Leadership and effective leadership are two different, but closely related concepts. Ideally, leadership involves a person’s ability to inspire support and confidence among the employees who are required to achieve the goals of a firm (Zhou & Wu, 2018, p. 376). Conversely, effective leadership is a leadership based on effectiveness. Effectiveness encompasses attaining desirable results such as quality, productivity, and satisfaction in a specific situation. In this reflective essay, I have provided a critical analysis of my experience throughout my learning of People Culture and Contemporary Leadership as a subject, with a major aim of explaining my key leadership traits and areas for future improvements so that I can become a more effective leader.
Honestly, leadership as a theory is very wide, with some people confusing it with management. Although leadership and management share some common features, a manager is basically concerned with playing the five roles of planning, controlling, coordinating, organizing and commanding as outlined by Henri Fayol (Khan, Sentosa & Salman, 2018, p. 14). On the other hand, a leader is a person who goes beyond these five roles by trying to transform the organization by inspiring confidence and support among the employees so that they can exceed the expectations of the organization. One of the theories of leadership that have impressed me most is the traits theory. The traits leadership theory bases its argument on an assumption that leaders are born and not made. It outlines the key characteristics that leaders are expected to have. Mutalib & Ghani (2013, p. 17), expounds that successful leaders must have interests, personality traits, and abilities that are different from those held by less effective leaders. Among the primary traits of an effective leader entails achievement drive, honesty, and integrity, emotional intelligence, charisma, and creativity among other traits. After learning the perspectives of leadership in week seven and knowing the leadership roles, I became more curious and tried to identify some traits required of effective leaders. I have listed these traits in a table in Appendix I
Interestingly in week 8, the topic of discussion was the Characteristics and Traits of Leaders. This topic accurately coincided with my table outlining the traits of a leader. Therefore, as we handled the topic, I had great expectations that most of the traits I had earlier listed could be discussed. I also had several questions in mind. For instance, how are these traits helpful in leadership? How can people know that they possess these traits? Can someone possess all these traits at once? What if someone lacks these traits, can he/she be able to acquire them through education or experience? Apart from just learning the traits, I expected that I will get answers to these fundamental questions.
McCleskey (2014, p. 117), explains that personality encompasses individual differences in feelings, patterns of thinking and behavior. Leadership effectiveness is primarily dependent on the leader’s personality as different personality traits impact on task accomplishment, the context of work and personal satisfaction. During the lesson, I learned several personality traits which ranged from tension, perfectionism, warmth, emotional intelligence, self-resilience, and dominance, openness to change and sensitivity to vigilance, sensitivity and social boldness among other traits. Of particular importance to me among these traits was emotional stability as it enables leaders to cooperate effectively with the group members (Yammarino, 2013, p. 150). I also realized that to better understand whether one is having a particular personality, a Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF) can be used. I, therefore, conducted my personality test using this tool as attached in Appendix II.
I was prompted to conduct my personality test using the 16PF so that I may understand how my personality ranks in the sixteen factors. From the results of the analysis, I scored highest in Emotional intelligence, perfectionist, liveliness, rule-consciousness, and warmth. Also, I scored two points in openness dominance, reasoning, sensitivity and social boldness. When I put these scores on an MBTI, then I could be graded as ENFP or at least ESFP. People who are enthusiastic, energetic, imaginative, future-oriented, creative, individualistic, optimistic, insightful, open, possibility focused and spontaneous are often classified as ENFP on MBTI (Zhang et al., 2013, p. 220). Originally before taking the test, I graded myself as an averagely emotional person. I can remember there was a time I was a group leader, in my undergraduate studies and other team members where deviating from the set instructions for handling a simulation task. I quickly got annoyed and pointed figures at them. However, I later cooled down and realized that I had overreacted. I then started explaining to each member their roles in the group in a kind way. Perhaps this coincides with my high scores in emotional intelligence.
My 16PF scores also showed that I am outgoing, easy going and attentive to others. From my scores in rule-consciousness, I could depict that I am rule-conscious, conscientious, moralistic and dutiful (Irwing, Booth & Batey, 2014, p. 12). In my future career as a leader in an organization, I will, therefore, use my emotional intelligence, rule-dutifulness, and warmth to control my emotions and the emotions of other employees, be approachable and observe servant leadership and embrace morality and dutifulness when leading the employees. Besides, my low scores in apprehension show that I am self-assured and unworried. I also scored lowly on privateness that showed that I am open and forthright. As a leader, these scores mean that I have most of the traits required of an effective leader because a leader should not be tense, easily frustrated or guilt-prone.
I also filled the 50 Item Leadership Questionnaire to further understand my personality as a leader as shown in Appendix III. According to Irving, Booth & Batey (2014, p. 14), successful leaders should obtain high scores in many or even all of the measures provided in the questionnaire. A person who scores lowly in many of the items can be termed as unsuited to leadership. From my results, I scored 42 on Organization. This indicated that I have a high preference for organization. Therefore, in future, I am likely to strictly monitor the performance of my workers by setting performance guidelines and strict rules. This impresses me as I will be able to identify mistakes and promptly correct them in the firm. However, a major weakness of this approach is that my workers may complain of micro-management. I also scored 37 in responsibility showing that I am likely to consider the views and opinions of others in making major decisions as a leader. As a leader, I think this will help me in ensuring that all the employee views are incorporated for better performance of the organization.
