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One of the most important and integral keys to an effective and efficient organization is to find and invest in good leaders and the function of leadership overall. Leadership can often make or break a company. The function of leadership is often a complex subject and is ever evolving as companies grow and change. There is no easy way to define or explain leadership as a function of an individual or an organization. To lead is often mistaken as the same thing as to manage. These two functions are not the same. Organizations need both leaders and managers. Although an individual may serve in both capacities, this is not always the case. Some managers are not good leaders and vice versa. This paper will discuss the function of leadership and the qualities and characteristics as well as the duties associated with this function.
A function can be described as a purpose, a job, or a role. Leadership can be described as the act of being a focal point or a front runner that has followers. To lead means to be in the front of others. Leadership as a function within an organization means more than simply having followers. Leadership is not always positive within an organization, but positive leadership is a key tool in an organization that does well. Good leaders are ever changing, ever growing, and ever learning. Leadership as a function is ever evolving as well.
Some leaders are said to have been born to lead, while other leaders that have developed over time, and are equally as successful in the function of leadership are molded into what become the best leaders their organization, community, or environment will ever know. This poses several important questions. How does an individual become a great leader? Furthermore, what defines an effective leader and how does an individual reach this point? To define effectiveness of the function of leadership, an individual must first seek to explain the meanings of the words separately. According to Richard Daft, “defining leadership has been a complex and elusive problem largely because the nature of leadership itself is complex” (2008). To lead means that an individual works to set an example, teach, or inspire other individuals to follow them. To be effective, or to have a lasting and positive effect on others, goals, tasks, changes, or outcomes must be met for the betterment of the individuals, the organization, or whatever type of institution the leader is an integral part of.
There are leaders in all walks of life on a daily basis, and individuals are affected by them on a daily basis in all walks of life. Simply because someone is a leader in one area, expertise, or organization does not make them a leader in every other aspect of their life. For example, a parent or grandparent may be a leader in his or her family, but they may choose not to, or may not be capable of being a leader in his or her job. Another example is that an individual may be a leader in a certain non-profit, political, or religious organization, but not in their daily job. A individual does not necessarily have to be a leader in every aspect in order for them to be effective. They only need to be effective in the leadership of the particular group of people he or she chooses to lead.
“Effective leadership requires not only doing the right things, but also understanding what not to do.” (Waits, 2015). It is no easy task to decipher what the right things to do are, and what are the wrong things in the function of leadership. Dependent upon the group being led, there is, in most cases, a sharp learning curve for the leader to follow in order to become effective. A leader must learn all about their target group as well as the mission and values of the environment or organization that they are a part of. They also must have an understanding of what the group represents in order to understand the tasks that they must embark on and the goals they must strive to meet. Another key component is to learn the strengths as well as the weaknesses of not only the target follower group, but also the individuals that make up the group. If an individual is a coach of a softball team, they are, in theory, the leader of that team. They must identify the skills of the players, where each player should play and can be best utilized both in the field, and in the batting order, and what it will take to push and motivate the team to greatness. They also must evaluate the team dynamics and how well the players are able to work as a team. A tremendous amount of knowledge will be gained through trial and error, as well as making sure mistakes are not made twice. They will in turn learn what not to do as well as what is most effective or they will fail in their leadership position.
Not all groups are always small enough to individually get to know each person. Some of the most effective leaders in history as well as today have led groups of a hundred thousand people or more. In this case, the same skills will not be equally useful. Instead, the skills will need to be used on a much broader scale. The same is true about a leader of a major corporation or organization. Leaders must always lead by example. If the CEO of a corporation leads the people in a positive manner, thus instilling values as well as strengthening the organization, the same should and can be expected of leaders in roles subordinate to the CEO. If or when a leader takes their role seriously, and is able and willing to perform that role to the best of their ability, by establishing guidelines, as well as accepting accountability, he or she is better able to instill this in the other leaders within the organization as well. When good leadership or effective leadership and the associated qualities are expected across the board, the qualities, strengths, and expectations will in turn trickle down to each worker and the organization will thus be effective overall.
What to Avoid
There are five critical mistakes to avoid in the function of leadership according to Waits. These are “failing to schedule time for learning conversations, failing to consistently affirm, misdiagnosing, wearing the wrong hat, and not taking responsibility.” (2015). Everything in life is an ever revolving learning experience. Work, non-profit volunteering or leadership, athletics, or any other group or organizational experience should be the same, and approached with the same mind set. There is no such thing as a perfect person, therefore there is also no such thing as a perfect leader either. It is very essential to encourage learning and approach as well as embrace learning opportunities in every aspect of life. Mistakes are not the ending point, but rather the beginning of the path to growth, and choosing to avoid the same mistakes again. Individuals need affirmation, and it is imperative for all leaders to affirm as well as encourage their followers. This will ensure everybody is working and growing together. If a medical professional is also a parent, it would be highly inappropriate for them to treat their clients the same way they do their children. It would also be extremely inappropriate for a judge to treat their family the same way they would treat the people that go into their court. To say an individual must wear the appropriate hat, and not miscalculate or analyze is essentially the same as saying to make sure one’s attitude, behavior, and decisions are appropriate for a given environment and situation. As much as the preceding points may sound like common sense, these ideas and principles sometimes do not come easily to people. They are not able to assess the situation and the audience prior to acting or reacting. Accountability, or taking responsibility for ones actions, as previously stated is the key to any individual being highly effective in anything and everything they do.
