Thoughts on leadership - People, System and SelfArticle posted on
Leadership is an essential aspect of management as it determines the extent to which the organization is to achieve its objectives. There are, however, different considerations that a leader must make if he is to achieve his leadership goals. In my professional life as a manager and later as a director, I have encountered many challenges. In the process, I have learned many things about the right approaches to leadership. One of the biggest challenges is on how to influence the people that I lead.
I have encountered ups and downs as my leadership style has yielded inconsistent results. At times, I may apply a particular leadership style and register high levels of success. At other times, when I apply the same style to a different group, the results are very different. As a leader, I am mandated to exert my influence over people who work in different regions. This has posed a significant challenge to me since those strategies that perfectly work in one region do not work in other regions.
These challenges have taught me several things about my leadership style. First, I have learned to vary my leadership styles according to the nature of the employees that I am dealing with. The strategies that I used with the non-professionals did not work at all with the professionals. For example, when dealing with ordinary employees who had no specialization in the areas they worked, I could effectively use a directive style with great success. These employees were ready to listen and follow all the directions that I gave them. On the contrast, this strategy did not work well with the highly trained professionals such as branch managers and line managers who worked under me. This group of people was sometimes very resistant to my directives, and they even challenged most of the ideas that I proposed. This created a kind of tension since I felt that they were not respecting my authority while they felt that they were being undermined as professionals.
There was, therefore, a need for a compromise if the outcome was to be improved. This experience taught me that the leadership style that should be adopted with people with professional training should be different from the style that is adopted when dealing with employees who have no professional training. This is because when a manager is dealing with non-professionals, he enjoys expert power, and this can make him have a more significant influence over them. However, when dealing with fellow professionals, the manager is at the same level as them since they all have similar training in their areas of expertise. As a result, all of them have equal authority as far as professionalism is concerned. The leader must understand that he is professionally at par with the other professionals with the only difference being that he has been entrusted to a position of leadership. Using directive styles such as autocratic leadership style may not work since these people have different professional views which may be better than those of the leader.
Another lesson that I learned from my experience is that leadership styles should be based on the local culture. Some of the things that may be acceptable in one culture may be unacceptable in another culture. As a result, transferring leadership strategies that have worked in one culture and introducing them to a different culture can lead to disastrous results. Business must be seen to respect and adapt to the culture that exists in the environment where it operates. In doing so, both the employees and the general community will be in a position to embrace the business operations.
After learning through experience, there are things that I have done differently as opposed to how I did them. First, I would have considered the importance of involving employees, especially professionals, in the decision-making process. All professionals, irrespective of whether they are in a managerial position or not, are experts and hence they have authority in their areas of specialization. As such, these professionals must be treated as so, and they should be given an opportunity to make their contributions relating to how the organization should be run. For this group of employees, I would use the participative approach where all the professionals are given a chance to make contributions to the decision making process. This is very advantageous to the organization in that when employees are involved in the decision-making process; they are able to own up the decisions made. This acts as a motivation to them since they feel that they are party to the decisions made.
In dealing with employees in a different culture, I would take a different approach than the one I took. I would first seek to learn and familiarize myself with the local culture before I can make any management decision. This can be achieved through the involvement of the employees who work in the different cultures who would act as a guide to making decisions that are compliant to the local culture. This would ensure that all the decisions that are made are acceptable in the local culture.