March 04, 2010

creative leadership

Creative Leadership

Opposite to what some authors say, Basadur suggest that theories that try to match the “right” traits or behaviours to the “right” situation are conventional theories which have less to do with quality leadership. He avers that leadership has more to do with how leaders influence others in thinking together in innovative ways. He says that effective leaders will help individuals and teams defining new problems in the company, solving them, and implementing innovative solutions. These solutions (new ideas) are often initially rejected, as people do not accept change easily (the traditional fear of opposing the status quo), and they are viewed as bizarre or even foolish propositions. 

The process approach to applied creativity

Adaptability is driven by organizational creativity, which has been defined as a continuous process of thinking innovatively, or finding and solving problems, and implementing new solutions.Kabanoff & Rossiter, 1994 B. Kabanoff and J.R. Rossiter, Recent developments in applied creativity, International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology 9 (1994), pp. 283–324.Kabanoff and Rossiter (1994) defined applied creativity as a process “occurring in a real-world, industrial, organizational, or social context; pertaining to the finding or solving of complex problems; and having an actual behavioral creative product (or plan) as the final result.” Leaders can use creativity as the deliberate tool to lead their organizations to achieve adaptability. Studying and discussing creativity is difficult and complex, and no single, agreed-upon definition of this quality exists—and researchers have taken many different approaches to studying it. However, one approach that models creativity as a process, with phases or stages, has been proven effective in permitting people in organizations to increase creative performance and communicate more efficiently with others in creative teamwork.  Basadur et al (1982) showed that appropriate training in thinking skills, attitudes, and behaviors associated with executing such a multistage process was effective in improving creative performance. Basadur and Head (2001) showed that teams with more heterogeneous preferences for various phases or stages of the creative process were more innovative than teams whose members were more homogeneous in preference for stages of the creative process. This offers leaders a blueprint to learn how to lead others to achieve adaptability. By developing a high level of skills, leaders can lead others in executing this process and in learning the skills, attitudes, and behaviors required to execute the process well. Above all, leaders can learn to synchronize individuals' very different preferences for various stages of the creative process, called his or her process style.

Basadur, M., (2004). Leadership others to think innovatively together: Creative leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 15, 103-121.

Kabanoff and J.R. Rossiter, Recent developments in applied creativity, International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology 9 (1994), pp. 283–324.

Basadur, G.B. Graen and S.G. Green, Training in creative problem solving: Effects on ideation and problem finding in an applied research organization, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance 30 (1982), pp. 41–70.

M.S. Basadur and M. Head, Team performance and satisfaction: A link to cognitive style within a process framework, Journal of Creative Behavior 35 (2001), pp. 1–22.


Characteristics of a Leader

Many researchers have identified different traits in a person. People have different personalities and behaviours, but we have to remember that a leader is still different from a non-leader, and the following table shows some of the characteristics that an effective leader posses

Stogdill (1948)

Intelligence

Alertness

Insight

Responsibility

Initiative

Persistence

Self-confidence

Sociability

Mann (1959)

Intelligence

Masculinity

Adjustment

Dominance

Extroversion

Conservatism

Stogdill (1974)

Achievement

Persistence

Insight

Initiative

Self-confidence

Responsibility

Cooperativeness

Tolerance

Influence

Sociability

Lord, Devader, and Alliger (1986)

Intelligence

Masculinity

Dominance

Kirkpatrick and Locke (1991)

Drive

Motivation

Integrity

Confidence

Cognitive ability

Task knowledge

Source: “Leadership, theory and practice”, by Northouse, 2007.

As we can see, some of them are repeated, that is because it is common to find these types of traits in a leader.


Trait theory of Leadership

To coach the CEO in my PMA, I selected the Trait Theory. I know the website calls it "Personal Theory" which is divided in trait theory, leader motivation, cognitive factors, values and attitudes, cognitive differences and personality. But I found different journals which have different names for the theories, and I picked the one which describes "trait theory" as the main approach, and it is subdivided in other theories which can be linked to diverse approaches. This theory is focus on the attributes of a person, emphasizing its qualities which are critical in effective leadership. Literature shows that researchers have identified a number of characteristics which can be particularly related to good leaders, but these do not assure an effective role when leading a team solely because this person possesses the traits, there are many factors involved for this effectiveness. Northouse says that an individual with leadership traits who was leading in a specific situation might not be the same in a different scenario, circumstances are variable (a leader in the military service is different from a leader in business management). It is indispensable for a leader to first have a desire to lead (Nicholson, 2007). Therefore, this theory is only a part of leadership, as we have to consider situational factors where the leader interacts with different groups of people in different situations, and at this point we need to lie on the equation L=f(l,gm,s) (Dubrin, 1998), where each element is always dynamic.

