I am still interested in the idea of whether leaders are born or made. I have believed throughout my life that leaders are born. Maybe this is because of the examples of leaders we see in history and politics, although they have different traits, there is something specific about them, be it being visionary, confident, innovative, anything! It seeemed to me that leaders are born, and that someone who is shy and does not have charismatic tendencies which inspire others to follow them, cannot truly be a leader. However, the behavioural approach to leadership suggests otherwise. This theory states that leaders can be taught, and the focus is on a leader's actions instead of inherent traits. It focuses on the behaviours of effective leaders that enable them to be effective, and identified which behaviours differentiated these from ineffective leaders. This suggests that leaders can in fact be taught how to behave. Behavioural theories focus on the leader's choice of task vs. relationship concern, implying an impact of personality in the leadership behaviour selected. It suggests that the behaviours adopted by a leader are dictated by the leader's preference for task or relationship orientation. Which suggests again, that leaders are perhaps born, because their inherent personality dictates the behaviours they will prefer to adopt. Although the theory still states that they should adopt different styles depending on the situation, if preferred behaviours are dictated by inherent traits, it may be difficult for leaders to adopt other behaviours effectively. Blake and Mouton even suggest that team leadership (focusing on both task and relationships) is the most effective, however if actions are affected by personality, and your personality results in a desire to focus solely on relationships for example, then you may not be effective as a leader, or at least not in situations where team leadership is necessary. What I am trying to say is that although behavioural theory appears to counteract the argument that leaders are born, the fact that it suggests that actions are still affected by personality implies that again it is the inherent characteristics within a person that will make them an effective leader, and may affect their ability to learn to be a leader.
March 13, 2016
Last time I was thinking about how we shouldn't discard theories because they were probably developed because they were useful and appropriate in a certain situation. I explained that trait theory in particular is one that can be disregarded as unhelpful as it is an old-fashioned view, stating that leaders are born, and stand out due to their inherent characteristics, however that it is important not to discard any theory as they may appropriate in a situation you have not yet come across. This is related to the fact that transformational leadership behaviours and characteristics have been claimed to be trait-like (Leonard, Lewis, Freedman & Passore, 2013). Firstly, this means that trait theories perhaps should not be discarded as unhelpful, and also that we should be aware that developing leadership behaviours according to different theories and styles may be easier said than done. As well as transformational behaviours, perhaps behaviours dictated by situational leadership theory are trait-like, for example, some people may find it easy to be supportive, but due to their inherent personality, would struggle to show directive behaviours; this highlights that it may not be straightforward to adopt a certain leadership behaviour depending solely on the situation, and that traits of the leader are also involved. As personality characteristics are inherent and very difficult to change, these will impact everything that we do, raising the possibility that traits cannot be separated from leadership behaviours. This also shows that leadership theory has gone full circle, from leader-centred, to leader-follower relationship focused, and then to perhaps a combination of the two, as the newer transformational leadership may represent some leader-centred aspects (components such as charisma may be trait-like), whilst also incorporating the focus on the leader-follower relationship (components such as individualised consideration - showing interest in and attempting to develop each individual follower).
March 11, 2016
We started the group work by going over the brief together to make sure everyone understood the details of the problem, and as a group we drew up all the important details and how they related to each other. This formed the early version of our decision tree. We then looked through all of the decision tools and decided to choose the ones which we thought were most robust, this decision was mainly based on choosing those which were less purely judgement-based and rejecting simpler tools which were included as stages in longer tools. We chose decision tree and AHP for the location decision, and SMART for the marketing decision.
From this group exercise I learnt that being fully involved and using the tools on an example really deepens your understanding, because when I was in class I thought I understood roughly how the tools would work, however when I came to use them, I realised it was actually much harder than it looked. I learnt a lot about when it is most appropriate to choose different tools, and that doing prior research can provide a sound basis for a rational decision - however, you must be aware when you do the research of the biases affecting your research process. For example, we assumed that billboards would be useless, and I think that confirmation bias affected our research, because we searched for information on this less than other marketing options. This highlights that doing research that is biased may lead you to think you have made a rational, evidence based decision, when in fact it is not.
