three actionable steps (SMART Goals) that you will take in the next six months in order to improve your own leadership?
- I will create a spreadsheet of goals, both personal, academic, and professional, that I can use to motivate others and give anyone I might be in a group or project with a clear goal to work toward.
- I’m going to create a list of my strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and from there try to improve on the weaknesses without compromising the strengths.
- At the end of the semester (so soon) I’m going to ask my groups for feedback about my leadership qualities, and get a better idea of what I’m good at and what I need to work on, so that I can apply that information going forward.