What is Leadership
A leader is a person who by definition guides us through a course of action and in general leaders have to demonstrate certain traits. The first is Vision a clear and compelling sense of the future and the ability to effectively make decisions to achieve that future goal The second is Articulation the ability to clear define and explain a strategy and then Charisma the ability to bring the message together in a vision and to make other people see that as their own vision.
A manager by definition handles, directs or controls something with a degree of skill. A manager plans analyses and controls circumstances to produce the required results defined in the vision of a leader. An organization tend to require a few leaders but a lot of good managers. Leaders are not necessarily required to demonstrate the values of good managers. But good managers do need to demonstrate some levels of the qualities of good leaders to be most effective.
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- 2 Theory X & Theory Y
- 3 John Adair’s action-centered leadership
- 4 Poor performance
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Theory X & Theory Y
Theory X & Theory Y is a theory developed by Douglas McGregor during the 1950s and 1960s developed around human work motivations and management. At is core it is based on previous work by Abraham Maslow an American psychologist who is responsible for creating the hierarchy of needs.
The hierarchy of needs is visually demonstrated as a pyramid made up of a number of levels. At the base there are basic needs such as safety shelter etc. and at the top we have self-actualization. The premise is that humans are motivated by the need to ascend to level the next level. A good example of this is that a human would not look for friendship or family whilst still needing to find safety and shelter the basic level of the pyramid.
Theory X is based on the premise that the worker dislikes work is unambitious and is motivated purely by limited self-interest. As a result of this premise the method of management is based on a carrot and stick approach where the worker is subject to strict controls and rewards or punishments dependent on their level of productivity. Organizations managed in this way tend to be authoritative with a large tiered management structure and little delegation.
Theory Y is based on the individual who is self-motivated and trustworthy with wider reaching ambitions the assumption is that the individual is more likely to enjoy the job and is going to be less driven to perform by direct rewards. Organizations that implement this style of management tend to treat their employees as their greatest resource. As result of this individual are likely to have a better relationship with managers and the workplace environment is less likely to be toxic. The greatest values in this type of scenario are innovation, trust and creativity. Organizations demonstrating theory Y values show less structured managerial control but more delegation.
Both these theories have pros and cons
Theory X is more effective in a very structured environment where processes do not vary by much, or change very often for example a manufacturing process. In these instances, strict controls are required for both quality and productivity. The negative aspect of applying a theory X approach in these circumstances is the risk of creating a hostile and thus demotivated work force.
Theory Y encourages self-motivation and innovation the theory values flexibility and adaptation in the individual. This result is a workforce with a large proportion independent and innovative thinkers. This results in many different approaches to problem solving and less structured processes, this dictates a need for a more dynamic and varied managerial approach where managers become facilitators more than controllers.
John Adair’s action-centered leadership
John Adair is a motivational theorist born in 1934 but his theories were not really developed until the 1960s and 1970s. Adair described this process as theoretical approach to leadership rather than management, based on the premise that in a group trying to achieve a goal there will always be a leader. This theory lays down a set of rules on how it perceives a good leader should plan facilitate and review a task. The theory assume that leadership is a skill that can be learned and breaks tasks down into elements.
The elements of a task are described as the task itself, the team and the individual and advises that the job of a good leader is to keep all these elements in balance as concentrating on one area to the detriment of the others damages the end result.
The strengths and skills required to be a good leader are very similar to those already highlighted in this document as the skills required to be a good manager such as the ability to plan, control communicate and motivate. It does not refer in any detail, to those skills present in good leaders such as the ability to communicate and inspire a vison, or drive change with a passion and integrity.
In my opinion Adair’s action centered leadership is more of tool to enable budding leaders to be good managers rather than the other way around. It identifies skills required once you are leading but not those attributes that identified you as leadership material to the group in the first instance.
A leader must be very conscious of their own strengths and weaknesses so self-awareness is important. There is also a requirement to excel at being analytical and a problem solver. However, communication and negotiation skills are the primary strengths.
The attributes of a good leader in the present day tend to be a person who is strong charismatic and generally likeable. A leader should also be energetic, perceptive and flexible in the face of a role that can change dramatically over a short period of time.
Good leaders benefit from being confident, positive, approachable and open to feedback.by demonstrating these behaviors consistently they can develop a reputation for being trustworthy and acting with integrity.
When leading a team that is geographically dispersed one of the primary strategies is to choose team members with the right skills and qualities for the job.
The individual members of the team need to be effective in working towards objectives and be results driven. They should be familiar with setting and being assessed against key performance indicators. A higher than normal level of self-motivation is also required as there may times when there could be little or no contact with fellow members of the team.