I found the decision tree hard to grasp, however I thought that AHP and SMART were interesting and useful, and are tools which I would use in future. It is interesting that there is still such a large emphasis on judgement even with these system 2 tools, however, incorporating background research into the weightings and scores given can enhance the objectivity of this process. Both tools allow a more robust decision to be made, using judgement as the lower level basis, but performing more systematic calculations at a higher level. I particularly like the sensitivity analysis involved in SMART, because I think it provides a really clear explanation of just how robust your decision is, and how it could be affected and altered.
I also learnt that it was not overly important to have a designated leader or manager of the group, and that it was useful for us to collaborate on this task, as this reduced the effect of one person's bias contributing too strongly to the decision. Although delegating the tasks was useful, in that those with certain strengths were able to complete the methodology faster, when it came to making judgements and weightings, having more people in the group who were prepared to voice dissenting views, reduced the possibility of groupthink. Having more people in the group alone would not have been enough, as groupthink may still occur with much larger groups of people, so I think that what I took from this group exercise is that it is important to foster a culture where opposing views are seen as a positive thing, because it can avoid mistakes being made and allows for a more robust evaluation and decision to be made.
March 09, 2016
Whilst researching the many different leadership theories, I have thought that maybe the reason there are so many different theories is because each applies best in a different circumstance. For example, I think that transformational leadership is a bit woolly, and I am not sure that it would be practical for the everyday HR manager to develop transformational leadership, however, for a CEO, who must be able to motivate and inspire the entire organisation, transformational behaviours and characteristics are probably more important. By this rule, perhaps even theories which you tend to immediately discard, such as trait theories, as being unhelpful and old-fashioned, do make sense in some situations. Using the example of the lifeboat leader task, if you were faced with that situation in reality, it would probably make sense to have a leader who possesses certain traits such as confidence, decisiveness and calmness. In this situation, where there is no time to develop inspirational behaviours (Transformational), or wait around deciding which is the best way to lead each individual (situational), nor is it practical to choose to concentrate on those whom the leader has a high-quality relationship with in order to get more out of the leader's time (leader-member exchange), in this situation trait theory would likely be most practical, whereby the leader immediately stands out due to their innate characteristics. Therefore, I think it is important not to discard any of these theories, as they likely were developed because they do apply in a certain situation. Whilst most contingency theories state that the choice of leadership style or behaviour is dictated by the situation, including task and subordinate characteristics, maybe we can go further than that, and say that it is characteristics of the situation (including time pressure, and characteristics specifically associated with the task and subordinates) that dictate the choice of overarching leadership theory to adopt, before selecting advised behaviours.
March 04, 2016
During my initial reading for the PMA I have realised that there are many different theories of leadership, and that even within one type of theory, for example contingency theories of leadership, there are many variations. The overarching view of contingency theories is that leadership style can change, and is dependent upon something, however many different variations exist. For example, situational leadership details that behaviours are altered depending upon subordinate developmental level (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969), whereas normative decision model views that decision procedures should be altered depending upon task complexity and subordinate expertise (Vroom & Yetton, 1973), and path-goal theory involves altering leadership style based on task and subordinate characteristics to fulfil subordinates' needs and motivate them to achieve their goals (House & Mitchell, 1974). I think it is important to be aware not only that there are different categories of leadership theory, but that even within a category, for example, contingency theories, there are many possible variations, which will enable leaders to choose the one, or combination of theories that they believe will enable them to be most successful. For one of the WaveRiders directors, I am considering suggesting a combination of contingency theories to enable effectiveness depending on any situation.
From the robust decision making class I learnt that our judgement is actually very poor, due to biases and shortcuts that we take, and unconsciously using system 1 cognitive functioning, based on automatic and often irrational responses to what is perceived, can lead to poor decisions, as many biases affect our system 1. For example confirmation bias, where you only look for information that supports your initial thought rather than a rational, objective evaluation of supportive and unsupportive information; anchoring whereby an initial number for example is then used as a foundation for future decisions, even though this original number may have been completely arbitrary, or the availability heuristic, where decisions are made based upon how easy it is to think of an example, however this may be completely wrong, for example many people fear flying because of the availability heuristic - plane crashes are often a more readily available example in people's minds than car crashes, because they are always shown on the news, when in fact car crashes are much more likely. This can lead to decisions being made based on familiarity, however this can mean that important information that is less easily available during recall, can be missed when making a decision. This class has taught me that the most important thing is to know when to switch to system 2 thinking, using a more conscious, logical process and methods to make a rational decision.
