What Does It Take to Be an Effective Leader? What does it take to be an effective leader in today’s fast paced and ever changing world? A leader must be able to move quickly from one agenda to another. A leader must be able to inspire a person or a group of people to want to do their best. A definition of leadership can be, “A relationship through which one person influences the behavior of other people” ( Mullins, p. 904 ). One of the biggest problems that a leader in any organization has to deal with is change. Leaders have to be versatile and willing to make tough decisions in today’s economic climate.
We will analyze what it takes to be a successful leader and how to manage the people around you for the best results. Asking questions of what constitutes a successful leader will also be part of the agenda. An effective leader must learn how to manage organizational change. Every successful company will have to go through some type of organizational change at some point. Organizational change should only be attempted if there is true performance improvement needed. A strong leader must be willing to put an individual or group through a performance improvement plan if it is warranted.
A performance improvement plan should be used when, “you have identified a performance problem and are looking for ways to improve the performance of an employee. ” (http://www. indiana. edu~uhrs/training/ca/performance. html) Many leaders are afraid to initiate organizational change for fear they will be looked at as the bad guy. Leaving a poor performer working for you not only hinders their area of responsibilities but it can have negative impact on the good performers as well. The team will feel like “Why should I work hard when no one is held accountable? “We have a manager who doesn’t care because they aren’t taking care of the problems. ” Holding your poor performers accountable will not only have positive results, your good performers will respect you more and want to work harder for you. If a leader wants to do their best then they cannot only look at the organization, they must also think introspectively. Emotional intelligence is an important quality that a leader should possess to be successful with leading teams. Emotional intelligence is defined as “your ability to be ware of and to understand your own emotions and those of others, and to be able to manage your emotions effectively to have the desired impact. ”(Slocombe, S. 2009 p. 32) At first glance, a typical leader might see the word “emotion” and dismiss this as some childish method to work with your team. The fact is, emotional intelligence can help you understand your own abilities and can help you improve the performance of your team. There are ways to measure emotional intelligence called the Emotional Quotient Inventory that measures 133 items or questions.
If you have a high level of emotional intelligence you should be able to know what your best emotional state is. Watching the pattern of what you do to get to the positive state of being will help you consistently achieve a high level of performance. There are four capabilities (Goleman, p. 80) that you should possess to have an “above average” level of emotional intelligence: 1. Self-Awareness – The ability to accurately understand your own emotions and how they affect the people around you. A strong level of self-confidence. 2. Self-Management – Having initiative and adaptability to manage your own emotions. . Social Awareness – Being skillful at being empathetic, customer service needs, and organizational awareness. 4. Social Skill – Having abilities that inspire the team around you. Able to improve the ability of the people around you. Proficient at conflict management. Having these skills will help a leader be more effective by showing their teams that they truly want to do a good job. These skills can be learned and improved upon over time. Cross-cultural communication is another area that a leader must be comfortable with to move forward with an organization.
A leader cannot allow their organization to become too ethnocentric. Ethnocentrism is considered to be the thinking that one’s own processes and procedures are better than the competition. (Barger) Every person and organization has a certain level of ethnocentrism in his or her thinking. The problem with ethnocentrism is that we are unable to understand that which we are unable to identify with. A leader must be willing to admit that they or their organization does not understand all the needs and wants of a culture. As soon as this is admitted to, the true learning process can begin.
The author James O’Rourke wrote, “The more keenly tuned-in a society is to the interests and preferences of other cultures, the more quickly change will come. ” (O’Rourke, p. 282) If an organization is willing to open its eyes and be willing to learn, they will be able to make the necessary changes to positively impact both parties. A high quality leader must be able to navigate all kinds of communication. One of the most important forms of communication is nonverbal. The leader must look past the surface of what someone is saying and get down to the true meaning behind his or her words.
By effectively using nonverbal communication, leaders will find the most success. Nonverbally, everything someone does can be scrutinized. Nonverbal communication includes many areas. Watching someone’s body movement can give a leader insight as to what they are thinking. If someone frowns or crosses their arms during a negotiation, an effective leader must pick up on these cues. At the same time good leader should show a pleasant disposition. If they show they are happy and friendly, the teams around them will emulate this sort of behavior. Simply the proximity that you have to someone can have an effect on communication.
For some people getting too close to them can cause them to shut down and feel uncomfortable. Proximity can have a positive effect as well. In college classrooms there is usually too much distance between the professor and the students. It is recommended that a professor should walk around their room to be more effective in their presentation. (Ritts) A leader’s physical appearance can also have an effect on nonverbal communication. Could you imagine the CEO of a Fortune 100 company at a press conference with his shirt untucked and his hair messed up? An effective leader must know that they are “on stage” at all times.
Simply appearing tired and or angry can have a negative impact on a team. Silence is another area of nonverbal communication that can have a profound effect. Professor DeVito wrote, “By refusing to engage in verbal communication, we defy authority or legitimacy of the other person’s position. (O’Rourke, p. 267) Most good leaders do not intentionally ignore any of their team. They must be careful though to not let too much time pass before an employee might feel unappreciated or worse, unwanted. Even a simple greeting, email, or pat on the back can have a positive effect and leave the employee feeling valued.
If you know your communication partner is introverted, silence can be a respectful way to let them clear up their thoughts. Introverts take time to think through a process before giving feedback. (Dunn) Identifying the differences that people have in your organization is also part of the skill set. During the communication process, not everything always goes smooth. Even the most successful leaders at some of the the most successful companies, will have to know how to manage conflict. James O’Rourke wrote in his book that conflict can be looked at three different ways. (O’Rourke, p. 95) First, there is the traditionalist view that sees conflict as a bad thing. Secondly, there is the human relations view, which sees conflict as inevitable and could even be beneficial to a company. The third way to view conflict is the interactionist view that actually invites conflict on the notion that a cooperative, peaceful organization will not go for its best work. This organization could be viewed as unresponsive to the needs of the the customer and it’s employees. By working through conflict, an organization may come up with better ideas or streamline the current workflows. The question isn’t if an organization will have conflict.