DuBrin, A. J. (1998). Leadership: Research findings, practice and skills. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Northouse, P., (2007). Leadership theory and practice. (4th ed.). Sage Publications: Western Michigan University. 15-36.


Leadership, born or made?

Regardless of whether leaders are born or made or some combination of both, it is uniequivocally clear aht leaders are not like other people. Leaders do not have to be great men or women by being intellectual geniuses or omniscient prophets to succeed, but they do need to have the “right stuff” and this stuff is not equally present in all people. Leadership is a demanding, unrelenting job with enormous pressures and grave responsibilities. It would be profound disservice to leaders to suggest that they are ordinary people who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Maybe the place matters, but it takes a special kind of person to master the challenges of opportunity. Let us not only give credit, but also use the knowledge we have to select and train out future leaders effectively. We believe that in the realm of leadership (and in every other realm), the individual does matter.


February 23, 2010

Psychological theories of leadership

Whilst reading the theories in the intranet, I found one theory which is particularly of my personal interest. Cognitive differences, wherein they talk about the two distinct brain hemispheres that have been associated with different types of thinking. It is said that everyone uses both side to a certain extent, and good leaders should balance these characteristics if they have a greater inclination for an specific side. The concept mentions Herrmann's whole brain model which divides the way a person thinks in four quadrants, as explained in the website. This completely called my attention as I have taken this test before when I was receiving training at work. The results for this test showed that my thinking style belongs to the quadrant C, followed by Quadrant D. In simple words, these boths sides of the brain defines a person whose feelings are more important than tasks and enjoys working with others and likes change and risk, also allowing followers freedom.

I remembered comparing my results with a co-worker who got "A" as the highest quadrant for the way of thinking, he was very analytical, factual and never take opinions and feelings as a priority (his personality and even looks perfectly matched his results). I compare these results with our job positions, my friend was a financial analyst, he was a very analytical person, very organized, planning his agenda all the time, a bright guy with clear ideas, based on facts 100%, on the other hand, I was supervising desginated customers and had to deal with people in the microfinance sector everyday, I was not organized, not analytical, my personality and way of thinking was based more on intuition, I am a very expressive person, empathetic, spontaneous and friendly guy. We both loved our jobs, we both were the best at them, and our results perfectly matched our positions. After a while I quit my job because of a "better" offer and started to work as a financial auditor, where I had to deal with financial reports and loads of numbers and analysis, and I literally hated my job, to the point that I regreted leaving the previous company.

My point in all this is, you need to analyse yourself, identify your strenghts, what you are good at, what makes you feel a better person, and try to find something that matches your personality, where you can feel confident about yourself. otherwise you might turn your work into a living hell. If you find a place like this, be sure that you will experience an increasing career progression and your leadership skills will develop in time (a situational variable).


February 02, 2010

Corporate Social Responsibility

There are many definitions for CSR, but all of them coincide that it is a way to manage a business not purely focus on economic objectives, but trying to integrate the social and environmental impact with them, considering values and ethic principles. This means that the company produces benefits for both the business itself and for the community as well.

This topic is not only about doing social work for the passion of doing it, most companies take it as self-marketing, or part of a sales strategy, by improving the company's image, so it can be treated as one more business case.

I personally believe that CSR has a lot to do with social preassure, especially in recognised brands where they probably have no other option than directing an specific budget on it.

I once went to this International conference on Corporate Social Responsibility, and found it interesting the fact that they were talking about how to incoporate a fifth financial statement called CSR, where companies should measure the impact of the investment in CSR and identify how profitable it is for the business. Then I realised it is more than purely values and principles.

I do believe in CSR, but as a way to make profits out of it.....because even if I am trying to boost my sales, the help is still there (whatever my intentions are)...so you make profits by helping the community.