There are various tools that can be used to make a more rational decision, for example the use of simulations, whereby a model of the situation is represented on a computer, and different decisions can be input to determine the possible results. Risk analysis allows identification of opportunities and threats to the business, both from internally and exterally, and assessment of their likelihood and impact, after this a decision can be made regarding how to deal with risks, by developing mitigation or contingency plans. Decision trees are also useful as they show all possible decision options on a diagram, with expected values, enabling rational evaluation of all possible decisions. SMART allows assessment of all possible alternatives in terms of important, valued attributes, which are weighted to give an accurate proportion of importance, before conducting a sensitivity analysis and making a decision, leading to a more rational decision based on a conscious process. There are many tools which can be used to ensure more rational decision making, the important thing is to be aware that our judgement can be biased, to be aware of how it can be biased, and how you can make more rational decisions.
February 19, 2016
Over the last few weeks I have learnt a lot about what being a leader actually is, rather than just what the books say leadership theoretically is. Some of the most important things I have taken from watching others' leadership are things that I think I need to take note of myself. Along with everything else that I have learnt over this module, I think that being judgemental and having good emotional intelligence are two that I personally need to work on in future. Being judgemental can instantly kill any feelings among followers that they can ask questions, express confusion or feel that they can ask for clarification. This is really important because in order for a project to be successful, the team members must feel that they can ask questions, because if they do not, they are more likely to make mistakes. I think I can be quite judgemental of people if I have understood something and they haven't, or if I form a negative first impression - do I need to be able to firstly let go of negative first impressions and secondly, ensure that when leading I am creating a non-judgemental environment in which everyone can feel safe, confident and comfortable, enabling them to fulfil their potential. I have also finally experienced emotional intelligence in practice, rather than just in the textbooks, and have seen the benefit of it. Today in the leadership challenge our team all thought that our leader was calm under pressure and this meant that the rest of the team felt calm and was able to continue working well right up until the last minute. However, during reflection the leader told us that actually she was feeling very stressed but was managing to keep it under the surface - this was clearly effective leadership, because had she shown her stress, her the whole team would have begun to stress out and our work productivity would have decreased. I realised afterwards that she had actually shown good emotional intelligence skills in that she had been able to monitor and control her own emotions for the good of her followers. This is definitely something that I need to work on, because I know that I can get stressed out and panicky when things start to go wrong, and this could affect my team's performance, I should also in future monitor and control my emotions, in that I think I am not very good at suppressing how I feel, but if a leader goes around crying when she gets stressed or feels out of control, that would seriously diminish their credibility among their followers. For me, this course has taught me many valuable things, but noticing and preventing myself from being judgemental, as well as working on my emotional intelligence skills are two things that I think are really important for me to work on to improve my leadership in future.
February 18, 2016
During the "Salvage the Black Swan" task, we each took on a different role. Personally, I was a star - and was supporting and helping the leader. I have finally realised that I do not like to volunteer to be leader when I am unsure of what the task will be, because, for example with the hotel simulation where I was unsure of how to do the task myself, I felt out of my depth and unable to control the team. However, when there is a task that I understand, I have realised that I find it hard not to take control - I'm unsure whether this means that I want to lead or just to be in control(!), but either way I struggled not to take over, so that is something I need to be aware of about myself when working in a team, because I can see how this behaviour could undermine a leader in front of their followers. During this task, one team member acted the role of cynical terrorist, and the other of walking dead, I discovered that these people either bring team productivity down due to their lack of contribution, or due to the fact that they consume much of the leader's time in trying to explain and get them on board. I think that when faced with this situation, leaders should remain calm and not let themselves become flustered or rude with these people, I can see how it would be easy to get angry or upset but I think a leader would gain a lot more respect from the other followers by not reacting negatively in this situation. I think that a good way to deal with these people would be to try to involve them in as many different ways as possible, for example, moving them to work with an energetic person, such as a star, could increase their contribution.