The question is when the conflict happens, how does the leader and the organization plan to deal with it. Then an effective leader must look at what the sources of conflict may be in an organization. According to the author Blaine Donais, there are a variety of sources of workplace conflict. (Donais) Interpersonal is the easiest to identify. These differences usually manifest themselves in the workplace as office politics and gossip. A new leader in an organization should be able to identify these issues within the first few weeks of being on the job. Another area of conflict could be organizational.
These differences are usually witnessed in the interactions between departments as well as supervisor and employee exchanges. The next area to be aware of are the trends and changes in an organization. The more change an organization has had to go through recently, the more likely there could be conflict. If there has been a changeover of processes and employees, this can cause stress with the people that are still there. Finally, an area of conflict to be aware of is external factors. These can be anything from problems with the companies that ship your goods to a change in governments in the ountries with which you do business. Take Wal-Mart for example. In our own country, Wal-Mart has come to symbolize the destruction of the small business owner and low wages. (Wood) They are picketed against when the company wants to open a new store in a new town. Communities will even vote against the opening of a new store because of the perceived threat it has. Not all conflict is as easy to see. Like a chess match, a leader must be willing to look into the future to see how a single action can have ripple effects across an organization. A good leader will seek out feedback from their team to be able to predict these changes.
Communicating with your team in a proactive, and equal method will do a lot to eliminate problems that might arise. A leader must be able to identify sources of conflict in order to be able to come up with a game plan against them. Then a leader has the opportunity to accept conflict in a positive way can allow an organization to grow and move forward. By working through conflict, instead of against it, an individual or organization can come out with greater effectiveness. What are some of the strategies for working with conflict? Most business leaders identify six different styles of conflict management. (O’Rourke, p. 99) Compromise is a method that is used often in business and can be a quick and temporary solution. Although, when using compromise, the parties might lose sight of the long term goals. When using the competition method, it is a win/lose scenario and is usually used in bargaining and one side comes up short. Accommodation is another method that the presenting party gives in to the needs of the other party. Avoidance is simply ignoring the issue. Fortunately, this usually is not used unless the problems are trivial or other issues are more important. Finally, we come to collaboration as a strategy to use with conflict management.
The outcome in this scenario is positive for both parties involved. This method can help bring the parties together and allow for them to feel like part of the process. The negative of collaboration is that it can take the most time and effort. The overall goal of collaboration is for both parties to reach a consensus. At times, the use of multiple strategies might be necessary. The greatest challenge that a good leader has is to be able to admit to his or her flaws and be willing to work to improve them. (O’Rourke, p. 11) Leaders don’t need to know everything, they just need to know who and what their est resources are. When dealing with different strategies a compelling manager will need to decide what kind of approach they should take to lead their organization. According to the author Dan Goleman, there are six leadership styles (Goleman, p. 82,83) that will be used for different situations: 1. Coercive – Need to fix something immediately. 2. Authoritative – Get people to work with you for a common good. 3. Affiliative – An empathetic approach to fix problems. 4. Democratic – Builds on team work and employee input to fix a problem. 5. Pacesetting – Set the bar high to get the strong performers to come through. 6.
Coaching – Fixes issues through development of the team for the future. Out of these six, coercive and pacesetting need to be used for quick turnarounds in crises situation, a good leader would use these styles sparingly because they can have long-term negative consequences. The other four styles, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, and coaching will usually have positive long-term effects. The more flexible a leader can be to use each of these, the more successful they will be. Out of these four the most effective is usually authoritative because it builds a self-confidence in the people that maximizes commitment.
The effective leader creates a vision for the team to rally behind and get excited about. “Leaders who have mastered four or more – especially the authoritative, democratic, affiliative, and coaching styles – have the very best climate and business performance. ” (Goleman, p. 87) Leaders need all the help they can get because it is estimated that over two thirds of changes that are attempted to be made in an organization, fail. (Gilley, p. 75) Regardless of what method a leader uses to fix a problem or implement change they will be more successful if they involve their subordinates in the process.
Change is an inevitable fact that occurs in all organizations. Dependent upon the severity of the problems that an organization faces, to be a truly effective leader, they need to be a “charismatic leader. ” (Nadler, p. 282) There are three components to being a charismatic leader. The first component is envisioning. By envisioning, the leader creates an image of the future that creates excitement. The team can rally behind this as long as it is meaningful and realistic to achieve. The second component is energizing. Energizing is showing personal confidence and excitement around the team and the desired goals to be achieved.
They can look at little successes as building blocks towards the ultimate goal. The third component is enabling, working close with your team and expressing confidence in them. Utilizing these three traits can help a leader be more convincing when initiating change. What does it take to be an effective leader in today’s fast paced and ever changing world? To be an effective leader takes a very large skill set, the ability to be adaptable, and to be open minded to the influences around them. It can take years to refine your skills and they must be willing to learn new and different communication processes to be effective.
Becoming an effective leader does not happen overnight. He or she must be willing to learn the specific skills to earn the acceptance, respect, and trust of the people and teams around them. There is not a finish line to becoming an effective leader. It is an ongoing process where a person may grow and mature to achieve their desired results. References Barger, K. (2004, Dec. 20). Ethnocentrism. What is it? Why are people ethnocentric? What is the problem? What can we do about it? Web site:http://www. iupui. edu/~anthkb/ethnocen. htm. Donais, B. (2006). What are the Sources of Workplace Conflict?
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