Leaders Read

When I was at University I followed a course on Leadership. Perhaps because I was elected the group leader for my Systems Development Team… Perhaps because I was generally interested in people and how they develop and respond to people in leadership roles…

Systems Development basically involves the interesting part around computers and the people working with computers (to really put it as simply as possible). All that aside – this is an article about leadership… Not systems development. So I continue:

Not everyone in the course I took was in leadership roles at the time, and not everyone took it very seriously… And some, unfortunately, took it a bit too seriously. You know how students are – a lot of the time people are lazy and or do not want to take leadership… And I think sometimes the people who do are unappreciated or under appreciated, but at least after the year is done you get to put that on your CV, so I didn’t really mind. I generally take most things with a pinch of salt, but these things always come back when you least expect it, because, for one, your CV keeps being read by people. Am I actually proud to have this on my CV? Even if there wasn’t a lot to do in the role, a person, while they are in a formal role like that with an Academic Institution, that person does take responsibility for the group in some small way – even if it is just in their own mind… Was I only elected to the role because there was no-one else? It does happen that people get elected into roles and that the group changes over the course of the exercise… It is not easy to work with people – especially in a multi-cultural environment in a third world country. But perhaps it is not that technical, and or perhaps we should not take these things too personally. All that said – the project was successfully concluded and everyone who was in the group passed the course.

But so; I like to (as is customary, and was also recommended during my Leadership course) REFLECT. Why? Because I believe in being an agent of change, and in leadership. And this is simple… You try to do the best you can and rely on what you have learned. And if my poor parents did something right (because I don’t think they were too bad), and I qualified with a degree or two, I suppose there is something to be said about that tooo… At least in terms of tenacity and resolve. Throughout my life, my parents both were my first frame of reference. And both stood in a couple of leadership roles throughout their lives. And I believe that there is more of that to come (at least for the old lady; god rest my old man’s soul). Even if we had our differences, and probably still will have a couple 🙂

Nothing wrong with an update and reflection. Leaders read and readers lead. Herewith a summary of a section from a book on Leadership with which I have been passing my time over the holidays:

Leadership and approaches to leadership are studied and in general a big deal, because various situations in an organisation requires that someone, for example, makes a decision, takes initiative, or actually just by formally taking action, gets the attention of others who agree with that action taken and as a result, willingly follows.

Effective leadership cannot exist without the full inclusion, initiatives, and the cooperation of employees. In other words, one cannot be a great leader without great followers.

Transformational and charismatic leadership are introduced under the Modern Theoretical approaches to leadership, because they are suited to today’s organisations as today’s organisations experience dramatic change. And the reasons why this type of leadership is required will soon become apparent:

Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership describes the leadership style of leaders who influence the values, beliefs and needs of their followers. Because of this (the nature and areas being influenced), this type of leadership often get compared to transactional leaders, but the main difference is that transactional leaders rely on passive management by exception, and transformational leaders provide individualised attention and inspire and intellectually stimulate followers.

Transactional leadership is often criticised that it brings with it organisational mediocrity… while transformational approaches lead to superior organisational performance in situations of renewal and change.

Comparison of characteristics of two styles mentioned:

Transactional Transformational
Contingent reward:
Exhange of reward in followers for
Good performance
Recognises accomplishments
Provides vision
Sense of mission
Instills pride
Gains/works for respect and trust
Management by exception (active):
Searches for deviation from rules and standards and takes corrective action
Communicates high expectations; uses symbols to focus efforts
Expresses NB purposes in simple ways
Management by exception (passive):
Intervenes only if standards are not met
Intellectual stimulation:
Promotes intelligence
Problem solving
Abdicates responsibilities
Avoids making decisions
Individual consideration:
Gives personal attention
Treats each individual/employee individually

Charismatic leadership is often described as a form of transformational leadership

Charismatic leadership

the old conception of leaders as being those who “by the force of their personal abilities are capable of having profound and extraordinary effects on followers.” Although the idea of “charisma” originates with ancient cultures, writings of contemporary writers are referenced when needing some perspective:

R. House writes that on the basis of political and religious leaders who engenders a high level of charisma to “get the job done”, charismatic leaders are characterised by:
Self confidence
Confidence in associates
High expectation of associates
Ideological vision
And the use of personal example

Charisma varies with every situation, and, as previously mentioned, some situations demand or promote this type of leadership: crisis; situations that require dramatic change (sometimes on a large scale), or when followers are dissatisfied with the status quo, which is why the reference to religious or political leaders is quite common when making reference to charisma.

Whether producing in followers :
Extraordinary performance (beyond expectation) and
A strong commitment to the leader’s vision and mission

comes as a result of or just a natural process of co-evolution doesn’t really matter. These things are associated with charismatic leaders. And because of this extraordinary ability, they often get into trouble:
Sometimes they are forced to make decisions because of the position they are in… And of course : they are only human, but definitely have the “pedestal problem”… Some of them somehow loose their way and end up power hungry, abusing their position or authority.

This definitely conflicts with organisational goals of working together toward a common goal where everyone wins.

The text distinguishes between Ethical and Unethical charismatic leaders:

Considers and learns from criticism Censures critical or opposing views

Coaches, develops and supports followers; shares recognition with followers Is insensitive to their follower’s needs

Ethical Unethical
Uses power to serve others Uses power for personal gain and impact
Aligns vision with followers needs and aspirations Promotes their own personal vision
Stimulates followers to think independently and invites them to question their views Demands own decisions be accepted without question
Invites open two way communication Mostly one-way communication
Relies on internal moral standards to satisfy organisational and societal interests Relies on convenient, external moral standards to satisfy self-interest