Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Redefinition of Leadership

Ralph Stogdill noted, “There are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.” How true he is! The word “Leader” has been defined and redefined so many times, it can be hard to keep track with, let alone demonstrate in our respective places of work. In previous years leadership has been described as a process as well as a property. In process, leadership is being able to indirectly or directly influence and coordinate an organization’s attempt to fulfill a group goal. As a property, leadership is described as possessing the qualities and characteristics needed to help an organization to succeed.

In this day and age, good leadership is needed in organizations across the globe in order to grow, and to be successful. Why? Simply because as the world changes, organizations in various capacities are in the need to adapt to the changes. When organizations don’t perform well, one of the #1 comments that are stated in reference to its failure is: “They had bad leadership”

However, to place a company’s failures on one individual is somewhat erroneous. An organization is made up of people and so it is the organization as a whole, or its, people, that determine whether all will succeed.

Understanding this key issue leads to the discussion of leadership not just from individuals, but from the entire organization. This “broad-based leadership” means in every nook and cranny of an organization, a leader can be found. It is up to every individual to decide for themselves whether they will go beyond just minimal work…and be a leader.

Traditionally, within organizations, the word “leader” sparks the position: “Management”, or “Supervisor”. However, are these words really related? In examination, the very answer may be no. One article in the Australian newspaper, The Age noted, “Managers feel comfortable with hierarchies and a command-and-control type of environment where orders come from above and those who receive those orders get paid for executing them.”

In comparison supervisors, typically influence an organization’s sub-group through formal rewards (perhaps promotion) and punishment (write-up) under contractual agreement. Both positions seem very structured, and leave no room for growth ---which is a dire need in today’s organizations.

Leaders, however, according to the same article are comfortable in horizontal (“pancake”) organizational structures. They are not “a person in charge,” but, rather, a coach…part of the network in the organization in order to support everyone.

Are organizations really trying to cultivate leaders within their organizations? Yes. Another article from The Age entitled, “First It Was Teamwork,--Now it’s the leadership industry; Just Managing” reported that in the year 2000, 50 billion dollars were spent in leadership development within organizations. Yet, not all companies seem to be reaping the benefits from the investment.

Ranked #5 on Business Week’s list of the World’s Top 10 Management Gurus,  Leadership expert Jay Conger noted in The Age that some organizations sabotage their own efforts to gain leadership. He noted that many corporations have an internal culture of “conservatism and risk-aversion.” This causes an organization to look great face-wise, but internally, there isn’t any growth, or internal success. He states that traditionally, “You could argue that organizations, although they say they want leadership, actually they don’t want too much leadership. They want the leadership of the CEO, not the leadership from the ranks below.”

So how do organizations get past this traditional internal culture? First the organization must realize that they need two kinds of leadership. The first kind deals with the entrepreneurial aspect of an organization. The second kind involves crisis and/or turnaround situations. If members in an organization learn how to cultivate both types of leadership capabilities, success is sure to follow.

Organizations also need to be able to focus on building a leadership culture. Some attributes include the following: 

• Learning 
• Coaching 
• Team Building 
• Regular Appraisal

Leadership from all levels has to be promoted not as an executive position, but as a privilege and an obligation to the organization. Former CEO of Telstra Corporation Limited, and current CEO of JI Ventures, Inc., Frank Blount once highlighted five "ingredients" that any CEO can use to generate the right environment for leadership. Here are three main ingredients: 

• Public knowledge that status quo behavior is dissatisfactory 
• Creating a widespread shared vision across the organization 
• Leaving room for growth due to changes externally and internally

Leadership development is a worthy investment for any organization. It is important, however, that we make sure the organization is properly prepared for and anticipating the changes due to the organization’s new leadership culture. It is not up to just a handful of people to make an organization successful. It takeseveryone to make it successful.

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