All 4 entries tagged Leadership

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January 16, 2009

Skill Approach

Still continuing to reading the book "Leadership: theory and practice" by Northouse, P. G

Skill Approach, which is suppose to be different with the trait approach says that leadership can be trained.

Skill Approach, based on two studies that have been done by Katz (1955) and Mumford and his colleagues (2000), emphasises that effective leadership can be developed and trained through experience.

Katz (1955) says that effective leadership depends on three personnel skills:

Technical Skill; the knowledge about a specific type of work or activities, not required for top managers, but it is essential for lower and middle management.

Human Skill, also know as people skill, basically means the ability to know about others needs and to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to work in. Human skills are important for all three level managers.

Conceptual Skill; the capability to work with ideas and concepts. essential for top managers, because they are those who create a vision and strategy for a company, and put down in words, to become a goal or strategic plan for the whole company to work towards.

Mumford et al (2000) developed a Skills Model of leadership. the model has five components: Competencies, individual attributes, leadership outcomes, career experiences and environmental influences. The skills model suggests that competencies include: problem solving kills, social judgement skills and knowledge are the key to effective leadership. Individual attributes, which relate to personal traits, together with career experience and environmental influences all shape an effective leader.

This Skill Approach can be used as a tool for leaders to know what their weaknesses and strengths are. Furthermore, since we know what the essentials are to be an effective leader, some form of training can take place to train those who aspire to become leaders in the future.


Trait Approach

The study of Leadership traits has been developed over the past 100 years.

A lot of people have tried to give leadership a definition, the same, a lot of people try to define the traits of a successful leader.

Like the amount of definitionq available for leadership, different experts also have their different views of the leadership traits.

Using the table from the book Leadership: Theory and Practice, which the author adapted from "The base of Social Power"

Stogdill (1948)

Mann (1959)

Stogdill (1974)

Lord, Devader and Alliger (1986)

Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991)

































Cognitive ability

Task knowledge

The trait approach for leadership is not to argue if a leader is born or made, because different situations may require different traits for a leader to be effective. therefore, a leader might be born with a high IQ and highly motivated might just never get the chance to lead, or in some situation, a good leader doesn't necessary need to be motivated.

Using the Trait approach, it would be useful for an organisation if they want to develop somebody as a leader, and also, for those individuals who want to be a leader in the future, they might be able to learn what they can do towards their journey to being a successful leader.

However, Traits are not easy to cultivate, some of them might be easier to develop, but some might be very difficult, because it is difficult to learn to be somebody else, right?

People talk about using personality assessment instruments to find if the potential employee is fit for the company. To be honest, I dont really think it works well, definitely not in a accurate way, simply because we can pretend to be somebody else.

These days, most companies use this kind of personality test when they are recruiting. I was a fresh graduate last year and I have experienced this a few times. Reasoning tests, you can't lie, it is something you know or not know. But personality tests, give you a situation and ask you to give a choice of A B C or D to see what type of person you are, really, we know what they looking for, for that half hour test, we can pretend to be an effective leader.

To understand the Trait Approach and make it really work, some knowledge in the psychology area would be useful....

December 04, 2008

Promotion and Firing Policy

This week we have had all our presentation done already, and Qian and I were responsible for the topic "Promotion and Firing Policy".

GE has a vitality curve, which differentiate people into three categories and our presentation is to find out the logic and validity behind the vitality curve in light of Deming's system of profound knowledge and discuss the likely impact on employees.

For people who don't understand what the Vitality Curve is, it basically differentiates people into three categories, the top 20% are A players, the Middle 70% are B players and the Bottom 10% are C players. For the A players, they will get promotions, bonuses etc, whereas the C players have to leave the company.

There are a lot of critics about false ranking, first, it can be subjective, and might be bias. Second it just simply cannot be fair for the C players, because they might not have done anything wrong, but because they are in the lowest 10%, so they lose their jobs.

Deming's philosophy is about fairness, no reward for the winners and no penalty for the under performers, since there are variations in the system. today, for those that perform well it doesn't mean they will perform well next time, and the same for those that under-perform, if they didn't perform well today it might not be their fault, but some externalities, such as the machinery,  wrong methods etc...

After the other team presented their understanding about false ranking, I thought I should raise the question that if false ranking has so many critics, why are there still so many companies using it? for example, GE, and why it seems the vitality curve works well in GE.  I think the question I was asking was also what we are required to acheive from the mini project that is to find out the "Logics and Validity".

However, I think I was misunderstood by others. I never said GE's success was build on the vitality curve. What I am saying is the Vitality Curve is a part of the organisation and as a successful company, GE seems to works well with it. All I want to ask is why?

I suppose in my own presentation, I answered myself, that is using Jack Welch's words, "being transparent and being honest" and also in conjunction with a performance system including the 360 feedback and Session C meeting, etc

Deming will be against the idea of the Vitality Curve, since it not only punishes the low performers, but also creates fear in the working environment. there are also examples showing that false use of the Vitality Curve can lead to disastrous results. However, can I say GE is a successful example that is using it? is it Valid? I don't work for GE, so I don't really know.

There will definitely be more competition than cooperation, but on the other hand does it encourage winning and doing a good job?

The society we are living in is competitive, right? if not, why do we always talk about "improving competitiveness" for a company?

If everything is fair, why do we need to work hard to get at least a 2:1 degree so we can get a good job? why is there high un employment?

If ranking systems are so bad,  and ranking people is one of Deming's 7 deadly diseases, why are so many companies still using it?

I am just simply asking questions, doesn't mean that I am a big fan of false ranking, because I am not, I know it is unfair and all the other shortcomings, I have done my research.

October 07, 2008


There are a few things I picked up from today's first group meeting.

First of all, it is easy to be a leader, because everybody can say: " I want to be a leader", and everyone else in the group agrees, so there is a Leader. However, how to be a GOOD LEADER?

We have 6 mini group projects, most of us will have the opportunity to be a leader once. However, working with a group of people with different working styles and different attitudes towards the group course work, coordinating all the work required for the task and to motivate the team in order to achieve the best outcome and most importantly good communication with the team. All of these are very big challenges for a leader.

Furthermore, in a team, each one is a different individual, team members are not simply just to do what they have been told by the team leader, but each one will have different opinions, thus for a team leader, he/she will definately have to deal with lots of conflicts raised from all the group discussion or debates. Respecting the different opinions of each individual and bringing out the best from each of team members are very challenging as well. So far, we have had quite a positive discussion and everybody is willing to contribute to the team.

Another quality required for a leader is to be able to accept constructive criticism, by listening and learning from different  thoughts and opinions voiced by team members only is a leader able to progress and improve his/her leadership skills.

Leadership is not dictatorship, and it is vitally important that a leader is able to listen and to take in all kinds of different opionions voiced to analyse and to make a decision that suits the majority rather than him/herself. A leader will have a certain amount of power over others, but not the right to over use those powers.

There is another thing strikes me is everybody’s working style. I have to admit I am not the most hard working type.  This does not mean I don’t like to work, I do, and I dedicate a large amount time to work. However, Apart from working, I also enjoy a good movie, a interesting TV programme, or even chatting with friends, or enjoy a nice meal with my flatmate. If my team ask me to go to learning grid at 23:30, I will definitely say no. I know some people work really hard, I respect that, and I wish I could be like that, but I know it is just too hard for me to resist all the temptations around me.

A good start is half way to success, and I wish our team all the success.

It is my pleasure to be with you all, so little I know and so much to learn. 

That is all from me today, thanks for reading.

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