I learnt that in order for top level managers to connect to lower level employees, communication, understanding people, involvement and attitude are important. Communication must be open, constant and complete in order that followers feel up-to-date and respected, and communication should be face-to-face. In terms of understanding people, I learnt that it is really important to show an interest in the personal aspects of a follower's life, because even a small act of recognition or remembering a fact about them can go a long way in enhancing their respect, trust and loyalty for you as a leader. Showing you care about personal issues affecting them, and even just that you have the time to listen to their personal issues, rather than seeing it as unimportant as it does not directly affect you, will mean a lot to your followers, and if they feel you genuinely care about them, they will genuinely care about helping you. I think it is also important as a top level leader to get involved with the lower levels, for example, attending social events, making a visit to the floor where lower level employees are working and public celebration of successes will show that you are present, you care and you are part of the team and there to support them. Having a positive, open attitude is also important, showing that you are not judgemental, and do not see yourself as above them, for example by having an open door policy, will make lower level employees feel that you are approachable and care about them. Doing each of these things will enable you to connect effectively with lower level employees and will increase their trust, respect and loyalty to you. I really liked the suggestion of putting photos and the corresponding names up in your office, so that when you make a visit or talk to someone from a lower level, you can add that personal touch by remembering their name, which will make them feel as though you really care and they will believe in you and want to support you. I am very good at remembering names and faces and I definitely feel that this will be a strategy that I take forward in future to ensure that I can connect with lower level employees.
February 16, 2016
I learnt a lot from today's simulation "hotel", where I was firstly an observer and then had a go as leader myself. I learnt that the way you behave will automatically change depending on the situation, and the group members. For example, with strong, loud team members I think it is important to be calm but authoritative to maintain a sense of control, to avoid things such as everyone shouting over each other, which only slows the process down. On the other hand, with a quiet team member it is important to check that they understand the task, to ensure that confusion is not the reason for their lack of involvement, and to ask them for their opinions, because for someone who is shy or lacking in self-confidence, they may have a good idea, but not put it forward without prompting, meaning the team will miss out. Overall, I think it is important to be aware of the personalities of the team members, for example it is not appropriate with someone lacking in confidence to be harsh, or abrupt as they will go back into their shell, whereas for some more confident members, they will be unaffected by this style. I also saw first-hand that taking away responsibility from someone demotivates and demoralises them, which can decrease confidence in their own performance, I think it would be better to try to see if you can help them understand before insisting that you do their assigned work because they can't grasp it. I also learnt that losing your temper as a leader can damage relationships and trust, because you feel like you cannot rely on them to behave in the way that you had formed your impression of them, and it can lead to a fear among followers of doing the wrong thing or asking questions which the leader may not approve of, diminishing performance.
From leading myself I learnt that it is important to assess skills and delegate roles, to ask opinions of the team members to gain a wide perspective on the matter, and to make the final decision yourself - I believe that these are qualities of an effective leader. I also discovered that it is easier to lead people who are of a similar personality or disposition to you, because it is easier to understand where they are coming from, how they think and how they may behave. I found that I am a democratic leader by preference and was described as relaxed and open which elicited more discussion among the team. I also need to take on board the lesson to never give up, because when I felt that I was struggling to be heard in the leadership role I got very frustrated, but at the end I received positive feedback on my leadership, making me realise that I should not give up or lose faith in myself so easily, because other people may not see it the same way, and I may be over-analysing a small detail anyway. It is also important to note that when going in to lead a ready-formed team, a leader should gain an understanding of how the team is working currently and whether this is effective for them, because coming in and immediately trying to change things around may cause resistance. It is also easier to lead if you know what is going on and what you are doing, so if going in to lead a team which is already functioning, it is important to gain as much prior information on the project/task/team before entering because it provides you with a background knowledge making it much easier to get up to speed and to gain followers' confidence and trust.