“We believe leaders need to develop their capacity to tune into an organizational system and get a good sense of what the organization needs in terms of leadership, rather than do what they did last time, or do what the boss is telling them to do.” (Cameron, Green, 2008.) Leadership is not ideal for everyone, nor is it a necessarily comfortable role to take on. It is essentially and critically important for any individual stepping into a leadership role to primarily determine what is needed from them in order for their followers to be effective in what they are seeking to accomplish. Sometimes that may involve pointing out tasks that are being done incorrectly or the corners that are being cut. It may also involve revealing secrets, breaking friendships, or identifying ugly truths. In order for an organization to become better than it is in its current state, the discrepancies and short falls need to be exposed. Accountability must be achieved in order to move forward.
“We expect leaders to innovate, develop/ mentor/teach, inspire, challenge, and command; we require managers to administer, maintain, execute, and control.” (Ramthun, 2015). Many times, the titles of manager and leader are used inter-changeably, but these two titles do not contain the same meaning. To manage and to lead are very different. As stated previously, there are times that a leader manages or a manager leads. They do not always fall into that category though. A leader inspires other individuals to follow them, whereas a manager mandates others to follow their direction. A manager may assign work, or direct individuals to complete tasks assigned, but they do not necessarily enable their staff or subordinates to strive for the same mission and goals. They do not necessarily motivate the staff to push the envelope and seek to be greater than they were the day before. A leader has more power than a manager. A leader can make change. A manager can demand change, but they will not necessarily get it. There is also more respect for a leader. An effective leader does not necessarily demand respect, but receives it. A manager may demand respect, but will not necessarily receive it.
Respect is earned, and not freely given just because a person is in authority. If a manager effectively balances their management and leadership responsibilities, he or she is that much more effective. An individual in a management position who is also respected as a leader, inspires their followers to not only complete the tasks necessary, but to do it to the best of their ability. The best work and end products welcome from a team that respects their manager as also their leader. A leader also respects his or her followers, and stands behind them when they need to. If a person feels like their leader cares about them, and will in essence protect them and do what is best for them, they will most likely do the same. Leaders must also seek input from the followers so that they can get feedback on what they are or are not doing effectively. Again, everything is a learning experience. If followers see a leader who is ready to learn from their followers and respect feedback from them, they will also gain that much more respect for them
“The ability to lead effectively is based on a number of skills, including communication, motivation, vision, modeling, demonstrating empathy, confidence, persistence, and integrity.” (Jones, 2015). Unfortunately, there is no one way to become an effective leader. Nor is there any straight forward definition on what an effective leader is. Depending on the text book that is being used, or the scholarly article being cited, or the research study being conducting, there are so many ways to become an effective leader. All the documents are correct in the context they are being stated, however, just as no two individuals are alike, no two groups or organizations are alike either. Even if the next president were to do exactly what the president before him did, he would not get the same results, nor would he get the same reaction from the followers. Just as technology and the world are ever changing, so are theories on effective leadership. The skills required to become an effective leader will remain the same, but the ways in which one utilizes these skills will probably change also.
By continuing education, continued development of skills, and encouraging others to continue bettering their skills and education as well, the function of leadership is better fulfilled and enhanced throughout time. The amount of research in the function of leadership and the attainment of leadership skills is immense and ever growing. If an individual wishes to attain these skills, they must also keep up to date with the most recent findings and suggestions.
Anybody can become an effective leader if he or she is willing to put in the work it takes to get to that point. They must learn about the group of followers, analyze all the factors to be taken into account, note the strengths and weaknesses, learn the guiding values as well as the mission, embrace the challenge, gain the confidence, and set forth to accomplish the goals of the group together. Being a leader is not an easy job, nor can it be learned over night. Some people are better able to become leaders because of their intelligence types, their backgrounds, their educational level, their confidence, and their personality types. If someone has a passion and a desire to lead a group of people, they will learn how, and although they’ll make mistakes along the way, they might become more effective leaders than those that were essentially born into the position.
“Organizations, if they are going to thrive in this new environment, will need to be able to engage their people as never before – their creativity, commitment and entrepreneurship as well as their professional expertise.” (Leavy, 2016). An effective leader cares about his or her followers. The followers are what determine whether or not a leader is effective. Effective leaders are respectful and respected, empathetic, accountable, and ever willing to learn from others.
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