WHAT DOES 21ST CENTURY LEADERSHIIP MEAN
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Themes of Interest
- The similarities and differences between a manager and a leader.
- The specific attributes and behaviours associated with ‘good’ leadership. What is a leader?
- The importance of effective leadership in times of difficulty.
As Boseman (2008) denotes, Winston Churchill suggested that leadership was a simple concept which reflects a person’s capability of persuading people to focus on a common aim, as opposed to their individual concerns. The underlying quality of a leader is the ability to motivate people so that they actually want to achieve the collective goals and even exceed them. I found this an interesting idea because it separates a person’s actions from their reasons behind what they do. Some attributes are visible to others, such as the manner by which a person conducts business or the tone in their voice when they speak to colleagues and subordinates. It often goes unnoticed, however, that there are also deeper considerations than just what others can see, such as their needs which drive their behaviour.
The extent to which a renowned leader can be imitated also stood out as an interesting debate from my reading, specifically from George et al (2007). The authors imply that the deliberation over the true definition of a good leader is a positive stance, as if only one set of recommendations were presented, everyone seeking to lead people would aspire to be the same as all the others. This can be related to current events such as the very recent and unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XVI as discussed in Forbes (2013). The Vatican has begun the lengthy process to discover the next Pope and rather than simply seek to find someone as similar as possible to the outgoing Pope, officials will search for a replacement who meets the current requirements of the role and will bring something new to the leadership of the Catholic Church.
At this stage of the module, my research has shown me some of the key qualities of a good leader and several distinct differences between a manager and a leader. Based on the course content so far, the distinction between a leader and a manager has been relevant to my position as Co-President of Staples Liverpool where I lead and manage a team of over sixty people to run social enterprise projects and build contacts with the University and our corporate sponsor companies such as KPMG and HSBC. My responsibilities are broad in terms of managing the day-to-day operations of the organisation to also motivating the team to achieve excellent results beyond my expectations. Last week I had a meeting with a member of my team who was experiencing difficulties meeting a project deadline. I was busy and in a rush at the time that they approached me and I think I was rather flippant. I was feeling quite stressed myself at the time and, rather than using my well-developed human skills, I resorted to a more task focused approach, simply clarifying what needed to be done and why it was important that the deadline was achieved. Looking back on this encounter I feel that my team member was actually seeking support at this time and therefore more human focused behaviour was required. Here I found it useful to draw on behavioural and contingency theories of leadership. They already knew what they needed to do and my reiterating it would not have improved the situation. This has helped me realize that I also lead the team through motivating and inspiring them rather than just focusing on tasks. I need to consider the particular scenario that I am presented with and be flexible in terms of my approach. I need to consider the needs of the individual and I also need to be aware of my own feelings and how these can affect my behaviour. Perhaps in the future I should arrange to speak to an individual at another time, when I can focus on their concerns.
Crucially, this realization of my role as a leader as well as a manager will encourage me to be aware of the deeper motivations and reasons behind the behaviour of the team. This consciousness will allow me to deliberately act in a way to motivate people further. I need to find a way to integrate the various theories regarding effective leadership into my daily practice. As discussed above, this is not always easy when you are busy dealing with day to day responsibilities. However, I have found my knowledge of the various theories of effective leadership useful here. In the future I will attempt to be aware of my own thoughts and feelings and how these can prevent me from taking the time to apply appropriate leadership behaviours in particular interactions with followers. This is when I need to take a step back. I need to allow myself the time to refer back to my learning.