January 07, 2010

PMA PIUSS

During the period I was working on my PMA, I can say that my work experience in manufacturing is very poor; as I worked all these years in the financial sector, therefore in consider this learning process as a very rich source of knowledge, wherein I try to link all my previous experience with what I learnt in the lecture. As an accountant I would have never taken in consideration the idea of standardizing processes to improve the working system as Six Sigma suggests, all of the departments I have worked for are very independent from each other, even though in theory they should work as a collaborative entity, the reality can be completely different, and now I see the importance of working together for the same goal.


Six Sigma in all areas

Six Sigma is a tool which boosts efficiency and effectiveness of all processes and operations within any organization (William Truscott, 2003), not only for the manufacturing sector, but any company pretending to set improvement programmes to become a world-class organization. Nowadays, even service firms are also implementing this tool to boost performance in all departments (Biolos, 2003). Companies are executing the six sigma approach for everything, from health services operations to enhancing accounts receivables (especially in the health sector as variation has to be almost zero for obvious reasons), from the financial area to the legal department. However, Six Sigma might need some adjustments as it does not work for every service process, but it is still applicable for any area.

Biolos, J. (2003). Six Sigma Meets the Service Economy- Six Sigma: It’s not just for Manufacturing. Retrieved December 20, 2009, from the Harvard Business School website: http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/3278.html

Truscott, W. (2003). Six Sigma: Continual Improvement for Businesses, USA: Butterworth-Heinemann.


six sigma–key elements

Key Elements of Six Sigma

Pande et al considers six critical ingredients to successfully achieve Six Sigma implementation within an organization, and these are:

1.                 Genuine focus on the customer

This is a priority factor in Six Sigma. As previously stated, it is necessary to measure customer satisfaction to calculate defects per unit produced. Therefore, the organization needs to define the customer requirements and the processes that conduct to achieve satisfaction, in this manner, the company can hold control over its processes and will be able to keep a customer. 

2.                 Data-and Fact- Driven Management

The author alludes that companies make important decisions based on unreliable data. Six Sigma instead, identifies the key drivers of the processes and collect real relevant data from actual business performance.

3.                 Process Focus, Management, and Improvement

Six Sigma team must identify the core business processes on which customer satisfaction lies, and where improvement has to take action.

4.                 Proactive Management

This is the point where manager’s creativity and innovation flourish, by setting goals and priorities in a challenging fashion, to anticipate obstacles. Six Sigma provides the tools to proactivity.

5.                 Boundaryless Collaboration

This is an interdepartmental activity, where all areas need to collaborate, aligned with the organizational goals. Six Sigma requires this collaboration attitude, to benefit everyone within the company, attaining better results.

6.                 Drive for Perfection, Tolerate Failure

Companies need to be prepared for setbacks when utilizing diverse methods, Six Sigma teams often confront risky decisions, but still, decisions must be undertaken to change processes for betterment.

Pande, Peter S.; Neuman, Robert P.; Cavanagh, Roland R. (2002). The

Six Sigma Way Team Fieldbook: An Implementation Guide for Process Improvement Teams, USA: McGraw-Hill.


December 07, 2009

Leadership Improvement

Leaders are promoters and developers of a continuous improvement culture, they are the ones who facilitate information and guidance to all the teams in the organization. However, some form of measurement should be established in the company to compare and link good leadership with good results.

A practical method to measure leadership is done by questionnaires or surveys which are completed by others, and will capture the perceived behaviour characteristics of a leader. For this, I will refer to the Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) by Kouzes and Posner (2001), which is basically a questionnaire with behavioral statements and should be completed by the same leader and other observers (employees who have an active interaction with their leaders).The problem with this isthat leaders often have a big influence on the way this data is collected or presented, and it can also be manipulated. Therefore, the judgement should be carried out simultaneously by independent observers with no direct relationship to the leaders. From my own experience I can say that people tend to answer these surveys in the most positive way, giving the best marks to their supervisors or managers for the fear of being identified or just to maintain a good work environment, “nobody wants to mess with their boss”.

Leadership is not only about characteristics, as stated in most of the literature when referring to qualities attributed to good leaders. Any employee in the organization can have these qualities, but that doesnt meant they could be a good leader, therefore, we have to measure experience, knowledge, achievements, and other patterns which will define a good leader, or at least give us an idea that these selected people can manage a project.

Figure 1: Great Leadership is Good Leadership. Ivey Business Journal (2007)good leadership

A good leader is aware that short-term pain must be followed by long-term gain, efforts and sacrifices have a compensation.

Leaders demonstrate a strong commitment to improvement projects, even thought the current organizational scenario is not the best for this purpose.


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