Ideally team members should also be chosen for their communication skills. They should be able to communicate clearly and succinctly. They should also be able to communicate expertly by using a diverse range of digital communications channels. Importantly good team members will also need to demonstrate openness and honesty. The willingness to provide and receive feedback is essential in an environment where someone could quite easily become absent or disenfranchised through lack of communication.
As a leader it would also be your role then to apply your vision and skills to develop the team purpose and team dynamic. One example of this would be to direct the team in developing a team charter. A team charter can be used to define the team’s objectives and also the rolls and responsibilities of the individuals as well as the methodology to team will used to achieve its objectives.
In a geographically dispersed team communication is going to be one of the highest priorities and a robust communication strategy is essential. There are two equally important aspects to communication.
The physical aspect – making sure the correct systems and software are available to all the team members. Having the right tools will enable the team to more effectively remove obstacles. communicating uniformly will enable team members to get equal and fair airtime and in time will allow the team to foster a collaborative spirit.
The emotional aspect – The leader will need to demonstrate a demonstrate a strong communication strategy to the team. Initially to develop a vison with the team and then to provide support and feedback with the team to guide, motivate and also to build the team spirit. By successfully communicating openly and fairly with all team members they can build a productive environment of openness and trust that will foster and creativity and collaboration.
Poor performance of a team member
If poor performance is unaddressed it can have undesired impact on the staff member involved, you as the manager and also on the team as a whole. A poorly preforming staff can suffer stress leading to illness loss of confidence and ultimately disciplinary action, demotion or even loss of their job if the problem if not resolved. As a manger this can impact you in a number of ways you may not be achieving your objectives as a result you may have increased complaints both internally and from customers. This could result in an increased workload for you and your team as a whole and this may have negative impacts on the moral of the team.
As a manager it will be your responsibility to identify the signals of poor performance and to challenge the causes so that you then put a plan in place to rectify the problems. Plan of this nature require close review so that if not successful further action can be taken
In certain circumstances team conflict can be source of creative ideas and can be a positive boost for the team. But when a conflict is personal it is the managers role to identify the source as quickly as possible and then to arbitrate the conflict to get a resolution. If this is not successful the manager then needs to take firm action to resolve the issue before it impacts the team. Unresolved personal conflicts within a can have a serious detrimental effect on the productivity and morale of a team and can also serve to undermine the trust and respect between the team and the manager.
All teams change and that change can cause stress, fear, and a lack of confidence. This can result in more resistance if not correctly managed. As a manager you could be responsible for planning the changes or demonstrating and embracing the new values in a visible manner. From an operational perspective you will be responsible for setting the new objectives of the team then guiding and supporting the team through the change. Ultimately you also be responsible for challenging accountable poor performers.
- Investigate the background for the poor performance thoroughly. Arrange an informal meeting with the team member discuss the performance issues and the reasons behind them. Discuss what is required to achieve the required improvement.
- Develop an action plan that details the actions required and support required and agree a time scale for review. Make the team member aware of the consequences of not improving.
- Monitor performance throughout this period providing feedback where possible.
If the desired performance is not achieved arrange a further meeting to discuss the next course of action. At this stage the review may result in additional supporting action over another set period. If the situation requires a more formal approach arrange a further meeting. In line with HR and legal requirements make sure that the meeting is fully documented and issue the relevant level of warning. Make sure that the staff member is fully aware of the further consequences of not achieving the required level of performance and agree a time scale for review.
At all points in the process make the colleague aware of their rights to an appeal on any formal decision made and also their right to have a colleague or representative present.
Organizations are required to change on a regular basis in response to a number of factors for example changing technology or changing customer expectations. If not handled correctly this can have a major impact on a team’s productivity, creativity and morale. A manager’s responsibility is to be as aware as possible of the full impacts of the change on both the team and customers. These impacts can vary from the physical aspects of equipment, training and proper resourcing. It can include ensuring legal requirements are complied with and also the emotional aspects of stress and insecurity that can come about as a result of the changes.
Best practice in these situations where feasible is to give plenty of time to prepare for the change. Be open and honest with the team in relation to why the change is needed and what will be achieved. Have regular meeting and discuss the changes with the team, invite feedback on the best way to achieve the objectives. Empower your team to be the agents of the changes as much as possible this will reduce uncertainty and lessen the resistance to change. By involving the team in the decision-making process as much as possible it you can develop a more robust and comprehensive action plan.
Setting the correct leadership example is important in a number of ways. Firstly, if the leader demonstrates the correct skills and approaches on a day to day basis the team will tend to be aware of this and adopt similar standards. By demonstrating best practices as a leader, you can develop a bond of trust between yourself and the team that whatever the issues that occur you will respond in the correct manner. By doing this the leader can build team confidence. Leadership by example also means that if there are problems that need to be addressed, the correct standards have already been demonstrated giving the leader the confidence and integrity to demand the improvements that are required.