My scores of 33 in assertiveness indicates an averagely high level of assertiveness. Assertiveness is basically the extent to which an individual confidently expresses their views or meets their objectives (Men & Stacks, 2013, p. 172). As a future leader, this trait will enable me to readily share my opinions with other employees whenever I am sure that they want to hear them. It will also enable me to put a significant effort to achieve my objectives. On the other hand, resourcefulness is the ability to cope with difficult situations in an imaginative and effective way (Nichols & Erakovich, 2013, p. 360). I scored 38 on this trait, and this shows that I demonstrate a moderately high resourcefulness level. As a leader, I will, therefore, find it easy to formulate complex organizational plans and address complex challenges to employees.
Throughout the subject, we conducted several activities. One specific activity that really thrilled me was doing a leadership style test in using the 50 item leadership test (Merchant, Ciampa & Wolfe, 2018, p. 76). In our group, we were four. We were then asked to discuss the similarities and differences in our leadership legacies. I was particularly impressed by a group member (A) who organized the whole process and showed us how to do the personality test. From his actions, I felt that he had great organization skills which are a key trait of an effective leader. Personally, I scored 25 points as an ambassador, 25 points as a people mover, 23 points as an advocate, 24 points as a truth seeker, 22 points as an experienced guide and 25 points as a creative builder. This test acted as a great source of inspiration to me especially in my future roles as a leader. In future, I will strive to be respectful and persuasive in leading teams. I will also act as an advocate for being relentless in ensuring the set objectives are accomplished. Furthermore, I will try to motivate my team to subordinate their personal interests to those of the firm s as to exceed the set goals. Also, I will show a lot of competence as a truth-seeker so that I ensure the team members handle their duties in the right way.
Another activity involved watching a video, (Ted Talk) whereby Talgam explained about creating a perfect harmony in the organization without saying a word. In this Video, Talgam explained different conductors from the commanding conductor to the ‘perfect' conductor. Before watching this video, I had always thought that to be a leader, one must be authoritative and commanding enough to force the stubborn employees to handle different tasks. However, upon watching the video, I have learned that an effective leader should be a perfect conductor. As a perfect conductor, I need to understand my team. Just like an orchestra conductor, a leader within a firm is bound to bear similar drawbacks- trying to develop perfect harmony amongst various variables in the enterprise and ensuring that the firm creates ‘beautiful products and profits. In the video, Talgam also talks about the commanding conductor (Riccardo Muti), who led the orchestra through authority and treated the musicians like instruments. According to me, this was a form of micromanagement. This created a pool of unhappy musicians with over 700 members asking him to resign. I therefore fully know that micromanaging the employees may make them unhappy and demotivated. In future, I will treat my employees like humans with feelings, ambitions, and goals and not like machines.
Also, we were able to evaluate gender and leadership, using an article written by R8- Zenger Folkman in a group of five students. In the article, rating between men and women were done on the basis of effectiveness, competencies, top management positions and reporting to top management (Zenger, & Folkman, 2012). Women led in most of these perspectives including competencies and effectiveness. We were then asked to present back our discussions. I was particularly thrilled by one group member who was ready to do the presentation on our behalf. She looked confident, prepared and unworried. I loved her confidence as a key leadership trait. From the article, I also learned that women are best at nurturing talents and developing others in the organization. Therefore, they should be given opportunities to lead just like men.
Learning People, Culture, and contemporary Leadership as a subject have enabled me to identify my personal weaknesses as a leader. Originally, I thought a leader should be authoritative and commanding to force stubborn employees to handle their tasks. However, I have come to realize that this could act as my weakness as I may breed a pool of unhappy employees in the firm (Mabey, 2013, p. 359). I will, therefore, try to follow the advice given by Talgam in the Ted talk video, by becoming a ‘perfect’ conductor rather than a commanding conductor. I will try to understand my employees and create harmony among the employees to ensure that they stay motivated to work.
Antonakis & House (2013, p. 14) explains that a perfectionist is a person who concentrates on handling tasks in the right way by following strict guidelines and rules. This is a key strength that I hold as depicted by my scores in the 16PF test. However, my potential weakness when using this trait is that I may develop into a micromanager, by strictly enforcing the rules and regulations and treating the workers as machines. After watching the video provided in the Ted talk, I have realized that following this criterion will only make me a commanding conductor. Therefore, I will try to improve on this by trying to understand the employees, their feelings and ambitions and ensuring harmony is achieved in the firm.
Hypocrisy is another potential weakness I may experience as a leader. I have always had a perception that as a leader I should use my authority to instruct the subordinates to handle different tasks. However, I have realized that leaders should be role models by following their own rules (Dinh et al., 2014, p. 37). Therefore, in my future role as a leader, I will try to be in the forefront in doing different tasks and following the set guidelines to act as a good example to other employees.
The last weakness is stagnancy. Originally, I thought that after obtaining specific leadership lessons and knowing the right behavior expected of a leader, on is bound to be competent and always handle organizational duties as required. However, after studying this subject, I have realized that when employees are not provided with regular on-the-job training, then they may develop stagnancy. On-the-job training refers to an opportunity given to employees to advance their skills and competencies while continuing with their jobs (Hunter et al., 2013, p. 317). I will therefore continuously organize and attend on-the-job training in future as a leader to improve my leadership skills and those of other employees.
In conclusion, by doing the 16PF test, I have realized that I have some of the primary leadership traits like emotional intelligence, perfectionism, liveliness, and rule-consciousness. Furthermore, upon filling the 50 Item Leadership Questionnaire, I have realized that I have a great attention to detail and an ability to act professionally and instill the opinions of others when making critical organizational decisions. However, learning this subject has also opened my blind spots like stagnancy, tendency to be a micromanager and a propensity to be a hypocrite in leadership. I will, therefore, improve on these weaknesses by trying my best to promote harmony, acting as a role model and attending regular on-the-job training to improve my leadership skills.
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